Access Ready joins the National Council on Independent Living in Mourning the Loss of Marca Bristo

Associate Facilitators Gathering Amongst a Field of Flags

 

Access Ready joins the National Council on Independent Living in Mourning the Loss of Marca Bristo

“To our NCIL family,

It is with a heavy heart that we write to inform you of the passing of Marca Bristo. Marca passed away on Sunday, September 8 from cancer.. Until stepping down just recently because of her prognosis, Marca was President and CEO of Access Living, the Center for Independent Living she founded in Chicago, IL nearly 40 years ago. She co-founded NCIL in 1982 and served as our second President. Marca was a tireless activist who dedicated her life to fighting for disability rights, and the Independent Living community has lost an incredible advocate and friend.

Sarah Launderville, NCIL’s President and long-time friend of Marca described Marca as a force and a kindred spirit. Sarah said, “Marca was a trailblazing advocate. She had a very kind heart and built relationships, and she also had a sharp edge that got things done. She will be deeply missed, and my heart goes out to the IL community as we grieve this incredible loss.”

Marca was a staunch advocate for local, national, and international disability rights for over four decades. In addition to her roles with Access Living and NCIL, she served as the first disabled Chair of the National Council on Disability (NCD) from 1994-2002 and more recently as the President of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities. Her advocacy led to some of our community’s biggest achievements, including helping to author the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and participating in negotiations for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Marca has received numerous awards and honors for her disability rights work including: the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States in 1992; the Henry B. Betts Laureate in 1993; the 2007 Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine; being selected as a co-chair of Governor Pritzker’s Transition Committee on Human Rights; and just this summer, being awarded NCIL’s Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Annual NCIL Conference.

Kelly Buckland, NCIL’s Executive Director, said, “I will remember Marca for a lot of reasons, but the one that most often comes to mind was my first NCIL Conference in 1989. Marca was President of NCIL and led a March on the White House to get President George H.W.. Bush to support the ADA. That led to a meeting between the NCIL leadership and the White House the next morning, and eventually led to White House support for the ADA. She was truly a great leader and I am honored that I got to know and work with her. The world is a better place because of her.”

Marca was in a league of her own. The Independent Living Movement has lost a passionate and visionary leader. She will be missed dearly, but her memory will certainly live on. And, as a previous Board Member and leader in the Independent Living movement, Marca’s picture will be added to the Wall of Fame in the NCIL office.

We would like to express our sincere condolences to Marca’s family and friends during this difficult time. A private funeral and burial will be held for Marca’s family. A public memorial service will be announced at a later date.”

 

Labor is the Key

American Flag with blue sky and white clouds

On Labor Day we thank the men and women who have built America. Those that have toiled to build the
railroads, bridges, tunnels and great buildings to those who create ships, airplanes, automobiles and the
rockets that took us to the moon. We are all a part of the great American workforce. Now comes the twenty-first
century with the need to keep building the dreams of people into an accessible livable future. It is information
technology that is lighting the way to that future. The potential of accessible information technology means that
people with disabilities can be a greater part of the American labor force than ever before. The 70%
unemployment rate of the disabled today can become a mystery of the past.
People with disabilities represent one of the greatest untapped labor resources in the nation’s history. With the
advent of information and emerging technologies the frustrations of how to best utilize this resource can fade
away. Technology is turning limitations of the past like difficulties in transportation, the need to communicate
electronically and the desire to work from home into great advantages. A great shift away from the brick and
mortar workplaces of the past is taking place, just as the self-employment (subcontractor) trend is putting more
control in the hands of workers at all levels. These shifts in labor mean greater flexibility for both the workers
and those needing the work done. Control that will be of great advantage to workers with disabilities.
When I became blind in 1967, the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 70% or higher. Today
it is still the same. Throughout our history, politicians and bureaucrats love to bemoan rising unemployment
numbers or trumpet rising employment rates. Seldom if ever do the same individuals highlight the
unemployment rates among the disabled. This is a shameful reality across government entities. Yes, we spend
billions on rehabilitation without much result as evidenced by the unreasonably high unemployment rate among
the disabled. Is this because there is no real policy shift that supports the employment of people with
disabilities? A policy shift like the Access Ready Environments Initiative. Without such policy shifts all the
rehabilitation money possible will make little difference.
Throwing money at a problem is often only half of the solution. Complex social issues like the rehabilitation and
integration of people with disabilities into the mainstream workforce require a paradigm shift in thinking and
behavior. This must begin and be supported by policy changes. The Americans With Disabilities Act has
proven that you cannot just pass a law and throw money at a problem to bring about such fundamental change.
The information technology age has brought about an even greater opportunity to support such a policy shift.
Over the next five years we must move toward building an Access Ready Environment through information
technology. It is a shift that can have great long-term effect on the employment of people with disabilities.
As a paradigm shifting movement the Access Ready Environments Initiative is beginning where all great
change starts to build toward a tipping point, which is the local level. While it can also be the most difficult it is
in the cities and counties where people really see the need and can change policy which is understood as “just
doing the right thing”. It is true that this is where the most parochial attitudes and uneducated stubbornness is
found, but it is the goodness of people who will overcome this entrenched opposition. Through this initiative we
can change the employment landscape for people with disabilities utilizing accessible information technology if
we will only require it in a rising tide that shows labor is the key.

Action Winning at the Ballot Box

As a member of the disability community, I have been treated to numerous get out to vote campaigns,
projects, and efforts. Recently I observed another such effort just getting started in one of the states as
a spin-off of a national campaign. It appears to me that these efforts generally include the same
elements.
 Lots of materials telling people the why, when, where and how of voting
 Candidate forums at which few if any candidates show up except for those who by the numbers
have no chance of winning
 Fancy logos and tag lines that come and go with little impact
 Committees, oh yes lots of committees
 After the election, they die and disappear
Then as the next election approaches, they begin again having done nothing in the interim to bolster
their effectiveness. They do not:
 Maintain contact
 Build new contacts
 Hold events to question elected officials
 Issue report cards on how the elected are treating our issues
They, in short, no longer exist.
The question is do we want to win and be taken seriously?
Why don’t candidates respond to our forums or questionnaires? Simply put they do not count us as an
important voting block. People with disabilities and their friends and families as a group are a larger
voting block than any other minority group. To be a voting block though we must act like one. We must
organize and make our presence felt. We must be blamed for the defeat of candidates and the victory of
others. The organizational efforts mentioned above are great but ineffective without instilling the fear of
what we can do. I do not fault the organizations who spend funds on such efforts, but to be truly
effective we must organize differently. We must put emphasis on the kinds of organization that matters
and will make us winners at the ballot box.
Once we become a true force to be reckoned with then we can expect attendance at our candidate
forums, to be equally treated in the media coverage and put people in office who respect our views.
How do we do this, you’re asking? In my opinion we:
 Organize as a long term network that works constantly.
 We create voter teams that are all about supporting and helping each other vote. We recruit
team leaders from among disability and voting advocates so they can then build local teams.

 We connect with the parties to help with registration, transportation, and candidate
information. Let the parties do their jobs for their members.
 We utilize our teams to assist in supporting each member of the team in the act of casting their
vote.
 We utilize these teams to inform voters, but never interfere with their choice of party, candidate
or the other choices that are part of the sacred responsibility of voting.
 We maintain these teams long term with regular contact and engagement efforts to grow and
expand the network.
 We connect with other groups who are holding candidate forums to get our issues included. Let
them carry the load of organizing such efforts.
 We set aside the we must be seen at the polls and get the votes however it is convenient for
each voter. Yes, I am a big proponent of accessible voting, but not at the expense of winning.
 We utilize accessible technology when and wherever possible and depend on national, state and
local advocacy organizations to enforce accessible voting requirements.
 We centralize the effort at the national level with network teams in every state and local
community.
 We self-fund by asking every team member to contribute a small amount of money to be used
to support the networks activities. One dollar a month should be sufficient. Twelve dollars a
year should not be too much to ask to protect our rights and needs.
 We should work with nonprofits who have funding to support our efforts in the ways that they
can.
This is a first blush take, but we need an ongoing effort and network like the one outlined above.
The kinds of efforts utilized so far are good, but they are not enough. In some cases, they are also a
great way to make some organizations look like they are doing something. We can collectively fix this
and become a force in American politics.
Now some will read this and be angry, so be it. Be mad at me if you wish. My opinions are that of my
own and not that of Access Ready.
Be as angry with me as you like. Then lets move past the issues raised and do something that will make
us a force in the outcome of the 2020 election and beyond.

Strategic Point of Play

Traveling over the past two months to various conventions and meetings has clarified one major
point to me. It is a strategic point of play behind Access Ready.
Our meetings in Tennessee are a great example. In our meeting with Jeff Roberts, the Davidson
County Elections Administrator, where I was joined by two great advocates. Carol Westlake,
Access Ready’s Chair of Coalitions and Chip Smith our Chair of Political Science, this glaring
strategic point of play came to light.
We were there to discuss accessible check-in at the polls. As the discussion went on it became
clear that our overarching message of building Access Ready Environments would have a more
sweeping effect.
This concept became even more clear in our next meeting with Commissioner Turner of the
States Department on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
While we have known this in an oblique subconscious way, the global effect of adopting an
Access Ready policy that cuts across all departments can have a more sweeping effect.
The reasoning is that since information technologies also cut through all levels of business,
government and the non-profit sectors that such a policy would have a dramatic trickle-down
effect on everything.
Advocating for changes in elections, education, social services, and points of sale, the
employment process and so forth put us in too many struggles with important, but small gains.
So many advocacy tracks are difficult to manage, and stretch resources.
All of the above examples and many more are supporting elements of why an Access Ready
policy should be adopted at overarching levels.
Yes, we should support divisional, departmental and programmatic adoption of an Access Ready
policy, but it should not be our focus. It is too much effort for too little gain.
Once businesses, government, and nonprofits have adopted an Access Ready policy at the global
level within their scope of influence then we will need to turn to guidance, education, and best
practices at the downstream levels.
At the downstream or local levels is where we must provide the tools necessary to assist IT
departments, ADA coordinators, and program managers as they begin applying the adoption of
the policy.
As we begin applying this strategic point of play we will also continue to develop the tools and
resources needed at those most important local levels.
Now some will say that engaging at the upper levels of business, government, and the nonprofit
sectors will be harder than the local level advocacy efforts. Yes, but the result is so much greater.
Voting against an Access Ready policy that is well-timed and has cost-effectiveness designed
into it, would be saying that twenty-five percent of the population does not deserve access at the
information technology level. Like the tools mentioned above such proposed policy changes
must be thoughtful and timely so they can take effect in the most efficient ways possible.
The point is not how fast things get done, but that they are on track to get done.

We are not saying delay without cause, but rather act as needed when needed in the most
accessible and economic ways.
We do not expect anyone in the business, government, or the nonprofit sectors to adopt our
sample Access Ready policy, but that it will be used as a guide for the drafting of their own
policies. The important part is that they contain the same elements. We are not as concerned
about how it is said, but rather that it is done in the long run.

NCIL Resolution on Access Ready Enviroments

National Council on Independent Living
A Resolution on Access Ready Environments

Whereas, the Americans With Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973, as amended, and other federal/state laws require that all new or updated
buildings meet federal and state physical accessibility guidelines;
Whereas, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that government services and
places of public accommodation meet accessibility guidelines;
Whereas, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that places of employment make
reasonable accommodations to provide for the employment of people with disabilities;
Whereas, the courts including the Supreme Court of the United States have upheld all
the above requirements;
Whereas, the cost of retrofitting or upgrading both buildings and technology is often held
out as a reason not to provide accessibility;
Whereas, many potential employers give lip service to the law and the concept of
employing people with disabilities, but these intentions are undermined by hiring
managers who quietly fear the cost of making a workplace accessible;
Whereas, modern technology driven workplaces are often not readily accessible to
potential employees with disabilities;
Whereas, accessible twenty-first century information technology has proven the ability
to level the workplace playing field;
Whereas, this same technology has proven the ability to make public facing portals to
service, retail, and information delivery accessible to people with disabilities;
Whereas, inaccessible twenty first century technology creates unreasonable, punitive
and costly barriers to people with disabilities;
Whereas, information technology is clearly the lifeblood of twenty-first-century
employment and commerce;
Whereas, the cost of accessible technology, if required in advance, is marginally
different from inaccessible products; and

Whereas, legal and moral precedent exists for the advance planning and
implementation of Access Ready Environments;

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the National Council on Independent Living assembled
this twenty-third day of July 2019 herein request and require that;
Federal, state and local governments, business and places of employment and public
accommodation voluntarily implement all steps necessary to require that information
technology managers, departments, developers, and providers take actions to impose
accessibility requirements in advance of their need in the same way that structures are
required to be accessible in advance of their need; and
That the Congress of the United States and the legislative bodies of the various states
take legislative action to require that Access Ready information technology
environments be imposed under the appropriate titles of the Americans With Disabilities
Act and supporting state statutes; and
That the Congress direct the United States Access Board or other appropriate bodies to
set Access Ready information technology standards where none exist designed to
create employment and public-facing environments that are or can easily be accessible
to people with disabilities; and
That Federal, state and local government purchasing departments, along with those of
business impose Access Ready requirements on respondents to requests for proposals
and other solicitations related to the purchase of information technology; and
That government and business information technology managers, departments,
developers, and providers at all leadership levels engage with disability technology
experts to review their current employee and public-facing systems to ascertain the
necessary upgrades to create an Access Ready environment; and
That disability organizations and experts begin to examine public facing information
technologies in order to inform the government and business owners of those systems
of the issues found, and further to take appropriate actions to bring about changes that
will provide Access Ready environments; and
Be it further resolved that the United States Department of Justice is hereby requested
to review, investigate, monitor, report on and take action against employers and places
of public accommodation who have a proven track record of avoiding, refusing to
implement, and/or failing to otherwise provide for Access Ready information technology
environments by policy, unreasonable budget restrictions, and/or supporting an
atmosphere of institutional discrimination against people with disabilities; and

That individuals with disabilities, with the support of their friends, families and civil rights
organizations, begin a grassroots campaign utilizing existing complaint and legal
avenues to bring to the attention of government and business the need for immediate

action to alter the course of technology development and implementation to include
accessibility from the outset and not as a case by case afterthought.

The Uniform Voting Experience

 

The extension of the uniform voting experience must now go beyond the simple act of voting as technology takes hold throughout the election process. The voter check-in process at the polls is one where technology has been shown to be of great assistance. 

The sheer volume of voters and legal notice requirements are putting tremendous pressure on the recruiting, training and retention of poll workers across the nation. The implementation of computer-driven accessible check-in solutions offers a resolution to these issues. 

It can do all these things while relieving the poll worker of many tedious tasks.

·         It frees the poll worker from sworn responsibility for perfect delivery of legal notice statements.

·         It frees the poll worker from debating with individual voters the voting path they must take.

·         It improves the poll workers ability to communicate with the voter from a service aspect.

It does all this while supporting election administrators:

·         By reducing poll worker training and turnover.

·         By no longer making legal requirements and notices subject to being filtered through poll workers with their own views and prejudices.

·         By engaging every voter in the entire process from check in to voting while meeting the individual needs of each voter regardless of their language or disability access needs.

·         By creating a uniform check-in which is part of the voting experience that meets the requirements of the law and smoothes out the process into a faster and more enjoyable experience.

A computer-driven accessible check-in solution can do all these things and more provided all voters are taken into account during the requirements and purchase process. Provided the spirit of the uniform voting experience in the Help America Vote Act is followed. Provided that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act is obeyed by requiring that all poll place check-in technology is accessible to people with disabilities.

 

Developing Technologies

The gathering of organizations like the American Council of the Blind brings to the forefront the great opportunities we each have. New ideas, concepts, technologies, and policies are shown, debated and grown.
Looking at those attending this years disability conventions one must think back to the past and ask
what the disabled of the 1940s or the 1840s would think.
Americans with disabilities have freedoms and abilities they could not have dreamed of.
The accessible and adaptive technologies of today and yes tomorrow are expanding our personal
freedoms with no limit beyond what we ourselves choose to accept.
The litany of names that are expanding freedom and abilities are too numerous to mention but are
being led by the AIRAs, OrCam’s and Human Wares. Just when you think things can’t get better along
comes a new concept that changes the game.
Whether we look at VOTEC who is expanding access to the election process, Discover Technologies who is making software like Share Point accessible or Inclusion Solutions who keep finding and bringing new and innovative products and services into the market that are game changers. We mention all these as examples and not as endorsements. There are so many new companies and developments that it is impossible to list them all.
I bring these forward as examples that I personally have utilized and know their freeing effect.
It is not just about learning or work. It is about play time as well. Let’s talk about Blindfold games who has broken down the digital gaming barrier so I as a person who is blind can play games that are like Space Invaders, Battleship, and many more.
The invention is not only in the realm of blindness. Take a look at the tracked wheelchair that is a true all-terrain chair that even comes with a snow plow attachment and a rifle mount for hunting.
All of these things advance accessibility and will like all other inventions lead to new advancements. It is hard to see into the future of accessibility and know what is coming next. Access Ready is working to make sure that new information technology goods and services will be universally accessible. To that end, we see places like Orange County, Florida reaching new levels of understanding and effort where access is concerned.
Nothing is perfect and much work is yet to be done, but many are seeing the great opportunities for
changing the game.

If We Don’t Fail

In the past millennium, the mind of humanity gave the printed word to the masses, gave individual freedoms their greatest opportunity, freed many from slavery, and began the industrial revolution easing the burdens of millions while providing opportunities to many more. We harnessed wind, water, fire and the movement of people and revolutionized government.

In the last century, we probed the depths of the oceans, took to the air, stepped foot on another world and eradicated diseases. We took the industrial revolution from the mechanical to the intellectual through the evolution of information technology. We split the atom, mapped the human gene and so much more.

The knowledge base of humankind is online for all to access and our understanding is growing by leaps and bounds at a rate multiplied by the speed of thought enhanced by the power of faster and faster information technology.

As we celebrate the two hundred and forty-third anniversary of the beginning of the American revolution, we can look back with great pride at the accomplishments of the republic through its people.

With the exception of native Americans who are the only true possessors of this land, we are all immigrants from other lands. Our ancestors came here seeking a better life and to build something new.

Our collective and individual drive, ingenuity and sheer fortitude in the face of great odds and adversity made America what it is.

Not a place of one religion, creed or color.

Not a place of those who have and those who have less. Not a place of hereditary privilege or poverty.

Not a place where you are judged by who or what your parents were, but by what each of us makes of the opportunity we each have as Americans.

We The People have fought mighty wars to defeat such contentions, making it clear that we will not be such people.

There has been a growing feeling that we have somehow lost our greatness. A feeling fostered and grown by those who clearly do not understand the true heart of the American people.

We The People understand all too well what is going on. After all, it is We The People who hold the ultimate responsibility of how our government behaves.

Looking back we know what we have done and looking forward we know what the genius and generosity of We The People can do.

America must lead across so many fronts in the twenty-first century.

The inventiveness of our people knows no bounds. We can not even imagine the concepts, technologies, and expansion of abilities that are to come. The freedom that will come through such growth if we assure that all can utilize and participate in the miracles of the future.

In this, we are not talking just about making things accessible to people with disabilities, but accessible to all.

We The People have made hard choices in the past to do the right things. We again face such hard choices but have within ourselves the truth, justice, and compassion to bring American ideals to ourselves, our posterity and to the world.

Why do millions come to add their flame to our great torch of freedom? There are as many reasons as there are people, but it can be summed up in one word. Opportunity.

We as a nation are still struggling with this thing called freedom and how to make it work for all. It is the stories of those seeking the freedom that we want to hear the least, that we need to hear the most. They remind us of why America exists.

We The People have the capacity within ourselves to grow our freedoms until their light shines into every dark corner at home and abroad.

No, we should not police of the world, but we can grow freedom by example.

Give access to all. Make sure no one is left out. Make real the freedoms we each hold in our hearts.

Freedom of expression, speech, and worship

Freedom from fear, ignorance, and want

Freedom from dishonesty, exclusion, and immorality

Freedom of aspiration, invention, and empowerment

 

We can have all these things and bring them again to the world by example if we don’t fail.

The Freeing Effect of Technology

This century has opened with a dawn of new technologies that offer freedom of action and participation at levels never before achieved by many people with disabilities. The reverse is also true when designs do not incorporate accessibility, making the new technology a punitive barrier. The slight shift that is taking place is more toward the former than the latter as the hard work of advocacy takes effect.

 

Accessible technology is vital to the disabled at home and in the workplace. Many have found in the past that their investment in accessibility did not result in sales even when mandated by law. Now many who do not offer accessibility are finding they are at a disadvantage in the marketplace.

 

The ADA and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act require that technology be accessible. Many vendors are willing and our insistence that buyers comply with the law is changing the dynamic in many circumstances.

 

Government and big business workers with disabilities are insisting on a level technology playing field with their coworkers and employers are finding the benefits of such a motivated workforce.

 

Because employees with disabilities started demanding equal access alongside their coworkers, business and government began including accessibility in their purchasing requirements.

 

We recognize that this is not just about disability rights, but millions of dollars of investment as well as billions in purchasing dollars from business and government.

 

There is a recognition taking place on all sides of the vital requirement to get accessibility in information technology right and the negative long term effect that will be felt if we don’t. Advocacy organizations like Access Ready are having an effect, but it is the individual at the local level in their community or on the job that are the heroes in this story.

 

Yes, some of these heroes are the people with disabilities that have to deal with inaccessibility, but more and more we see the issue being pressed by co-workers, managers and yes corporate and government policy leaders.

 

Yes, some are coming to this understanding because of hardcore advocacy and legal actions. But many more just see the common decency in providing accessibility.

 

Still, more managers and policymakers are reaching an age where accessibility or the lack of it is beginning to affect them personally. Younger people stepping into these rolls see the world differently than their predecessors and simply can’t imagine not requiring accessibility.

 

Yes, there are conflicts between opposing attitudes in some cases. Such situations generally form over timing and money, but often over a lack of understanding.

 

Where timing is concerned people with disabilities need to work with the short term accommodations offered as long as a plan is in place to succeed those short term fixes with accessible solutions.

 

On the budget or money front, people with disabilities need to help bring an understanding of the higher costs of exclusion or worse yet legal actions.

 

Where a lack of understanding or an attitude challenge is blocking the path to accessibility, then people with disabilities need to support those arguing on our behalf with education, best practices and demonstrated outcomes. In other words show how and why providing accessibility is in the best interest of all involved whether employee, customer, taxpayer or the business or government entity itself. We should never forget that in the end, it is simply motivated self-interest that can turn the tide toward the freeing effect of technology.

Accessibility Investments

 

Many disability-related laws and regulations have required accessibility in the technology arena. Many companies have invested millions to comply only to find in the past that business, government, and non-profit purchasing agents did not care. Investors of accessibility also are finding now that disability advocates are growing in their praise of such corporate support of accessibility requirements.

Highlighting those companies that are investing in accessibility and support for their marketing efforts, by national disability organizations is becoming more accepted.  We will not say that there is a wave of this activity, but there are examples that have made sense like NFB’s relationship with AIRA. Those that are beginning to develop such relationships are being careful to look at the usability and effectiveness of the product before taking the leap.

Many companies have taken the position privately in the past that they will not invest in accessibility until the demand is harming their marketability. That position is fast becoming untenable.

We all know that government and business do not have to buy accessible technology if it does not exist, so what happens if companies stop investing in the development of accessibility? All the laws will not matter if the technology does not exist. There is a slow shift to demanding such accessibility on the part of business, government and nonprofit buyers which is bringing about more accessibility. This means the accessible products and services will exist and their lack will no longer be an excuse.

The concept that accessible information technology (IT) does not end with accessible websites and the documents on those sites is becoming more accepted. It must extend into every aspect of IT from devices to applications and services. Accessibility requirements are turning up in requests for proposals across all of IT and many companies who never considered such in their products and services are now having to do so.

Discussions are taking place with the financiers of new technologies that are encouraging them to require accessibility in the concepts they fund. It opens up the market and yes, mitigates the risk of legal actions. They are beginning to listen.

The cooperation of accessibility developers and disability advocates can only result in a wider range of solutions available to people with disabilities across community life. Supporting the purchase and implementation of new levels of accessible technology will assist business, government, and nonprofits in complying with access requirements and open more opportunities to people with disabilities.