2021 Monthly Newsletter
A note from DIG....
We have just passed the one-year anniversary of the pandemic. We know it has been a tough year for many people. Most of us have had our lives completely disrupted and we have had to find a temporary normal. This has included working from home, remote school, not eating out in restaurants and disconnecting from our friends and social lives. It has been really tough and a hard adjustment. The unknown is difficult and not knowing what comes next is really hard. A year later, we have several vaccines, places are starting to open, and we are figuring out how to transition back into our lives. It is exciting and scary at the same time. DIG will continue to be a resource during this transition, and we are here if you have questions or need help. Good luck and have a great month.
Vaccine Delivery – When First Come, First Serve means people with disabilities are at the end of the line.
clip art of the COVID-19 symbol a sphere with red flower clusters coming out of the sphere
  • When emphasis is placed on the number of persons inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine, Florida leaves out and neglects those who may require more time and effort to vaccine.

  • Those with money, resources and ability jump first in line for the vaccine.

  • Financial and physical ability are placed before equity in the vaccine distribution scheme.

Ms. Emily Jackson is 86 years old and lives in Palm Beach County, Florida. She had a knee and hip replacement and cannot stand or wait in lines. She is willing to take an Uber or paratransit to get to the site, but she can’t wait in lines. She also a cancer survivor and believes she is immunocompromised. Ms. Jackson lives with her 88-year-old husband, and both are not that computer literate. Because of COVID-19, she has not been to a grocery store or a pharmacy for the past year. As with the vast majority of seniors with disabilities, Ms. Jackson lives independently in her community.

Ms. Jackson is not unique, and a composite of the many persons who have called about the dilemmas that they have in being vaccinated in Florida.  As of March 16, 2021, three million out of the 4.5 million people in Florida who are over 65 have been vaccinated. As such, 2/3 of persons over 65 have been vaccinated. Conversely, 1/3 of all persons over 65 in Florida have a disability. (2012 American Community Survey).

When Florida implemented its COVID-19 vaccination plan, and even when the Federal Government came into Florida, they did absolutely no planning relating to the disability-related needs of millions of persons with disabilities that live independently in the community. Both planning for and accommodating persons with disabilities is a requirement of both the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. However, having a one-size-fits-all strategy that requires persons to have (1) internet access to set an appointment; (2) a method to travel to and wait in line (or in a car) for a vaccination; (3) travel to a crowded public accommodation (such as a drug store, supermarket, community center or a hospital) while immunocompromised.  

Calendar of Events
April 2, 2021
State Chapter Meeting

FIU Embrace
April 10, 2021
Supported Decision Making/Guardianship Update

Enable Project
April 15, 2021
ABLE United, Fair Housing and Disability

May 7, 2021
State Chapter Meeting

Enable Project
May 13, 2021
Technology an update on Accessibility

FIU Embrace
May 15, 2021

The Family Cafe
June 2021
The Wallet Card Project

The Family Cafe
June 2021
ATVFL - Update

FACIL - Youth Forum
July 2021
Voting and Civic Engagement
DIG in the News
Miami Inclusion Alliance (MIA)
The Miami Inclusion Alliance would like to celebrate Women’s History Month this year by introducing you to Judy Heumann, a tireless leader in the Disability Rights Movement.
A polio survivor at the age of 18 months and lifelong wheelchair user, Heumann’s activist career began early. Her family had to fight to have her included in her local public school after she was denied access and called a fire hazard because of her wheelchair. Eventually, Heumann’s mother was able to secure her the right to attend mainstream schools, and she graduated high school in 1961.

Heumann went on to earn her New York State teaching certificate but had to sue the New York City Board of Education after it refused to hire her to teach because the Board did not believe she could get herself or her students out of the building in case of a fire. A local newspaper ran a headline of 'You Can Be President, Not Teacher, with Polio'. Heumann won that case and became the first wheelchair user to teach in New York City.

Her activism took her to California to work for the Center for Independent Living where she served as the deputy director from 1975 to 1982 and was responsible for the implementation of new legislation that was addressing the important areas of special education, disability research, vocational rehabilitation, and independent living.

Over the years, her activism has taken many forms. She has participated and led some of the most important protests of the disability movement, assumed leadership roles in the government such as being World Bank’s first Advisor on Disability and Development, advised both the Clinton and Obama administrations on disability issues, and trained other activists throughout the country on disability issues.
Her career has been extraordinary, and we are proud to introduce you to her this month and honor her many contributions to making the world a better place. 
COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline
MUJER flyer for a COVID-19 helpline.
MUJER flyer in spanish for a COVID-19 helpline
Mujeres Unidas en Justicia, Educación y Reforma, Inc. (MUJER) announces the opening of a COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline for individuals and families in south Miami Dade.

As the nation passes the one-year anniversary for the pandemic, mental health-related complaints are skyrocketing. According to surveys conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2020, 41% of adults “reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition” with a 4x jump in depression over 2019 numbers. Significant increases in anxiety and suicidal thoughts were also reported.
These issues have not overlooked the large community of immigrants and farmworkers in Miami Dade County who have also dealt with the additional stress of needing to stay at work during this time of social isolation. “Immigrants are usually more uninformed about available health resources due to language barriers and not having an established family network” states Susan J. Rubio Rivera, MUJER’s Executive Director. “Since we have long-held relationships with this community, and the experience of running a helpline for sexual assault victims, we felt opening an additional helpline for emotional support was simply a natural fit.”
Manned 24/7 by multilingual, trained staff under the supervision of licensed clinicians, the Emotional Support Helpline will focus in three areas: 1) emergency service for individuals who are in crisis, 2) education and information about managing the symptoms of mental illness and sleep disorders, and 3) serve as a referral center for professional psychological care. All calls are confidential and users may remain anonymous if they choose. Users are also not limited to the South Miami Dade area. The phone number for the COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline is (786) 829-0099.
Financial support for this initiative has been provided from PepsiCo through the Miami Foundation, and from the Peacock Foundation.
Animal Partners
Lucy with a sign in her mouth that says all guests must be approved by the dog.
animal partners logo with the word animal in black with a silhouette of a puppy and then the word partners in blue
Florida Legislative Animal Bill Update & Positions
Since its inception in 2002, Disability Independence Group has been active in enhancing options for persons with disabilities to benefit from the assistance and companionship of animals. Our advocacy ranges from ensuring that service animals and emotional support animals are permitted in housing and employment to embedding therapy animals in social services agencies that serve abused children. With increased recognition of the beneficial use of assistance animals, there has been increased regulation in the use of assistance animals. 

Luckily, the recognition of the benefits of animals is mostly bipartisan, and the Florida Legislature has attempted to guide and facilitate the use of animals for both the benefit of those who need the assistance, but also for the welfare of the animals themselves. This year’s bills in the Florida Legislature are examples of what can and should be done to facilitate the human-animal bond.

My favorite bill, by far, is SB 96, which incorporates investigating and reporting animal abuse into the central child abuse hotline. Senators Book and Brodeur have been consistently champions when it comes to the intersection between vulnerable children and animals. According to the legislative intent of the statute - The Legislature recognizes that animal cruelty of any kind is a type of interpersonal violence that often co-occurs with child abuse and other forms of family violence, including elder abuse and domestic violence. Early identification of animal cruelty is an important tool in safeguarding children from abuse and neglect, providing needed support to families, and protecting animals.

This bill requires the cross reporting between child and animal abuse as well as the training of child protective officers to investigate the treatment of the animal in the scope of a child abuse investigation. These findings and requirements of this bill are in line with the findings and recommendations of the National Link Coalition that after 35 years developed a resource and data demonstrating significant correlations between animal abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, elder abuse and other forms of violence. This new law is a perfect complement to subsection § 741.30(5)(a) which was enacted in 2020, that allowed a court to award temporary custody of a family pet to petitioner when either a temporary or final injunction for protection against domestic violence is issued. This section also allowed a court to issue a no-contact order with the animal. Similar to SB 96, HB 47/ SB 216 requires veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty. Such a requirement protects animals, but also such abuse may uncover abuse of others in the household. 

By: Christopher Stein
The doctor gave me three options. I could be tubed (a.k.a intubation). I could maintain the status quo. Or, I could be shot up with morphine. Admittedly, my eyes lit up at the thought of an opiated stream of blood feeding my head. However, the doctor was quick to shoot that white horse when he made it clear that I’d be riding high off a cliff. So, with a jerk of the knee from a jolt of reality, I opted for the tube down the throat.

The flat screen hung on the far wall. When it turned on, a large pink circle lit the display. The circumference was traced in silver. Inside were the letters LG in a proprietary font. Beneath the logo, in an understated white font, loomed the words “Life’s Good “. The caption was disproportionately small to what I saw in front of me.

A clock hung to the left of the screen. It hung in a clockwise skew. Time was off-kilter. The minute hand pointed due south. A few degrees to the right of six. The hour hand pointed between the two and three. Due east.

To my right, was a pole of gadgetry entwined in tubing. The tube started from the wall hissed and whirred oxygen around up and down and through the different mechanisms into an accordion-like hose capped off by two hollow fangs stuck up my nose. A torrent of air blew up my schnoz down my gullet into my lungs. My phone was on my stomach. It rose with every inhale. It sunk into every exhale.

I understood everything around me. I understood where I was. I understood everything behind me. I understood everything ahead of me. I understood my status quo; There was only one thing I didn’t understand. Death. All I had to do was breathe. Maintain the status quo. The doctor returned. I took a deep breath, stiffened my knee and I backed out of the pulmonary invasion deal. I want my last breath to be mine.

I took my evening meds and I fell asleep. I don’t remember what I dreamt, but I have no doubt I breathed throughout. I woke the following morning. The Life’s Good flat screen was on. It remained on through the night. The clock was in its same skew. The minute hand pointed due north. A few degrees left of the twelve. The hour hand pointed at the nine. A few degrees above due west The phone remained on my stomach. Up with my inhale. Down with my exhale. The status quo.

I have no doubt that your faith and your rope-burned hands helped pull me from the brink. It could have been Divine Intervention that kept my noodle from wrapping itself around the concept of dying. From where I lay, I saw no light. I saw no Hand of God halting me at the gate. Not even a knock on the door. Faith is not to be understood. Faith just is.

I have no idea in what direction I’m going after my last breath. If I go no where, I’ll be in the dark for eternity. If I go up into the clouds, I’ll surf the heavens for eternity with my wagon hitched to Mother Theresa’s habit. If I go down into the fire, I’ll roast marshmallows with Adolf’s pitch fork for eternity and make s’mores. If I reincarnate as a gnat, I’ll go where the wind takes me until the wind splats me into a windshield.

In the words of the late Jim Morrison: No One Here Gets Out Alive
Benefits Information
head shot of Lesly
Congratulations to Lesly,
the new Executive Director of the CIL of the Keys.

How CIL of the Keys can help
Consistent with the philosophy of consumer-directed planning and equal access is to offer assistance to persons with disabilities in acquiring independent living and self-advocacy skills in order to obtain and maintain independence and self-sufficiency.
ADVOCACY: Becoming a self-advocate starts with knowing your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), local and state building codes, and other federal laws protecting the rights and responsibilities of people with disabilities and the obligations of organizations who serve people with disabilities.

Advocacy services:
  • Assisting with Social Security issues: appeals, reconsiderations, reports, overpayments, reinstatements.
  • Apply for SSA disability income: orientation in how to be successful, initial application, appeals.       
  • Help understanding Medicare and Medicaid and other Health insurance: benefits explanation, compare/enroll plans, appeals, billing/claims, Partnership with AFA/SHINE program.
  • Help applying SNAP, and other state benefits. Partnership with DCF.
  • Hurricane Preparedness: during hurricane season.
  • Case management: To provide advocacy and assist in accessing and coordinating services, resources and supports in the community to maximize consumer’s independence
  • Art and Craft workshops
  • Cooking Class and Healthy Living
  • Support Group: learning topics, Financial Education, Self-advocacy, Healthy Living, Health insurance etc.
  • Stretch, Balance and Breathe classes twice per week for beginners and intermediate Classes twice per week.
Employment support:
  • Resume writing,
  • Job search,
  • Referrals to employment supports,
  • SSA Benefits Counseling and Ticket To Work Orientation. (Community based program from SSA for So.FL)
  • Computer classes.
TRANSITION AND DIVERSION: Connecting persons with disabilities with services and supports to help them live independently in the community. Assistance to apply for Home and Community Services or Medicaid Waiver or LTC. Partnership with Alliance for Aging
INFORMATION AND REFERRAL about resources in the community: Callers primary issues: Housing, Rental assistance, Health Care. ORIENTATION ABOUT THOSE RESOURCES AND HOW TO HAVE ACCESS.
Assistive devices: Loan out wheelchairs and other equipment at no charge.

Education & Outreach: Community Presentations on topics like: Disability Awareness, the ADA, SSA work incentives/WIPA/Ticket to Work, Medicare/Medicaid & other health insurance, fraud prevention, Assets building for PWD, Financial and career stability for PWD and SSA disability programs. 
The Wallet Card Project
The wallet card is a tool to be used by a teenager or an adult with a disability. Currently, we have developed cards for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Intellectual Disabilities.
The Wallet Card® is a self-advocacy tool designed to empower people with disabilities.
The goal of the project to help people with disabilities and first responders communicate with each other in a safe, efficient, and positive way.
Our current card is limited to people that are over 14 years old and that are verbal enough to say, "Can I show you my wallet card"?
We know that there is a need to expand our project to include more people.
We are listening and we are ready to move forward and expand the project.
We are working to design a wallet card for the caregiver of a person with a disability.
We have designed a survey to make sure that we expand the project in a way that is helpful for caregivers.
We would love your input.
Please click the link below and help us design the new wallet card for caregivers.
Access the Vote Florida (ATVFL)
We will have monthly meetings on the first Friday of the Month at 11am by zoom.
Supper Social Club
black rectangle box outlined with a yellow line and the words Supper social club in the box in white
Our Supper Social Club is on hold for a few months.
We will let you know when we have a new date.
The cover of the book Your Upward Journey by Patricia Bochi
Your Upward Journey
In a nutshell, Your Upward Journey:

It is Easier Than You Think!, a three-part project (book, self-help seminars and merchandise sale).