The Southwest ADA Center serves Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Region 6 is diverse in climate and demographics, with large populations of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities dispersed throughout the five states in both urban and rural settings. Six of the 20 largest American cities are in region 6, and the region is heavily invested in the health care, energy and tourism industries.
The Southwest ADA Center’s publication, Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals, continues to garner substantial public attention. The guide currently ranks second among all pages on the ADA National Network website, with 56,180 views online between September 2014 and December 2015.
Attention to this issue remains high in Texas due to confusion over House Bill 489, “Bootz’s Law,” which drew national attention to common issues faced by returning veterans who own service animals for assistance with post-traumatic stress disorder.
On October 14, 2015, Houston City Council approved the recommendations from the Houston Transportation Accessibility Task Force for implementing an accessible private transportation system in the city. The Southwest ADA Center provided extensive consultation and training to the task force, which recommended that within three years transportation providers either adopt a minimum number of wheelchair accessible vehicles or an average response time of 20 minutes or less to provide an accessible transportation option. The task force also recommended mandatory disability etiquette training and accessible point of sale terminals in vehicles.
Strengthening Regional Partnerships
On September 29, 2015, a leading disability expert and activist, Lex Frieden, served as a featured speaker during the grand opening plenary session titled “ADA 25: From Compliance to Competitive Advantage” during the US Business Leadership Network’s national conference in Austin, Texas.
Frieden and National Council on Disabilities Executive Director Rebecca Cokley discussed the Impact of the ADA 25 years later and about how accessibility offers businesses a key factor to compete in today’s markets.
The Southwest ADA Center continues to provide training and technical assistance to the:
- Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to ensure their clients receive information and resources regarding their employment civil rights;
- State vocational providers at the Lower Valley Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and EARN annual Employment and Rehabilitation Network (EARN) Forums in October.
Texas continues to serve as a hub for training on inclusion of persons with disabilities in emergency preparedness. In August 2015, we partnered with Portlight Strategies Inc. and Texas and Houston government agencies to hold the “Getting It Right” conference on disaster preparedness in Houston. The two-day conference brought together over 100 government officials along with disability-stakeholders and related organizations throughout Texas to discuss pivotal issues in inclusive preparedness. The primary focus areas included emergency shelter access, effective communication strategies, service animal issues, and issues involving separation/segregation of persons with disabilities in disaster settings. With shelter access at the forefront of issues, the Southwest ADA Center partnered with legal advocates and the Texas State Bar Disability Issues Committee to produce a public service video titled The Rights of People with Disabilities in Shelters and Transitional Housing. The video provides practical guidance on the laws and rights of persons with disabilities in temporary shelter and transitional housing. The video is available on YouTube.
Training for Those Who Serve and Protect
National attention aimed at relations between law enforcement agencies and their communities remains at an all-time high. Our center worked with The Arc of Louisiana and Access to Justice to train a variety of law enforcement and legal professionals on issues such as wrongful arrest and understanding and dealing with persons who have intellectual or mental health impairments.
Additional disability specific fact sheets for criminal justice professionals are being added to the The Arc of Louisiana and the ILRU (Independent Living Research Utilization) project (www.ldlr.org).