For many people with disabilities, certain everyday places and activities are inaccessible. Here at Disability Rights Iowa we want to showcase those instances through a campaign called Access Denied. Disability Rights Iowa intern, Zach, went around Des Moines to demonstrate what a person with a physical disability must go through to get to get to places like the bank or a coffee shop.Zach starred in and directed the Access Denied video series. The five videos look at Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act which focuses on public accommodations and commercial facilities. If you or someone you know has had their access denied, snap a photo and send it to us. We want to tell the stories that Iowan’s with disabilities are facing. Send us your photo and story on Facebook or at email@example.com.
Update on Medicaid Class Action Lawsuit
DRI, in conjunction with co-counsel, filed a class action on behalf of Iowa Medicaid beneficiaries with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, and brain injuries who receive home and community based services from one of three waiver programs.
By way of background, Iowa transitioned last year from a state run Medicaid program to a private, for-profit managed care plans. Initially the plans maintained some of the services for members with severe disabilities who need extensive home and community-based services to be able to live integrated into their communities and having access to community life similar to non-disabled individuals. However, the managed care companies claimed they were losing too much money on Medicaid contracts and began cutting members’ necessary home and community-based services without any significant changes to their health needs, and not providing proper notice nor an opportunity to appeal.
The class action was filed against the Governor and the Director of Department of Human Services in their official capacities (however, the Governor was later dismissed). Plaintiffs sought declaratory and both preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to halt the terminations and reductions of home and community-based services by Defendants and their agents until there is compliance with the requirements of the Medicaid Act, the U.S. Constitution, Iowa Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Plaintiffs also petitioned for class certification. DRI represents plaintiffs along with co-counsel from the National Health Law Project and Roxanne Conlin & Associates, P.C.
The court denied the request for class certification on November 21, 2017. The court later denied the request for preliminary injunction on November 28, 2017.
On February 2, 2018, Judge Goodgame Ebinger dismissed the class action lawsuit against the state of Iowa’s Department of Human Services director. The judge ruled that as AmeriHealth Caritas of Iowa MCO has ceased operating in Iowa, the Plaintiffs claims are moot.
DRI disagrees with the judge’s decision. Regardless of which managed care company handles the member’s waiver services, the Iowa Department of Human Services is ultimately responsible for ensuring that Iowans have the Medicaid services they need. DRI will continue to review if there is compliance with the HCBS waivers and services for Iowans.
If you are experiencing any reduction, denial or termination of your home and community-based waiver services, please give DRI a call at 515-278-2502 or 800-779-2502.
Read the court dismissal here 65-Order dismissing medicaid managed care suit.
In 2012, the Disability Rights Iowa team attended the Iowa State Fair to assess its accessibility. What they found was that one of Iowa’s biggest events was not as inclusive and accessible as they had hoped. Recommendations were made and the Iowa State Fair took their responsibility to the disabled community seriously.
Four years later, the progress they have made towards accessibility and inclusion has been no less than remarkable. Between facilities updates, sign language interpreters and accessible shuttles/parking, it is clear that the fair has taken valuable steps towards making the festivities accessible to all.
Three Disability Rights Iowa employees who have a disability had the opportunity to attend the fair this year. Tai Tomasi, who is blind, was very impressed with the shuttle system and the improvements they made to curb cuts inside the fair. Emmanuel Smith noted that he used to have to plan his day around accessible restrooms, but this year he found they were all around the fairgrounds. Zach Mecham was pleasantly surprised with wheelchair access on the grounds. He was able to navigate the fair independently this year with no issues.
The staff at Disability Rights Iowa know what a process it is to make a facility as old as the fair accessible. We recognize that there is more to do but commend the fair’s efforts to improve on accessibility. We just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you and keep up the good work!
Over the past several months, Disability Rights Iowa had had the good fortune to work with Sam Summers, organizer of the Hinterland Music Festival , to address issues of accessibility encountered during Hinterland’s first year. From our first conversation, it was apparent improved accessibility was a priority. While we realize making an event of Hinterlands size fully ADA compliant and accessible will be a multi-year effort, Sam repeatedly went above and beyond to ensure that Hinterland was as accessible as possible in the time frame allowed, even as the St. Charles site posed significant challenges. By providing accessible parking, accessible seating areas, accessible golf carts to assist attendees in enjoying the rolling hills of Madison County, a dedicated ADA check-in where individuals could get assistance, and accessible portable toilets, Hinterland to great efforts to make sure any issues of accessibility were considered and addressed.
DRI staff Tai Tomasii and Charlene Joens were able to attend this year’s event, and because of Sam’s commitment to accessibility, Tai’s visual disability posed no barrier to her enjoying the festival along with thousands of other Iowan’s. Her multiple discussions with attendee’s with disabilities revealed just how drastically Sam’s efforts improved the experience at Hinterland for people with disabilities, and we can’t thank him
enough for his work. It’s because of the efforts of Mr. Summers and many other dedicated business owners around the state that we are making huge strides towards ensuring that Iowa lives up to the promises of the American’s with Disabilities Act, and the spirit of inclusion it represents. Thank you Sam and all the staff at Hinterland!