State Commission on Human Rights Files ADA Complaint against Seymour Police Dept.

by Joe Luciano, Founder, Disability Rights Action Group of CT

The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities has filed an ADA complaint (CHRO Case 1730312) on my behalf against Seymour Police Department, which will have thirty days to answer. Citing Conn. General Statute § 46a-64, the complaint charges that a Seymour police officer expressed bigotry by mocking my mobility device, a power (wheel)chair, by calling it a “little cart” and by identifying me to other officers as “our motorized complainant” who needs to be “appeased.”

When, on Nov. 10, I called to report vehicles parked at Seymour’s Fishway Park blocking access on the sidewalk, the desk officer belittled my complaint, saying, “You can’t get your ‘little cart’ up on the sidewalk?” When I corrected him by saying, “It’s not a cart; it’s a power chair,” the officer said curtly, “Same thing!” Though I had identified myself by name and did not reveal I use a power chair for mobility, in conversations with other officers he referred to me as the “motorized complainant.” I feel he has a grudge against me either because I am a disabled person or openly an advocate for older persons. Or perhaps he has contempt for civil rights that the ADA of 1990 provides.

In settlement proceedings I will demand, among other things, that Seymour’s police department obtain—from a recognized training and development organization—sensitivity training to enable respectful police encounters with persons with disabilities and ADA education so that officers can learn about, and enforce, responsibilities and rights of persons with disabilities.

In my opinion, Seymour PD needs to accept that we older persons are here to stay. The community should get used to seeing, not ‘little carts’ drawn by ponies, but scooters, walkers, and wheelchairs of all kinds downtown. We live there.

DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com

Seymour’s Public Comment Policy Discriminates Against Disabled Citizens

This article is written by Joseph A. Luciano, Disability Rights Action Group of CT about himself.

Seymour Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and elder rights advocate Joe Luciano, says his hometown treats public comments provided by citizens with disabilities differently than those given by citizens without disabilities. He has filed an ADA discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice against the Town of Seymour and its first selectman, Kurt Miller.

“Citizens who appear in person to speak their comments have an unfair advantage,” says Luciano. “Their comments are entered into meeting minutes in detail. Mine, however, are entered merely as ‘Correspondence received,’” Luciano says. “All state municipalities, including Seymour, must accommodate persons with disabilities,” he says.

Luciano is unable to travel to evening town meetings because there is no wheelchair transport when meetings begin and end. So he sends his public comment by email and snail mail. Paratransport services are not provided at night in Seymour. “While I use my wheelchair in daylight to ride to downtown places, I do so at risk of life and limb riding in streets and gutters. Absent crosswalks, an impassable sidewalk on DeForest, absent curbcuts—and unremoved snow—are mobility barriers blocking access to sidewalks. At night I cannot safely travel the block and a half to town hall to speak my public comment,” says Luciano.

According to Luciano, the pitfalls and shortcomings of the snow-removal ordinance addressed in his emailed public comment were not entered into the minutes, which show comments in detail spoken by other citizens who presented theirs. “The minutes omitted essential points of my comment. That is, the same property owners year after year flout the snow removal ordinance. They do so with impunity because town safety authorities do not monitor and enforce compliance of ordinance even though enforcement with fines of up to $100 a day is mandated. Sidewalks with unremoved snow are mobility barriers,” explains Luciano.

According to Luciano, barriers to public accommodations and public services have inflicted staggering economic and social costs on American society and have undermined our well-intentioned efforts to educate, rehabilitate, and employ individuals with disabilities. Municipalities that refuse to accommodate persons with disabilities equally in public meetings prevent society from benefiting from the knowledge, skills and of PWDs. “The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.” DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com (203) 463-8323.

Seniors at Risk in Seymour: Elder Abuse at Columbus Street Senior/Handicapped Housing

by Joseph A. Luciano, Disability Rights Action Group of CT

Kimberly Dulka, owner of the All-American Valley General Store, has become principal advocate for the safety and rights of 12 handicapped seniors living in senior housing at 16 Bank Street (entrance on Columbus St.). Inaction of town officials has these seniors in harm’s way.

Architect/builder/developer Joe Migani has begun construction of more senior/handicapped housing on the very parking lot that was originally designated as parking not only for these resident seniors, but also for the proprietors of three established businesses: the General Store, an antique shop and a tea and pastry restaurant.

A picture of the construction site by author Joe Luciano

A picture of the construction site by author Joe Luciano

During construction, which is expected to last 18 months, these seniors have been advised by town safety officials to use municipal parking lots that officials deem “convenient.” However, access routes are in violation of ADA and state safety standards. Going to the nearest lot forces seniors to travel over earth and rubble and areas where sidewalks and curb cuts are absent. Then seniors have to pass over a state highway gutter between parked vehicles and fast-moving traffic. Routes to the distant (more than 1,000 feet) lots, besides being without crosswalks and curb cuts, are heaved like a roller coaster and are impassable to wheelchairs because of broken sidewalks. Also sidewalks that begin with a ramp do not have curb cuts at the other end. Town officials have sparked the ire of businesses by giving these seniors placards or stickers entitling them to park anywhere, thus using spaces needed for customers.

Questionable, if not illegal, decisions or approvals at planning and zoning meetings (some informal) have been dis-covered in Dulka’s review of minutes. State auditors have been asked to investigate whether terms of grants and loans are being followed. Many town citizens are backing Dulka’s petition to call for a special town meeting to stop construction as they believe this project is violating zoning laws and will cause inestimable damage to economic development, parking, businesses, as well as the health and well being of these senior/disabled residents. PAR readers and members: please consider signing and commenting on the petition at http://www.change.org/p/dannel-malloy-special-meeting-for-38-columbus-st-seymour-project-affecting-seniors-businesses-parking.

For updates and to get involved, contact  Joseph A. Luciano, (203) 463-8323, DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com.

Abysmal: Seymour’s Progress Towards ADA Compliance | Joseph Luciano

by Joseph A. Luciano, Founder, Disability Rights Action Group of CT

To date, Seymour’s post office remains inaccessible to elderly and persons with disabilities (PWDs) unable to climb its mountainous steps to the “public” lobby.

It has succeeded in evading ADA compliance and enforcement twice.  The U.S. Dept. of Justice claims lack of jurisdiction because this post office was built before ADA’s enactment in 1990.  Then the U.S. Access Board determined it also lacks jurisdiction because the steps were constructed in 1917 and have not been altered since the 1968 enactment of the U.S. ABA.   The postmaster refuses to re‑open the ramp at the rear where for years postal workers cheerfully provided services to anyone.

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A rally in May of 2015 at the Post Office in Seymour, Conn., shows the stairs, insurmountable to many, in front of the federal building.

USPS has notified only me that, to obtain service, I must telephone the facility’s “dedicated” number when I arrive at the foot of the steps.  [In practice, (203) 888-3830 is the regular phone number and not dedicated to serve PWDs.]

USPS has ignored my repeated requests that Seymour’s post office should publicize its rules applicable only to PWDs and that it should be required at least to provide signage visible to all customers unable to climb to the public lobby.

Every year since 2012, Seymour’s town hall has assured me that by each year’s end or next spring work would begin to replace broken impassable sidewalks and to construct crosswalks and curbcuts.  These promises remain unfilled.  While new curbcuts have been constructed downtown, two are inaccessible because of steps in front of them, and another is inaccessible because the sidewalk leading to it is impassable.  Also, curbcuts have been provided to access two brickwalks—but curbcuts are absent at the other ends enabling continued travel.  Thus, dead-ends exist—25 years after ADA 1990.

Again, I invite PAR readers to consider signing the petition to ensure architectural access at Seymour’s post office, all other public accommodations, and all state and local government buildings.

Go to http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/seymour-ct-post-office?source=s.fwd&r_by=3363627
Joseph A. Luciano, (203) 463-8323,  DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com.

Seymour CT Post Office Persists In Violating Federal Accessibility Laws

by Joseph A. Luciano, Founder, DRAG CT, ADA Education Project

I am inviting PAR readers to sign the on-line petition to ensure Architectural Access at the Seymour CT post office—and all other public accommodations, all state and local government buildings, facilities, parks, parking lots, building entrances, sidewalks, restrooms, aisles between restaurant tables, and service and cashier counters.

The petition is at this link: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/seymour-ct-post-office?source=s.fwd&r_by=3363627

Seymour’s post office refuses to comply with ADA 1990 and other federal laws to provide reasonable access and accommodation to elderly and disabled persons unable to climb the mountain of steps at its public entrance. It defiantly refuses to provide an access route to the ramp in the rear that elderly and disabled have been using for years. The postmaster shut down the ramp last year and now requires us to telephone for “appointments” to obtain services outdoors on the sidewalk at the public entrance. The location of “sidewalk service” is unreasonable because it is a longer trek—because of broken sidewalks and absent crosswalks and curbcuts. It’s also unreasonable because all elderly/disabled persons do not have or are not able to use cellphones. The USPS refuses to publish information in the media notifying persons of all abilities how to obtain service. Signage and a doorbell are absent at the entrance. What’s really egregious is that al fresco postal service out-doors on the sidewalk will not work in rain, summer heat waves, cold weather, and snow.

Joseph A. Luciano
33 DeForest Street A24
Seymour CT 06483
(203) 463-8323
DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com

A Doorbell Would Be a Nice Touch | Joe Luciano

by Joe Luciano, Founder, Disability Rights Action Group of CT

Seymour’s inaccessible post office continues to be unresponsive to its customers with disabilities unable to climb the mountainous steps to its public lobby.

Channel 8 News and the New Haven Register covered the May 13 rally to bring attention to the postmaster’s refusal to provide equal access to customers with disabilities. (The post office facility at 91 Main St. has a long steep staircase at its entrance with no ramp, lift, or other means for persons with limited mobility to get inside. For years, customers with disabilities used a service ramp at the rear of the building but the postmaster suddenly shut it down.)

The USPS valley supervisor established only one way for handicapped customers to obtain service: customers must telephone a “dedicated” number to request sidewalk service. This is unacceptable: there is no sign with instructions visible to arriving customers; the number is not publicized; this does not work for people without cell phones or unable to use one; the sidewalk area is hazardous; and the dedicated number is not dedicated; it’s the general number, often busy.

“The Postmaster is hiding behind the letter of the ADA, ignoring the fact that the USPS is required by Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act to make its services accessible to customers with disabilities,” said Marc Anthony Gallucci, Executive Director of the Center for Disability Rights.

Disability Rights Action Group  has sent multiple requests to local and federal USPS officials asking, in the very least, for a door bell and signage telling the handicapped how to obtain service. No USPS official has responded to DRAG’s requests, in keeping with their customer service attitude.

PAR readers interested in joining our next rally should email their contact information to DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com.

Two New ADA Advocacy Organizations Established

Joseph A. Luciano, Founder, DRAG Connecticut, ADA Education Project

When the U.S. Dept. of Justice and other ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) enforcement agencies are slow to act, property owners, municipalities, and places of public accommodation must be “dragged” by private individuals into ADA compliance. The general public is mostly unaware of the rights and responsibilities provided by ADA 1990. As a consequence, persons with disabilities encounter discrimination and architectural and mobility barriers nearly everywhere. Inexplicably, barriers are found at medical centers, doctors’ offices, post offices, malls, rest rooms, houses of worship, restaurants, and more.

DRAG Connecticut organized a protest rally at the Seymour post office on May 13. Elderly/disabled residents of down-town Seymour who were unable to climb the steps to the public lobby protested because the postmaster shut down the handicapped ramp at the rear and established a discriminatory policy requiring only elderly/disabled to telephone for service and wait on the sidewalk. The Center for Disability Rights supported this event by organizing transportation of CDR members to participate.  They also made the signs.

DRAG Connecticut wants the de facto handicapped ramp in the rear of the building re-opened—and an access route to it provided compliant with 25-year-old ADA mandates (de facto, because Seymour’s post office has been providing services on that ramp to people with disabilities for years. The ramp, therefore, acquired status as a handicapped ramp for disabled postal customers). Or, the USPS can lease an accessible storefront in downtown Seymour or lease space in an existing accessible downtown business.

To see coverage of the protest, view these links:

To raise public awareness of rights and responsibilities provided by the now 25-year-old ADA, the ADA Education Project is writing an “ADA education” curriculum to be launched as a website that Connecticut social studies teachers and the general public can freely use. All its lesson plans, activities, and resources will be online—therefore requiring no expenses for books and having little impact on school budgets. With public awareness of ADA, towns and cities can become Livable Communities, a prerequisite to enable Aging in Place. Connecticut’s population is increasingly aging. Aging in Place can save America billions.

For more information about DRAG Connecticut or the ADA Education Project, please contact Joseph A. Luciano at (203) 463-8323 or e-mail dragconnecticut@yahoo.com.