Wednesday, August 28, 2013


This morning, I met with a number of other disability advocates to talk about the need for more accessible transportation. We all agreed that people with disabilities too often can't get to where they need to go, whether it's someone who is blind, deaf, or has mobility challenges.

We agreed to work together to make sure legislators know about these problems, and now we need you - members of the MS community - to rise up and help make sure legislators know about these challenges. Many of you have come to Olympia for our annual lobby day, helping to raise awareness of MS. It's time to ask legislators to do something about it - help meet the transportation challenges of people living with MS!

In an earlier blog post, I told you about a woman with MS who was denied paratransit services in Pierce County because she "wasn't disabled enough." We need to tell her story (and yours) to legislators to make sure they know that we can't cure MS overnight, but we can make it much easier for someone with MS to be active members of our community.

Legislators just announced this morning that they will be holding listening sessions around the state to hear from the public about our transportation issues. Each meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and last until 9 p.m. and feature presentations from regional transportation officials, as well as opportunity for public comment. 

·         Sept. 17 – Bellevue: Stevenson Elementary School, 14220 NE 8th St., Bellevue, WA 9800

·         Sept. 18 – Everett: Snohomish County, Robert Drewel Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., 6th floor, Everett, WA 98201
·          Sept. 23 – Wenatchee: Chelan County PUD Auditorium, 327 N Wenatchee Ave, Wenatchee, WA 98801
·         Sept. 24 – Yakima: Yakima Area Arboretum, Garden View Rm., 1401 Arboretum Dr., Yakima, WA 98901
·         Oct. 2 – Spokane: Greater Spokane Inc., 801 W. Riverside, Spokane, WA 99201
·         Oct. 7 – Vancouver: Vancouver Community Library, Columbia Room, 901 C St., Vancouver, WA 98660 
·         Oct. 9 – Tacoma: Evergreen Tacoma Campus, Lyceum Hall, 1210 6th Ave., Tacoma, WA 98405 

If you can go to these meetings to represent the MS community, please let us know. Wear your orange scarf! And let your social network know about it. Use hashtags like #WeMoveMS #KeepUsMoving #MSActivist #Everett (or wherever you live) to find other disability advocates who may also attend these meetings. Stay tuned for more information about this issue and how to use social media to activate the MS community!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How we help people with MS get to where they need to go

In 2011, the Society asked people with MS: what do you need that you aren't getting right now? When we asked these questions, we searched high and low, near and far to make sure we heard from all sorts of people with MS: young and old, city and country, progressive and relapsing-remitting. The answers, while not particularly surprising, gave us a really good idea of what we should be working on as an organization. 

One of the biggest needs we heard about: accessible transportation. Since then, we've worked especially hard to find suitable transportation for people to and from work, medical appointments, and special family events like graduations in far away places. It's not like we weren't doing this before - we've always done this sort of work, but we realized we needed to be doing more to help people right at the moment they needed help. We couldn't just provide information and expect that people could navigate their way through every resource in their communities. For someone with cognitive or mobility challenges, you could imagine that sometimes they just need a hand. Add in a wheelchair or scooter, a flight or a train ride, and it's just not easy. 

It's definitely hard to help people with their transportation needs. Imagine an individual who was told she was not disabled enough to get paratransit services from her local bus service. We can go to bat for her, making sure her application is filled out, the doctor knows exactly what to say, and the bus service gives her a fair shake, but sometimes, that's just not enough. What if you don't live near a bus line? What if your buses don't run after 6pm and you don't get off work until 7pm? What if you don't have sidewalks in your neighborhood? (Anyone with MS every tripped on a bad sidewalk???) 

In short, there are a lot of unmet needs for better accessible transportation in our communities. Whether its accessible buses, good sidewalks, or even accessible taxis, we need to do better. 

So it was exciting to meet with state Senator Christine Rolfes this morning to talk to her about the need for more transportation choices for people living with MS and other disabilities. Bill Luria, MS Activist, invited myself and two of his neighbors, Mike Lisagor and Jani Pauli, to talk with Senator Rolfes about this unmet need. Senator Rolfes agreed that we need to be doing more, and gave us some great ideas about how we can talk with other legislators to make sure they understand the needs of people with MS. 

As you might imagine, it's not just people with MS who benefit from accessible sidewalks, buses, and neighborhoods. Seniors and people with many other disabilities have these same needs as well. We will be working with them to build a coalition of advocates for accessible communities. 

Can you help us with this effort? Can you meet with your legislators and let them know that people with MS need accessible communities? If so, let me know - it's time for ACTION!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Disability parking - how can we fix it?

This past session, lawmakers in Olympia tried to get a better handle on a problem that impacts many people with MS: the abuse and misuse of disabled parking. People with MS often rely on disability parking placards to help manage the fatigue that so often accompanies MS. Unfortunately, too many others take advantage of the placards and park in disabled parking spots, leaving people with MS without accessible parking. 

The bill considered by legislators would have given additional tools to city officials to crack down on fraudulent drivers. However, it also raised concerns that legitimate users could be harmed by the crackdown.

In the end, legislators decided the problem needed some additional research before they could determine a fix, so the Department of Licensing (DOL) created a task force to ask the public for possible solutions. The DOL's blog post requesting public comment has already received quite a few suggestions in the comment thread. The comments also show the biggest challenge associated with this problem - cracking down on abusers could hurt people with invisible or intermittent disabilities, like people with MS.

The National MS Society has followed this issue closely for some time. In 2011, in an effort to free up parking spaces, the City of Seattle proposed ending free all day parking for people with a disabled parking placard. The Society opposed the effort and met with the Seattle City Council to voice our opposition to the effort, expressing concern that it would harm people whose extensive medical appointments require long parking stays. The City dropped the plan but has since continued to research other ideas.

What do you think we should do about this problem? Do you see it in your neighborhood? Give us your thoughts in the comment thread below and send your comments to the DOL task force at