Self-Incriminating… Victims?

1440582_ml-630x350For 25 years, a quarter of a century, Americans with Disabilities Act, a bipartisan federal regulation has been scolding businesses and public accommodations to stop discriminating against the largest minority in the country.

But the scolding has not worked.  It has actually done the opposite.  After nearly three decades, we have a bunch of out-of-control criminals crying they are the “victims.”

Blog after blog, article after article, we see the same sentiment; poor business owner, they have been caught!  Well, yes, they are in violation of a federal law, (now, in a whiny voice) but it is so hard to follow the law.

Give me a break.

Get your signs rights.  Get your restrooms fixed and, please, don’t do the bare minimum of the law.

The argument (once the business gets caught of course) is, I didn’t know my parking lot needed to have accessible spaces, but I will fix it now. Hmmm, they didn’t know, but all of a sudden they are going to make a difference.  Why you ask?  Because they received a lawsuit that forced them into compliance.  Oh, but wait, that’s not all.  Once the lawsuit is served, the business cries to the chamber, or the media or their congressman shaking their fist at the “injustice” of having to pay a fine for breaking the law.  Not once do we hear about the thousands of people that might have not even been able to enter their business because they made it impossible for a wheelchair, or walker, or stroller.

Now, if anyone is still following me here, let’s review with an analogy.  I speed in my car.  I speed every single day. For 25 years.  But, I never get caught because I know the police do not monitor my streetOne day, as I am speeding, I hit someone crossing the street.  When the police arrive and try to give me a ticket for speeding, I blame the person walking.  Not only that, my congressman makes a law that says I can continue to speed as long as the person that may someday be walking in my way again writes me a letter to ask me to please quit speeding.  Thanks congressman!

This is the exact problem we have with ADA compliance.  Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities surveyed over 2,784 public accommodations.  Only 154 of those had parking lots in compliance.  That means 95% were / are breaking the law.  Does this sound like a system that needs another barrier to help business continue to break the law?

What if we were talking about a business that didn’t pay taxes for 25 years?  What kind of sympathy vote would the public give them then?  So, yeah, you would be angry.  They don’t pay their taxes, hang um up!  They discriminate against human beings, well, that’s okay, let’s give them one more shot.  Poor business.

Who is this victim in this story?  The law-breaking business says its them.  They should be hand delivered the law that can be found at with an attorney and an individual with a disability begging them to please, please follow the law.  Please, please allow me into your business.  Um, I don’t think so.  I live with a disability, and you won’t find me begging for anyone to let me in.  Is it my pride? Maybe.  But more so, I am tired.  I am tired of being looked at by businesses the moment I walk in thinking oh no, here comes one of them, they will try and sue me for something. So, I keep quiet.  I sit alone at my table because there is no place for my chair at the bar, I think about not being able to use the restroom because I can’t reach the necessary tools (TP, water, soap).  And I leave without much thought to it because it seems like it will never get better.

I thank Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities for being a pro-active voice.  I appreciate them targeting law breakers.  But mostly, I thank them for understanding the businesses are not the victims. These blogs that back these businesses are run by chambers of commerce who, as political donors, have a great deal to gain by approaching the issue by claiming victim-hood. It is time we get on the right side of this fight and remember it is about human beings.

So, who is the victim?  I don’t want it to be me or anyone else that lives with a disability.  We are too tired of the discriminating stares.  But please, do not give me one more story of a self-incriminating victim.  Let’s just make it right; disability or not.


What Are My Rights if My Apartment is not ADA Compliant?

By: Fabian Zazueta

Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities – Foundation ( receives numerous requests for assistance on a daily basis.  One recurring question we get asks about ADA compliance for those living in apartment dwellings.

There is value in understanding the limits of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how these laws are impacted by other federal laws such as, The Landlord and Tenant Act, The Fair Housing Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Generally, residential apartments are not subject to ADA laws as they do not provide public accommodations. So, a party alleging ADA law violations will likely be unsuccessful in their cause of action against a residential apartment owner.

There are, however, other federal/state codes that provide guidance on the issue raised above. Without rendering legal advice to residents that may live in different states, an individual who believes he or she has been subject to discrimination because of their disability,  should contact a civil rights attorney in their home state, regarding Fair Housing Act violations. Below are links that provide a brief summary of some of the laws.

Three steps to getting your website ADA compliant

disabled button
ADA is looking for website compliance by 2018

By: Levi Leyba

Why wait until 2018 when the new ADA requirements for websites go into effect?  Get started making changes today to be a good business person for everyone who visits you online.  Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities ( helps educate the public about ADA compliance topics to make the world more accessible and equal to all.

Not all websites are that same.  So some of the rules may not apply; for example, some sites might not have java script, so anything to do with java script would not apply.

These are some simple guidelines to think about today to get on your way to ADA compliance!

  1. If there is an image, there should be text

The ADA website requirements are being put into place for individuals with seeing impairments, so it is no surprise that we need to explain our photos, graphics and videos.  Here are a few items to try today:

  • Every image, video file, audio file, plug-in, etc. has an alt tag
  • Complex graphics are accompanied by detailed text descriptions
  • If an image is also used as a link, make sure the alt tag describes the graphic and the link destination
  • Decorative graphics with no other function have empty alt descriptions (alt= “”)
  • Add captions to videos
  • Add audio descriptions
  • Create text transcript
  1. Links, links, links!

Double check your website to make sure you are following these ADA regulations:

  • Create a link to the video rather than embedding it into web pages
  • Add a link to the media player download
  • Add an additional link to the text transcript
  • The page should provide alternative links to the Image Map
  • A link is provided to a disability-accessible page where the plug-in can be downloaded
  1. A few more for good measure

While we didn’t incorporate all of the rules, these will help you get to a good start before 2018 implementation date.  Here are a few more to start with, and make sure to hit all of the rules which you can find at

  • Make sure the page does not contain repeatedly flashing images
  • Check to make sure the page does not contain a strobe effect
  • All Java applets, scripts and plug-ins (including Acrobat PDF files and PowerPoint files, etc.) and the content within them are accessible to assistive technologies, or else an alternative means of accessing equivalent content is provided
  • When text is not available use the title attribute
  • Include any special instructions within field labels
  • Make sure that form fields are in a logical tab order
  • Include a ‘Skip Navigation’ button to help those using text readers

Other online resources with this topic:

Safety FIRST! An Important Lesson About Vehicle Lifts

Safety first blog photo
Gretchen was never told a lift wouldn’t fit her vehicle

By: Emily Maurer, Resource Coordinator

A good friend of Gretchen’s requested assistance for her on the website. The request seemed simple enough; a power lift for Gretchen’s scooter to allow her more freedom & independence. You see, Gretchen has survived two cancer diagnoses and treatments. She has come out on the other side of treatment a little battered and bruised but still with lots of fight left in her 74-year-old body. It just takes a little extra help and support.

Gretchen has a state of the art light weight scooter and a brand new compact sedan. Although the scooter is considered fold-able & lightweight, lifting a 65-pound scooter into a vehicle would be challenging even for the most capable adult. When I called and spoke with Gretchen she explained her situation and even had several lift recommendations that had been recommended to her by the company from which she received her scooter. She had done research on her own too to see what type of hitch her vehicle could support and thought she had all things in order to get the lift–except the funds needed. After Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities – Foundation agreed to help her out, I began researching to see if we could get the best lift at the best price.

Honestly, I was a little surprised at what I found. I called 8-10 different lift companies and although the sales people were all very interested in selling the lift, very few gave me a full picture of using a lift on a small compact vehicle. I called one last place as I was ready to purchase and I was sure that I had found the right make, model, weight etc. for Gretchen’s lift. As I relayed my information to the sales technician, he stopped me. He said, “I am sorry, but I cannot in good conscience sell a lift for the vehicle you are describing.” I was really disappointed! He went on to explain that the manufacturers of the lift would not recommend any lift for that vehicle because the weight at the back of the car would make the vehicle unsafe to drive, putting my sweet client at risk. I probed a little further and asked why no other person had raised this concern. A simple answer, “This industry is driven by sales, not by consumer safety.” I was very surprised and very disappointed. Disappointed in the other companies that I had spoken to, and also disappointed that we would no longer be able to give Gretchen her much needed lift.

I learned a lot though this process. If you are in the market for a lift, the key question that you need to ask the sales representative is if the LIFT MANUFACTURER (not the sales team, scooter company, or vehicle manufacturer) recommends use of this lift with their vehicle. The lift manufacturers are the ones that know the safety and limits of their product.

Gretchen was gracious and understood that there wasn’t a lift appropriate for her vehicle–she was thankful that we were looking out for her safety first! That’s the kind of spirit that has gotten her through the challenges that life has given her and that’s the spirit that will keep on tackling those challenges, scooter lift or not!

Mother and Daughter Sleep Soundly after Gift

Aly in her new sleep safe bed
Shannon and Aly with Fox 10 for an interview to tell their story

By: Emily Mauer

Two years ago I met a beautiful mom, and a sweet extra special treasure named Aly who was in a wheelchair at a garage sale fundraiser for an upcoming adoption. I met four of Aly’s siblings and I learned that this family was adopting from Bulgaria. My family had recently adopted and I wanted to support other adoptive families! I made a donation and went on my way and hoped that all worked out for this family’s adoption.

Fast forward to just two weeks ago and a request came in through our website at and as I began to read the request, I had an inkling that this might be from the woman I had previously met at the garage sale! Her request seemed simple, a bed that was safe for her daughter Aly, who has suffered with Infantile Spasms. Aly was born happy and healthy but at the age of 2 months began having seizures that seemed impossible to control. After months in the hospital and countless medications her seizures were managed, but the toll on her brain and body was significant. Aly is now a beautiful 8-year-old girl, with curly brown hair, fair skin, and the best happy clap! Aly is completely dependent on her mom and dad, and wonderful doting siblings to take care of her every need. She spends much of her day in a wheel chair where she can be safely secured, and she was spending some time in her bed, but it was becoming more and more dangerous for her by the day. Aly can roll and wiggle quite a bit making staying put in her bed very challenging. Even when Aly has hospital stays, it is a juggling act to keep her arms and legs inside the hospital beds that have traditional openings…not to mention hard bars that cause lots of bruising for Aly.

Her mom, Shannon simply wanted a safe place for her daughter to sleep, and have another place in her home where she could be secure, comfortable and not risk injuring herself. Someone is with her all hours of the day & night. There is a wonderful bed called the Sleep Safe Bed that provides padded enclosures all the way around the head, foot and sides of the bed. The bed is also fully electric like a hospital bed and can be raised to chest height for changing etc. The only problem is the price tag and it is not covered by insurance. I even consulted a retired insurance case worker to see if there were any loopholes in this secure policy. There weren’t. After the phone interview with Shannon, I knew that Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities Foundation or had to help somehow–but there wasn’t an easy answer. Additionally, Shannon’s husband is serving our country overseas–so she is currently a single mom to 6 children! Because Shannon and her husband have hearts the size of Texas, they are expanding their family again this coming year by adopting two children from China. Shannon is in “nesting mode” as she called it and needed to make sure that all of her kiddos were taken care of before they brought home two more of their children. If you are having a hard time keeping track, that means there will be a total of 8 children in this family very soon. Thankfully her husband will be home in time to help with the new additions.

Desperate times call for desperate prayers. I uttered a quick prayer and asked God to provide me with a Sleep Safe Bed that would be adequate for Aly and affordable for the Foundation. With very little faith I opened up my search engine and typed in Sleep Safe Bed. Wouldn’t you know that a Sleep Safe Bed was the first item that popped up? I immediately called the seller who said the bed was in great condition and still available. was able to quickly purchase the bed and deliver it to Shannon and Aly within 5 days of her initial request. Not only that, I had the pleasure of meeting their daughter that they adopted from Bulgaria!  Our team was thrilled to be a part of giving this sweet girl and her family.

Aly now has a wonderful place where she can sleep safe and sound thanks to the efforts of Foundation.

See the Fox 10 interview


The American Dream is Alive and Well, Just Ask Israel

Israel gives AID Foundation two thumbs up!

By: Jennifer Rogers

Wikipedia writes, “The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (Democracy, Rights, Liberty, Opportunity, and Equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.”

American Dream, the Ideal

Sadly, I think the term “American Dream” has faded and has become a mockery for politicians using the term to fight political wars on immigration.  But, I choose to believe it is an ideal, not a political platform, and this ideal of hard work and the freedom to have opportunities and succeed no matter where you come from is one I saw first-hand the day I met 4-year-old Israel.

Opportunity for ALL

I first saw Israel’s enchanting smile on Facebook in a video showing off his new custom wheelchair donated by Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities Foundation “”.  If you know his story, you would know that Israel had never been mobile.  He spent his life caged in a crib in Bulgaria, outcast because he was considered cursed by God because he had a disability.

Israel’s new family, the Gagnon’s, raised $34,000 to bring him home to Camp Verde, Arizona.  Israel was in the states for three months learning his new family, practicing English and army crawling to get to where he needed to be.

Achieved through hard work

Israel is fighting every minute to shed the abusive life style he was raised in for the last 4 years.  His mother told us he gets overwhelmed and has to wear headphones to take a break.  He was never taught to speak, but just 3 months being in the states, he will repeat every word you say and push to learn more.

He received his gifted special wheelchair and instantly learned to go forward, backward, and even knows a couple tricks.  When he wakes up in the morning, his first word is “chair.”


Israel takes in the sun after spending most of his life in a cage-like crib in Bulgaria

The custom orange specialized wheelchair provided Israel is a symbol of his new found freedom.  He is no longer in a cage, but surround by a loving family.  He is no longer confined indoors as a prisoner. Now, he can get into his chair, he can move forward, backward or even in circles.

His new chair gave him the mobility to make his first trip to the Phoenix Zoo.  That’s where I met Israel.

He had never been to a zoo, and had never seen any animals other than the family cats.  The first animal Israel got to see was the buzzard.  I choked up looking at Israel who didn’t blink.  What an amazing image to witness someone’s first experience.  I will never forget that look of wonder in his eyes.

With few barriers

After our trip to the zoo, I kept thinking about Israel, and what a flirt he was, and how he mesmerized everyone around him with his presence.  I thought about being an American, and how lucky we are that our country has families like the Gagnons, and organizations like  Mostly, I thought about Israel and being in his shoes.  I kept thinking, he has been in our country for three months and has experienced unconditional love from his family.  He has experienced the value of having a family and having someone to take care of you.  And at 4 years old, he experienced an American dream.  He got the gift of freedom; he is free to be mobile in his new chair, he is free to be loved, and most of all, he is free of the abusive life he left behind.

I am so grateful to be an American, but when I think about true freedom, I have to ask, are we doing enough for our children (and adults) that live with disabilities?  Will Israel truly be welcome in the businesses he wants to visit?  Will he be treated fairly in a job interview?  And will he get the same opportunities and experiences here in America as all of the other children.  Statistics tell us our answer – No.

Israel gives me strength to help bring awareness that while we are Americans, we are not all treated equal.  I want to read this story in 5 years and know Israel was the start of something big, something widespread, that WE all made a difference because our children will have the opportunity to be whatever they can be under the ideal of the American Dream.

See Israel featured on Fox 10 

Geri Lost Her Sight, but Gave Her a Vision of Hope

By: Emily Maurer

Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities Foundation ( is known for helping with gifts such as wheelchairs, medical equipment and other financial needs, but sometimes our help can come in something as meaningful as a phone call.  Today, I want to tell you about how we help in other ways through Geri’s story.

The world has slowly become a blur for Geri, an elderly Glendale Arizona resident, due to a degenerative eye condition brought on by a childhood illness. When I called Geri last week, I met a woman whose anxiety was growing day by day as her impending blindness was stealing her independence. Fear was evident in her voice and the list of concerns were significant. I sensed that Geri was very discouraged and felt as if she had lost sight of hope. As the Resource Coordinator for, I knew that we could help!

Like many, it was difficult and overwhelming to reach out for help. Thankfully Geri had a good friend that contacted on her behalf. After her friend helped fill out the questionnaire online, I was able to get to work researching services available for her immediately when I received her profile. It was such a pleasure to call her the next day and give her a list of resources that she could connect with that would bring her independence back into grasp.

I called the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired ( who immediately mailed an application appropriate for Geri to fill out. Once accepted, this agency will provide Geri with mobility training, practical living skills like learning how to cook and clean without sight and also help her learn how to use a computer adapted for her impairment. Best of all, this agency provides support groups to encourage individuals with the emotional stresses of having visual impairment.

One of the greatest concerns for Geri was becoming home bound–not being able to go grocery shopping or visit her favorite Goodwill stores.  As her eye sight has faded she has had to give up driving. Phoenix Valley Metro has a wonderful program for individuals with disabilities called Dial-A-Ride which provides reduced fair bus rides to any location Geri requests with reservations. Like many, she had not heard of this city service and was thrilled to know that there was an option for her after she completed a simple application and evaluation process.

Additionally, I reached out to Ability360 ( and requested a peer mentor for Geri. As I talked with Geri, I realized her biggest need was a mentor–a friend to walk this new road of visual impairment with her. A person who knew what she was going through and could help her safely, securely walk through all the new experiences she was going to have without her sight. Ability360 has mentors that are trained and experienced in all of the different aspects of life as a blind or visually impaired person. I am thrilled to report that Geri has already had her in-home in-take meeting with Ability360 and will be matched with a mentor in just a few days. Geri’s mentor is even going to help her attend her Dial-A-Ride evaluation and help her get a better grasp on how to use the existing services available in Phoenix.

Geri can’t see, but I can. It was a pleasure to use my abilities to restore faith in hers and assure her that she can still learn new abilities as a senior citizen. At the end of our conversation she said one thing that stuck with me. She said, “Well Emily, after our talk, I have hope for the first time in a long time.” I am so glad that I could give sight to her hope once again.