Tag Archive for: Disability Law Center

Blind and low-vision voters hail Massachusetts’ new statewide online voting option (GBH News)

This year, Massachusetts became the fourth state in the nation to enact a new electronic voting system for people with disabilities, as a provision of the VOTES Act passed in June. This milestone stems from a 2020 lawsuit filed by the Disability Law Center, as reported by GBH News in an Oct. 28 article.

An excerpt from the article is below.

In 2020, the Disability Law Center partnered with the Bay State Council of the Blind and the Boston Center for Independent Living to sue the state over lack of accommodations made for disabled people to vote safely and securely during the pandemic. Secretary of State Bill Galvin settled the lawsuit right before the election to allow disabled voters to vote electronically.

But during the 2020 election, voters with disabilities who chose the electronic method still needed a printer and had to physically sign the ballot. Advocates pushed for the option to last beyond that single year and worked with the secretary of state’s office to make it even more accessible.

Read more from GBH News.

SJC to referee another medical parole dispute (CommonWealth Magazine)

CommonWealth Magazine on Sept. 9 reported on an amicus brief filed by Prisoners’ Legal Services, the Disability Law Center, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Since the legislature established medical parole in 2018, prisoners’ rights advocates and Department of Correction officials have been in a near-constant fight about how the law is being implemented.

Tatum Pritchard, an attorney with the DLC, which filed a brief in the case, said the Legislature made clear that someone who is permanently incapacitated – physically or cognitively – should be eligible for parole, but the DOC inappropriately created a much narrower definition by focusing on activities of daily living. Pritchard said under the DOC’s definition, medical parole is reserved only for individuals who “really have no functional abilities at all.” 

The court could also address other related issues. DLC, PLS, and CPCS argued in their court brief that correction officials need to consider whether someone’s disability led to certain behavior in jail, like being disruptive, and whether that disability could be managed in the community. 

Read more in CommonWealth Magazine and in The Boston Globe.

Report: Restraints and involuntary medication widespread at corrections facility for people with mental illness

A new report by the Disability Law Center suggests staff physically restrained and involuntarily medicated over half of their patients at the Department of Correction’s Bridgewater State Hospital over six months.

The report focused on the facility that houses over 200 men suffering from mental illness, and alleged staff used force to inject sedatives into unwilling patients. The group recounted some of 15 incidents, documented by video, where staff in riot gear held down patients as they were injected with medications, often despite their protests and without an indication that there was an emergency.

“The pattern and practice of violent staff interventions would not be accepted in a DMH [Department of Mental Health]-licensed psychiatric hospital,” wrote authors from the center, which is charged by state courts with monitoring whether reforms are happening at Bridgewater.

Read more at GBH News. Additional coverage in WBUR and CommonWealth Magazine.

Wheelchair repairs can take a month, or longer, leaving people stranded

Rick Glassman, director of advocacy at the Disability Law Center, was quoted in a March 9 WBUR article about the difficulties wheelchair users face when trying to get their chairs repaired.

Glassman said one major issue was the shrinking number of companies that sell wheelchairs. “There’s too much market consolidation, and there’s no consumer power,” he said.

Over the past few decades, the number of dealers has dwindled to just a handful in New England, he said, and two national providers — Numotion and National Seating and Mobility — dominate the market. Wheelchair users are stuck with few choices, Glassman said, and “very poor customer service.”

Read more at WBUR (March 9 and March 10).

In win for residents with disabilities, Boston must upgrade curb ramps

Tom Murphy, a supervising attorney at the Disability Law Center, was quoted in a Nov. 24 WBUR article.

A long-running civil rights movement has won a huge but quiet victory in Boston. It’ll mean millions of dollars in spending, and construction projects across the city — including in Jamaica Plain, where Michael Muehe has lived for 20 years.

“Many of the curb ramps along here, many of the intersections have curb ramps that are insufficient or are nonexistent,” said Muehe, while guiding his wheelchair down Jamaicaway.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 lays out how curb ramps should be built. Yet, a 2018 survey by the Disability Law Center in Northampton showed that less than half of the city’s 23,000 curb ramps met ADA specifications.

“There’s no ADA police,” said Tom Murphy, a supervising attorney at the law center, an independent nonprofit. He said the Justice Department has the authority to enforce the ADA, but for the most part, improvements have been driven by residents. In recent years, many across the country have successfully won suits over curb ramps.

Murphy represented a group including Flanagan and Muehe when they approached the city of Boston in 2018.

Read more at WBUR.

Group blasts Bridgewater State after patient suicide