December 2015      
Volume 12      
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Table of Contents

A Note from Matt

DIG in the News

Kids Crusaders

3rd Annual Balloons and Tunes Party 

Domestic Violence and the Holidays 

Out and About with DIG

The Wallet Card

Working with our Deaf Clients  

Staying at Home is Key 

Employment Support for People with Disabilities

Your Upward Journey

Litigation: It's not my fault -- Autism and Fair Housing

A Parcel of Penguins

notefrommattA Note from Matt.....
2015 was the year of the 25 th Anniversary year of the ADA - We have come so far, yet still have so far to go.  The Dali Lama has said, "Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects."  Just this year, the effects of our work at DIG has included -  thousands of children who get to keep their health care and not taken away from their families; people who are deaf who get interpreters when needed; autistic persons (across the globe) who do not get wrongfully detained or arrested; persons with disabilities who get accommodations in their home or get to keep and use their support or service animal.  We wake up each morning and feel blessed to do this work, and thank you for allowing us to do so. We look forward to another year of promoting rights and ensuring opportunity.

  Happy Holidays from everyone at DIG!  
  office picture with Yare, Matthew, Debbie, Lisa, Sharon, Monica, and Kayla
clip art of a newspaper that is folded   DIG in the News

December 1, 2015, The Daily Business Review - Family Challenges Eviction of Autistic Son After Outburst
December 5, 2015, Miami Herald - Bitter pill: How Florida rations care for frail kids, Carol Marbin Miller,
December 6, 2015, Miami Herald - State purges 9,000 children from medical system in cost-saving overhaul, Carol Marbin Miller - 
December 7, 2015, Miami Herald - Bitter Pill: Hard lives of disfigured kids made harder still, Carol Marbin Miller 
December 7, 2015, Tampa Bay  Times - John Romano: Florida's children sacrificed for pennies
December 8, 2015, Miami Herald  - Senate chief wants 'full briefing' on cuts for sick, disabled kids, Carol Marbin Miller 
December 8, 2015 - Miami Herald - Editorial - No excuse to deny sick kids healthcare 
December 9, 2015, News Service of Florida,  Children's Health Program To Resume Enrollment Next Month, Margie Menzel - 
December 11, 2015, Tampa Bay Times - Editorial: Saving money by hurting sick kids
December 16, 2015 - If There is a Hell: Florida's Rick Scott, CMS & Sick Children, Peacock Panache 

Happy Retirement.
Genevieve Cousminer  
Matt and Genevieve sitting at a table at her good bye luncheon.
julie   Kids Crusaders Corner Kids Crusaders Logo

Happy Holidays from the Kids Crusaders Corner
As we bring 2015 to a close, we have so much to look back on and so much to be grateful for. I know we personally have so many fun memories to reflect upon. Taking Nick to make this amazing painting for Adam's birthday (One of Nick's runners from ) captured the year on canvas! "I made a wish and you www.whoirun4.comcame true."
There are so many barriers still within our everyday lives of living with a disability. It is a constant learning experience and it is always a constant teaching experience from which others can learn from. With every passing day, great gains are being met with the help of people willing to be the voices for those who can't speak. It is a forward momentum that keeps pushing ahead and breaking ground.
  Julie, Nick, and Family wishing everyone a happy holidays
For my family personally, the greatest change that came about this past year was the signing of a law in New York State that will allow parents of adult "children" with disabilities living at home the opportunity to be paid to be their caregivers. (See attached article).
My son will be 25 in April. As he ages, obviously so do I. As he has aged, the amount of time it takes to give him direct personal care has increased. For the past 21 years I have worked opposite shifts from my husband to always have one of us available to provide for our son's care. I have worked the overnight shift while my husband works the day shift. We pass in the driveway with a quick good morning and a "Nick informational report off". I often go many hours without sleep because after working all night outside the home, there is so much that still needs to be done inside the home, including caring for my son. As of April 1, 2016 I will be able to step down from my "career" as a nurse and step into my role as a Mom...which is how it should have been all along. I won't have to look back with regret that my time was spent punching a time clock when it should have been spent treasuring every moment I have with my son. Being able to be paid to be at home taking care of him will alleviate the financial concerns that loom over so many families when they get forced to decide between working and caregiving, or in my case, often juggling both at the expense of my own physical and emotional well-being.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to a truly dedicated parent, Doris Behan, who for 5 years was a strong presence and constant voice in helping to get this law passed. Her unwavering dedication along with Assembly Majority Leader, Joseph Morelle's, hard work helped to make this dream become a reality.
2016 is looking to be a promising year. Thank you to every individual that has ever taken a stand to protect and enhance the lives of those living with a disability. Your voices were heard.
Happy Holidays from our family to yours!
3rd Annual Balloons and Tunes Party
December 18, 2015
Matt and Deonte  
Matt and Marion Jaden, Lisa, Yare, Monica, and Kayla Deonte, Matt, Yare, Monica, Kayla, and Lisa
International Visitor Leadership Program
Disability Issues in the US
A project for the People's Republic of China
Debbie and Matt with Xiaomeng Qi, Song Song, and Hong Zhang from the People's Republic of China.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact Sharon Langer at
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The Road to Freedom Bus Tour
December 11, 2015, in Miami, FL
Matt and photojournalist Tom Olin
Matt and Tom standing in front of the Road to Freedom bus
  Thank you to the Center for Independent Living of South Florida 
for bringing this to Miami

Banner the road to freedom introduction
Banner about the Road to Freedom - part 1 Banner about the road to freedom part 2
a black circle with the words Domestic Violence in white with a red slash across the diagonal
dv Domestic Violence
For many, the holidays are the best time of the year. It is a time for family, festivities, and cheer. Unfortunately, for victims of domestic violence, the holidays can be a very dark and dangerous time. While data is still inconclusive, many advocates believe that the holidays raise stress levels which can contribute to increased incidents of domestic violence.
Since the holiday season is supposed to be the best time of the year, many people have high expectations. These can include giving and getting the best gifts, balancing time with work and family, and yet still maintaining the holiday spirit. Many people can become stressed while trying to live up to these heightened expectations.
Domestic violence is more likely to occur when stress levels are high so during the holidays, unrealistic expectations, financial strain, and alcohol can increase stress, and therefore, incidents of domestic violence.
If you find that you are in a domestic violence situation, it is important to have a safety kit in case you have to exit a dangerous situation quickly. This kit should be hidden in a safe place and should include emergency numbers, a bag of clothing and toiletries, important documents such as birth certificates and a driver's license, medication, prescriptions, car keys, house keys, and cash.
This safety planning will give you the tools you need to find safety for yourself and your children.
Debbie and Sharon standing in front of the DOJ emblem in Washington DC
Debbie and Sharon at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC for training
outandabout clip art of a suitcase covered in travel stickersOut and About with DIG 

12-18-15       3rd Annual Balloons and Tunes Party

TBD              MDC, The Lab Miami, lecture on technology and accessibility

2-16-16         Discrimination Forum, Miami Beach, FL

4-1-16           Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, Baltimore, MD 
Thank you to Professor Barrow and her Marketing Students at Miami Dade College
Prof. Barrow's class Animal Partners group.
Overall Winners - Animal Partners Project
Kids Crusaders Winner
Prof. Barrow Class, winner for wallet card.
Wallet Card Winner
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Animal Partners Logo


Site Visit to Animal Services 
DIG, Voc Rehab, and Animal Services are starting a jobs program  
for people with disabilities 
Edgardo, Brenda, Debbie, and Matt in front of Animal Services
thank you to the staff at Animal Services and Edgardo and Brenda  

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Jon Kent, Dr. Diane Adreon, Alex Kent, Debbie Dietz (standing) and Lt. Barta and Haley Moss (sitting).  The crew and actors for the 2nd Wallet Card video. walletcard   The Wallet Card Project


Go to our website to watch the video and sign up for a wallet card: 



Good Bye to our Fall Interns
Bijal, Samuel, and Danielle
Debbie, Danielle, and Matt cutting a cake to say goodbye to Danielle.

lisa Working with our Deaf Clients
By: Lisa Goodman finger spelling with pictures the name LISA
 During my short time at DIG, I have had the pleasure to meet and work with many of our deaf clients. Like many of you, I knew the deaf community uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with each other. I have even taken a very basic ASL class in summer camp when I was younger.  But before working at DIG, I had not had many interactions with deaf or hard of hearing people and because of that never really gave a second thought to how the deaf community communicated with the hearing world. I am happy to report that that all changed during my first week at DIG. I finally realized that we all need to be concerned with how our deaf and hard of hearing community communicates with the hearing world. Despite having taken that ASL class in summer camp, I finally grasped that ASL was its own respective language and not a language translated from English. I finally understand that simply passing notes back and forth are not a sufficient means of communication between a deaf person and one that can hear. Those are all things that not only I needed to understand as a person and for my job but things many people in this world also need to understand. My hope is that this very brief article sheds some light on something very important in this world and very important to everyone at DIG.

Staying at Home is Key
By: Lorinda Gonzalez Israel and Lorinda 
"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will."
- Charlotte Bronte
The term independence can take on many different meanings depending on where you are and what's most important to you. It encompasses a person's right to autonomy; the ability to make personal decisions without the forceful opinion of others. Individuals with disabilities - especially those who require consistent assistance completing activities of daily living - find it challenging to live independently. One main reason is a need for a network of paid caregivers who can provide assistance with daily needs. Acquiring this level of care in the home setting has been a battle in the US for many years. In 2015, there was a shift in how Florida provides long term care to individuals who chose to live at home rather than in an institutional setting. This shift created a partnership between Medicaid and private long term care insurance providers. While still bumpy, the partnership has provided opportunities for disabled adults to acquire much needed care at home rather than being forced into a nursing home. While every person's definition of independent living differs, when it comes to long term care assistance there are two barriers people with disabilities face: access to insurance coverage to pay for services at home and informed choice. (read more) 
Employment Support for People with Disabilities
By: Lesly Lopez
head shot of Lesly Quin
If you are disabled and you are pursuing employment, you are not alone. You can find many agencies providing employment support and help you to reach your vocational goal.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) (
Vocational Rehabilitation website 
Employment Networks (read more) 
Disability Program Navigator Initiative (
A basket of colored chocolate medallions and 3 chocolate hand that say I love you in ASL.
The cover of the book Your Upward Journey by Patricia Bochi     Head shot of Patricia Bochi. She is in front of a boat that is in the water.
In a nutshell, Your Upward Journey: It Is Easier Than You Think!, is a three-part project (book, self-help seminars and merchandise sale). I intend to promote the book through self-help seminars and sale of merchandise, such as mugs, journals etc.

 The website is:                                

Logo for the fair housing video series.   

Please click

litigation Litigation:It's not my fault -- Autism and Fair Housing
By: Matthew Dietz  Danforth Family and Matt standing outside their home

Diane Danforth called frantically, she was going to be evicted from her home of 26 years because her 26 year old son, who is Autistic, had an outburst. Ryan's grandpa recently died and left him his car, which Ryan parked by the management office. There was a sign placed on the windshield that the car had to be moved the following day so the trees can be trimmed. So, Ryan read the sign, and moved the car down the street, but what Ryan did not know or understand was that the management was going to trim all of the trees for the entire street.(read more)

What does this have to do with the Fair Housing Act?
(read more) 

What happens if the tenant's behavior is dangerous or threatening?
(read more) 

All interesting information, but how do I inform my landlord that I am not a danger?

Can there be any charges or retaliation for requesting an accommodation?
(read more) 
At Disability Independence Group, we focus on providing the tools for people on the autism spectrum the tools that they need to advocate for themselves. The availability to live where one chooses is a cornerstone of community integration and self-determination for a person with any disability. The relatively simple act of disability disclosure and request for accommodation is a free tool to ensure housing opportunity.
Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice- Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act (2004) found at
penuins A colored drawing of an open box with 3 small penguins surrounded by stuffing.
A Parcel of Penguins
  You can now buy a copy of the book

For more information about DIG and to find out how you can be involved, please call or email our executive director, Debbie Dietz at 305-669-2822 or 

Disability Independence Group, Inc.
Expanding Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
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