Grammar School Students Who Already Challenge and Change The World

by Frank Panzarella, community activist

The Green Wolves, fourth-grade students at Elm City College Preparatory Elementary School, came up with that name for their own wonderful and imaginative adventure in becoming young activists.

Their teacher, Kurt Zimmermann of their Expeditions class, saw the PAR newsletter on-line and invited us to do a training for young people on things to think about when becoming an activist.

While some were still shy, others were bursting with ideas and questions. They surprised us right off by quoting suggestions from our own notes before we even began.

These kids were very interested in environmental issues and showed us their current great campaign. They raised money to replace all the teachers’ disposable coffee cups with lovely ceramic mugs that had the teachers’ names printed on them, so the teachers would reduce their paper waste.

We were thrilled to meet this group of engaging and endearing students and thank Mr. Zimmermann for the opportunity. We thought PAR readers would be interested in the notes we left the students with.

An Activist Guide List – Questions to Ask Yourself

  • “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
  • “Doing something is better than doing nothing.”
  • “My way is not the only way.”

Passion

  • What are the issues you feel strongly about? What would you like to accomplish or change? What do you need to study and understand?
  • Are there other people you know concerned about these issues? Who can you talk with?

Organize

  • How can you educate people about why your issue is important?
  • What are your short term and long term goals? What would you like to see happen in relation to your cause?
  • Who is it you would like to reach on your cause?
  • Are there people or groups who might be allies in reaching your goals?

Action Plans

  • What kinds of actions are appropriate for your cause?

Educational events

  • Write letters, articles, and petitions.
  • Use social media.

Rallies and demonstrations

  • Picket lines
  • Speak at hearings or local government meetings.

Create a plan to advance your cause and build support

  • Call a meeting to plan your actions if necessary.
  • Figure out a group process.
  • Be aware of your members and their ideas.
  • Promote democracy in action – listen to all and learn to resolve differences.
  • Respect the rights of others to have different views.
  • Struggle for a programmatic unity on issues — in other words, something everyone in your group can agree on to take some action.
  • Have a summation meeting. Meet again after your action to figure out what worked and what didn’t. What do you think could have been better? Decide if you will do something next, and pick a date for another meeting to figure out what it will be.
  • Have fun doing good things for the benefit of everyone.

Pay Attention to the Signs at the Public Library

by Robin Latta – Coalition For People

The Coalition For People was in the habit of meeting once a month in a cozy niche of the New Haven Free Public Library (Ives branch) for decades. One fall day in 2016, however, Mary Johnson, our elderly but forceful organizer/leader, declared that the library’s bathrooms were consistently in atrocious condition and “could we please meet elsewhere?”

Our following meetings were at Mary’s house, and we let the library know why its space was no longer suitable for our meetings. We learned the maintenance of the bathrooms was subcontracted out to a private company. This was the case in other City buildings as well, which angered us as these are jobs that should be done by City union employees.

That was the beginning of the changes to come… Upon further investigation, two members of the CFP team discovered no handicap accessible bathroom on the lower floor, while the potentially mobile metal sign standing in the front of the alcove of the handicap accessible bathroom on the main floor was perennially poised to deter entrance. The sign read “OUT OF ORDER.”

We knew the building was an older building and probably out of date, but we never realized the other “forces” at work. When we asked for an explanation of the sign, we were told that it was put there to avoid “hanky panky” in the bath-room. Upon further investigation, our “Supersleuth” found evidence of a prior handicap accessible bathroom in the women’s bathroom on the second floor that had actually been converted into an “inaccessible” stall.

When City Hall and the library were unresponsive to our pleas for accessibility, we finally made an ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] complaint which has been handled regionally through the Boston office. Currently, it has been placed in the hands of a lawyer who actually lives in Connecticut. Since the library and the City were given 180 days to “clean up its act,” their time was up on March 12, 2018.
We are saying all of this because of the stated excitement of the possibility of new renovations. We are sincerely hoping that everyone will benefit from those renovations, including the most underserved populations. (“I could have built a house by the time it took to fix the bathrooms” … so said one librarian, “and a garage.”)

But signage continues…one way or another. Now a big sign in the vestibule of the front entrance is posted and its reading “disallows” people coming in with more belongings than will fit under their seat. Is this a thinly veiled way of saying the homeless are unwelcome? Maybe instead, the library could (especially with new renovations) actually provide adequate accommodations for belongings.
Further, if the library is intent on making up new signs, maybe it could remind people that they are being surveilled inside the library by inconspicuous surveillance cameras. Even though it may be legally permissible to do so, some of us might feel intruded upon. So, folks…keep your eyes open when you use the New Haven Public Library and watch for the signs….

Seymour Police, Town of Seymour Policies Discriminate against Disabled

by Joseph A. Luciano  Disability Rights Action Group of CT

I have asked NBC-TV Troubleshooters to investigate the present-day status of ADA access and mobility in downtown Seymour. Investigation can reveal the plight of persons with disabilities (PWDs) living here.

This is happening 27 years after the Americans with Disabil-ities Act (ADA) was enacted (July 26, 1990). That’s 10,100 days ago. This was happening even before Seymour approved 38 new senior/disabled housing units downtown. On Columbus Street alone, the senior/disabled population has increased from 12 to 38—not counting the disabled living in my downtown apartment complex (Fallview Apts). Often, only able-bodied people can get around in downtown Seymour. I and other PWDs cannot—because police do not enforce ordinances or regulations that enable accessibility. I have filed complaints on these issues against Seymour and its police department with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities (1730312, 1830021). Inex-plicably, CHRO ruled that town and police policy do not discriminate against PWDs—even though only able-bodied persons can get around.

PWDs are routinely denied their rights to access and mobility at Seymour’s new $6.4 million park (Paul Pawlak Sr. Fishway & Park at Tingue Dam). Police do not ticket or tow away vehicles obstructing or blocking access to the “accessible walkway” leading to the scenic lookout.

PWDs are routinely denied their rights to access Seymour’s downtown businesses when property owners flout Seymour Ordinance 14-6, which mandates timely removal of snow from sidewalks. Seymour PD itself routinely flouts Ordinance 1-9, which mandates that flouters “shall” be fined up to $100/day for each day of the offense. Seymour PD has admitted never having fined snow ordinance flouters. Sidewalks covered with snow that should have been removed by town law prevent PWDs from access to groceries, restaurants, pharmacy, banking, worship, theater, shopping, and other reasonable purposes. For more information: DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com, (203) 463-8323

PAR Featured on WPKN Radio. Listen.

On Jan. 8, Scott Harris, host of Counterpoint on WPKN Radio (89.5 FM), interviewed Paula Panzarella, one of PAR’s editors and Planning Committee members.

The Planning Committee felt this interview would be a great way to introduce PAR to the many progressive organiza-tions active in the peace movement, the struggle for immi-grant rights, work with Black Lives Matter, promotion of environmental projects, the struggle for civil rights, criminal justice issues, the push for healthcare for all, etc. Many thanks to Scott Harris and WPKN for agreeing to give PAR this opportunity to reach a new audience.

We hope that groups which were not familiar with PAR will send us articles and their event listings so PAR readers can learn about the work they are doing and get involved. PAR readers can listen to the interview on the following link: http://counterpointradio.org/2018/mp3/180108d-ctpt-panzarella.mp3.

Seymour’s Senior Center To Comply With ADA Accessibility Standards

Joe Luciano, Disability Rights Action Group of CT

Seymour’s senior center has agreed to comply with ADA 1990 accessibility mandates after an investigation by the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In February 2016 I filed a complaint after observing that the center’s picnic grove and its two picnic tables were inaccessible. Many center members use wheelchairs. A 6-inch curb posed a barrier to the grove; a crosswalk was absent. The picnic tables were built by town high school students who, together with their teachers, were unaware that the ADA requires picnic tables to be wheelchair accessible.

Rather than making a simple modification (adding extensions to the table ends), the center removed the tables and closed the grove. The center will also post larger signs at its public entrance indicating the location of the accessible entrance. (Existing signs were too small and could only be read after climbing the steps to the able-bodied entrance.) The center will also fix the inoperable doorbell at its acces-sible entrance and post signage giving phone numbers for contacting center staff.

For more information: DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com.

Connecticut: Still Unready for Independent Living

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

ADA compliance in my community (Seymour) and most of Connecticut’s other 168 hasn’t changed much since the diatribe I wrote in 2014.

In my hometown, 26 years, or 9,783 days of opportunities on the road to accessibility—and, therefore, achieving status as a Livable Community—have been wasted. 9,783 days! Most merchants, their employees and property owners still do not know about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Or they don’t care—or have little incentive to care. Even today, community leaders have no incentive to provide educational town meetings, one-on-one counseling, or materials such as guides, or instructional videos. Incidentally, educational materials are free at ADA.gov.

Educating businesses about access should be community leaders’ top priority. Members of boards and committees themselves should be learning regulations on access and be instructing merchants. Or delegate someone with expert ADA knowledge to lead the way. Those who don’t know or who don’t care should just get out of the way. Or get pushed out of the way.

The Connecticut Main Street Center organization should end giving awards for “pretty” downtowns; it should instead give awards for ADA compliance or accessibility! Businesses that make themselves accessible open the market to consumers of all abilities and increase local economic development.
The program “Money Follows the Person” has had Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s strong support to move thousands of eligible persons out of nursing homes into independent living. This initiative, targeted for completion by 2016, is already saving government hundreds of millions a year. But there’s a catch: Independent living, or Aging in Place, requires communities to be ready as “livable” communities. (Communities become livable when their leadership implements ADA standards.)

My community’s leadership recently (and inexplicably) approved more senior/handicapped housing despite obvious community un-readiness for independent living. Result: All that seniors and persons with disabilities now living here can do is use their canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters to merely “stroll” around, looking into inaccessible shops.

Go figure.

To contact Disability Rights Action Group of Connecticut: DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com, (203) 463-8323.

Celebrate May Day May 1 with International Workers’ Day Rally and General Strike

Call for General Strike on May 1!

For full video coverage of the May Day festivities, visit http://www.thestruggle.org/Mayday%202017%20in%20New%20Haven.htm.

The rally begins with speakers and performers on the New Haven Green from noon to 5 p.m. on Monday, May 1, and will be followed by a Solidarity March starting at 5 p.m.

New Haven joins a call for a nationwide strike to demonstrate our economic power by not going to work, not going to school and stopping business as usual. We aim to highlight the economic power of workers: immigrants, women, Muslims, LGBTQ folks, Native Americans and African Americans and every other marginalized group that is currently under attack by the Trump administration.

We are asking you to join us and show solidarity: close your business on May 1; don’t go to work; don’t go to school.

Join the rally on the New Haven Green from 12 to 5 p.m. Speakers, live music, children’s activities, and a May pole! Join local justice, peace, equality, and labor groups as well as social service organizations, educators, students, healthcare workers, artists and ALL people on the Green.

Join the international workers’ march from the Green through Fair Haven at 5 p.m.

Funded in part by a grant from RESIST, Somerville, MA; web: http://resist.org; phone: (617) 623-5110.

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.

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