CREEC mourns the passing of fair housing legend Tracey McCartney

The fair housing world lost a giant when Tracey McCartney passed yesterday.  To us, Tracey embodied the saying that there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.  Tracey worked tirelessly but in many ways behind the scenes — known and beloved by the fair housing community but no fan of self-promotion.  She played a crucial role in connecting lawyers and advocates who work for fair housing around the country, patiently herding us like cats, and ensuring a platform in which we could share knowledge, ideas, mutual support, and gallows humor.  She was terrific at connecting people on an individual level, as well, and was hilarious and self-deprecating in person. Below is the press release issued by the Tennessee Fair Housing Council.  We miss you, Tracey, and will work to honor your memory. Long-time leader of the Tennessee Fair Housing Council, Tracey McCartney left this world following illness. McCartney leaves behind a loving spouse, Nancy Blomgren of Nashville, and family who will scatter her ashes in a creek that runs by a 200-year-old white oak on her parents’ land. Here she will sustain deer and coyote, dogwood and mountain azalea.   The loss of Tracey McCartney represents a significant blow to the National Fair Housing Community. Tracey McCartney joined the Tennessee Fair Housing Council in February 1998. She was an attorney, admitted to the bars of both Alabama and Tennessee. She received a law degree from the University of Alabama in 1995. While in law school, she worked for 2½ years as a clerk/advocate for the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, where she gained valuable fair housing experience...

Disability Rights Organizations Oppose H.R. 985

H.R. 985, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017,” is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.  It would eviscerate class actions in many important ways.  In our letter to the Committee — joined by 37 other disability rights organizations — we explained how devastating it would be to cases that improve the lives of people with disabilities. The Honorable Bob Goodlatte Chairman Committee on the Judiciary U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515 The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. Ranking Member Committee on the Judiciary U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515 Re:  H.R. 985 – the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017. Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers: The disability rights organizations, individuals with disabilities, and their family members who have signed below strongly oppose H.R. 985, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017. H.R. 985 would be devastating to the rights of people with disabilities.  By severely limiting attorneys’ fees in cases seeking only injunctive relief, it would remove class actions as an essential tool for those who seek to improve the systems that serve people with disabilities.  In the paradoxically-named “Class Member Benefit” provision, attorneys’ fees for injunctive cases – with no claim for damages — are limited to “a reasonable percentage of the value of the equitable relief, including any injunctive relief.”  How can one put a value, however, on the important gains achieved through these class action lawsuits?  Community living?  Effective communication?  Freedom from abusive conditions? And ultimately, without the ability to pay the rent, pay their staff, and make a modest living, what lawyers or organizations will...

DHS and CBP: Duties to People with Disabilities

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its components, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP), are prohibited by § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act from discriminating against people with disabilities (PWD).1 Importantly, this means that PWD arriving at airports and interacting with CBP officers and those in detention facilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations/modifications if necessary to avoid disability discrimination.2 If your family or client requires it due to a disability, request a “reasonable accommodation,” and state the disability and the reason it makes the requested accommodation necessary.  Examples of accommodations include: Access to food, water, and/or medication. Effective communication, for example: sign language interpreters for people who are deaf. Crucially, effective communication for people not fluent in American Sign Language will require a “Certified Deaf Interpreter.”  Be sure to request a “Deaf/Hearing Team.” reading/translating forms for people who are blind. Accommodations for physical disabilities, for example, Accessible restrooms.  Wheelchairs. Protection from extreme temperatures. If handcuffs must be used, may need to be looser (circulation) or in front (so a deaf detainee can communicate). Other accommodations we haven’t thought of: contact us.   This protection covers only people with disabilities, defined (in part) as people who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.3 The following conditions would likely be considered disabilities under the law:  blindness; deafness; paralysis or significant motor impairment; diabetes; cognitive disability; serious mental illness. The following may require a more rigorous showing that they substantially limit a major life activity: digestive, bowel, or bladder dysfunction; respiratory or heart disease; food allergy. 4 The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center has significant experience...

CREEC to receive a Visionaries in Action Award from the GLBT Community Center of Colorado

CREEC is thrilled and honored to receive a 2017 Visionaries in Action Award from The GLBT Community Center of Colorado (The Center)! In notifying us of the award, The Center’s Board Chairman, J. Ryann Peyton wrote that The Center was impressed by “CREEC’s commitment to the protection of civil rights for all Coloradoans, especially those who are members of the LGBT communities.” CREEC has assisted clients in cases at the forefront of LGBT civil rights issues. Protecting individuals from harassment based on sexual orientation, safeguarding survivor benefits for same sex spouses, and assisting with fellow-awardee Emma Shinn’s Name Change Project are recent examples.  CREEC has also collaborated with the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center in putting on a Trans* Legal Forum, teaching about the rights of trans*, non-binary, and genderqueer individuals in fair housing, public accommodations, and other contexts. We are thrilled to be honored alongside two amazing women who have made significant contributions to the LGBT community and have helped advance LGBT civil rights:  Sarah Parady and Emma Shinn. The Jokers, Jewels & Justice 2017 Dinner themed “Liberty & Justice for All is NO JOKE” will be held at the Brown Palace Hotel and will feature as keynote speaker Sarah McBride, National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign and transgender rights advocate. We hope you’ll join us at this wonderful event. The Center opened in 1976 and over the years has grown to become the largest community center in the Rocky Mountain region, giving voice to Colorado’s LGBT community and playing a pivotal role in statewide initiatives to reduce harassment and discrimination. The Center supports 40,000 people a year though wide ranging programs from monthly free...

Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Disability Discrimination at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

A coalition of local disability-rights organizations filed a class action suit in Colorado’s Federal District Court yesterday claiming that the City of Denver has acted to deny those who use wheelchairs the opportunity to meaningfully access to Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  CREEC and its co-counsel at the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) and Disability Law Colorado (DLC) filed the suit against the City of Denver, claiming disability discrimination for failure to make reasonable accommodations to allow people who use wheelchairs to access and enjoy Red Rocks Amphitheatre. If you are a wheelchair-user and have had problems purchasing tickets to Red Rocks, specifically to the front row, please contact us at info@creeclaw.org. Red Rocks, owned and operated by the City of Denver, is a unique Colorado venue carved into a mountain. The only accessible seats at Red Rocks are in the front row or at the very top and back of the theater (Row 70). In fact, of the 9,525 seats at Red Rocks, only 78 seats are accessible to wheelchair users — 40 seats short of what is required by the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the suit, despite the limited numbers of accessible seats available, Red Rocks and its contractors routinely engage in practices that further decrease the number of seats available for wheelchair users. For example, Red Rocks does little to ensure that tickets for accessible seats are sold or given to people who actually need accessible seating. What’s more, when people who do not need accessible seating end up in the front row and those using wheelchairs ask to be seated in the accessible section,...

NAD Lawsuit Against Harvard and MIT Moves Forward, Obligation to ensure equal treatment applies in emerging technologies

November 4, 2016 — Judge Mark G. Mastroianni of the District Court of Massachusetts denied Massachusetts Institute for Technology’s (MIT) and Harvard University’s motions to dismiss the National Association of the Deaf’s (NAD) and other named plaintiffs’ complaint that the institution discriminates against deaf and hard of hearing people by failing to caption the vast and varied array of online content they make available to the general public, including massive open online courses (MOOCs). Today’s decision affirms that plaintiffs’ case will be going forward. MIT and Harvard suffered a huge blow to their positions that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act do not require the institution to provide closed captions on its online videos that it makes open and available to the world. Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), NAD, and Disability Law Center (DLC) in the lawsuit against MIT, and by CREEC, NAD, and DLC in the lawsuit against Harvard. Arlene Mayerson, DREDF Directing Attorney, said, “I am thrilled that we have made this important inroad into ensuring that 21st century online education is accessible to all.” Today’s decision rejected Harvard’s and MIT’s arguments that they were “entitled to statutory exemptions for accommodations that impose an unreasonable financial or administrative burden, or require a fundamental change in the good at issue.” Judge Mastroianni noted Defendants’ arguments were “inappropriate for resolution on a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss addresses the plausibility of a plaintiff’s claims, not the strength of a defendant’s affirmative defenses.” Tim Fox, CREEC Co-Executive Director,...
Support CREEC