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Hochul Plans To Increase The State’s Temporary Disability Benefits For The First Time In 35 Years

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Disability

Workers obtain temporary disability benefits when they are unable to work due to a non-work-related injury or sickness. In New York, the maximum amount of temporary disability compensation has been $170 per week since 1989, which is substantially below the cost of living and the statewide average weekly wage of approximately $1,700. Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed increasing the state’s temporary disability payments for the first time in 35 years, making them comparable to the paid family leave program, which pays up to 67% of the average weekly earnings.

Disability

This idea is a good and long-overdue reform that would benefit millions of New Yorkers who need time to recover from medical ailments. Hochul claims that the existing benefit level is “unconscionable” and “forces people to choose between their health and their financial security.” By raising temporary disability compensation, Hochul hopes to provide workers with a livable income that will cover their essential needs, like rent, food, and utilities, while they recuperate from their health problems. Hochul also wants to broaden the eligibility and coverage of the temporary disability program, which presently excludes certain workers, including domestic workers, farm workers, and independent contractors.

Many lawmakers, advocates, and workers have backed Hochul’s proposal, which would expand temporary disability payments that have been in place for years. They say that the existing benefit amount is insufficient, unfair, and out of date and that it creates a disparity between paid family leave and temporary disability programs. They further point out that the temporary disability program is self-funded through employee contributions, and thus increasing benefits would cost neither the state nor employers anything.

However, some business groups may oppose Hochul’s suggestion, claiming that increasing benefits will boost the expense of temporary disability insurance and burden companies. They may also claim that increasing benefits may incentivize workers to abuse the system and stay out of work for longer than necessary. They may also question the proposal’s timing and viability, considering the ongoing economic and public health concerns posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

In conclusion, Hochul’s plan to increase the state’s temporary disability compensation for the first time in 35 years is a bold and progressive step that would benefit millions of workers who require time to recover from medical ailments. The idea would also make the temporary disability program more equal, comprehensive, and in line with the paid family leave program. The plan deserves popular and legislative support, and it should be passed as quickly as possible.

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Emotions, Victories, and Overcoming: The Unforgettable Moments of the Paralympic Games

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On August 28, the opening ceremony of the Paris Paralympic Games will commence. This event celebrates the skill, perseverance, and passion of athletes with disabilities. All the athletes are currently immersed in rigorous preparation, honing their abilities and mindset to face the challenges that lie ahead. But before looking toward the future, it is essential to reminisce about the most remarkable moments that have left an indelible mark on the history of these games.

Brazil remains undefeated

Paralympic Games

The Brazilian team celebrating their last gold medal/  OIS/Joel Marklund

Football-5, also known as blind football, made its Olympic debut at the 2004 Athens Olympics. This sport is specifically designed for totally blind athletes (B1 classification) who use a sonorous ball. It combines elements of coordination, skill, explosive speed, and teamwork. Brazil’s national team has set a remarkable precedent in this sport, having never lost in any of the occasions it has participated in, securing gold medals in all the Paralympic Games they’ve attended.

Zheng Tao: The Armless Swimmer Who Broke All Records

Paralympic Games

Compilation of photos of Zheng Tao at the Paralympic Games/ Dean Mouhtaropoulos, Adam Pretty, John Walton: Source: UGC 

Undoubtedly, determination and passion can overcome any obstacle. Tao Zheng, the Chinese swimmer without arms, is an inspiring example of perseverance and remarkable achievements. In the 2012 London Olympics, he not only won the gold medal in the 100m backstroke S6, but also set a new world record, completing the feat in 1 minute, 13 seconds, and 56 milliseconds.

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Despite losing his arms in an electrical accident as a child, Tao Zheng has shown that there are no insurmountable limits. His story has inspired thousands of people, and in the Rio Olympics, he not only defended his gold medal, but also surpassed his own world record. A true example of determination, courage, and triumph.

Trischa Zorn, the most decorated Paralympic athlete

Paralympic Games

Trischa Zorn The most decorated Paralympic athlete in history with 55 medals, 41 of them gold/ Getty Images

In the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games, one athlete stood out above the rest: Trischa Zorn, an American swimmer who set a precedent by winning 10 gold medals and 2 silver medals, an unprecedented achievement. Zorn was born on June 1, 1964, in Orange, California. Her congenital eye condition, called aniridia, affects one in every 100,000 people and is characterized by ocular malformations, such as partial or total lack of iris in both eyes and extreme photophobia. Despite these challenges, Trischa not only broke records but also participated in seven Paralympic Games, earning a total of 55 medals: 41 golds, 9 silvers, and 5 bronzes.

Her legacy is unparalleled, which is why her name has been inscribed in the Paralympic Hall of Fame since 2012. Additionally, the United States Swimming Federation created an award in her honor to recognize the best disabled female swimmers each year.

Birth of a Legend: Beatrice Vio

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Beatrice Vio’s celebration upon winning her latest gold medal/ Reuters

Bebe Vio, the Italian Paralympic fencer, has left an indelible mark on the history of sports. Despite having no arms or legs, her determination and passion led her to win two consecutive gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

From a young age, Bebe showed interest in fencing. However, at the age of 11, she contracted meningitis, which kept her hospitalized for a hundred days. Even though she lost her limbs, her indomitable spirit remained unbroken. At 16, she participated in the 2013 World Championships, achieving an impressive tenth place in the foil category B. But this was just the beginning.

Two years later, her goal was not merely to compete in the world championships but to win. And she did just that. Since her debut in the Olympics, Bebe has accumulated victories, fame, and followers, refusing to let anyone take away her gold medal. Her story has inspired thousands of children and will continue to inspire in the games to come.

By: Álvaro Lago

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Starbucks and its commitment to accessibility: Creating inclusive spaces for everyone

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Starbucks and its commitment to accessibility: Creating inclusive spaces for everyone

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Starbucks Coffee Company announced on February 14th that it will leverage its growing store presence to support and promote the inclusion of partners, clients, and communities it serves. To achieve this, the company has created an Inclusive Spaces Framework, which aims to enhance independence, choice, and comfort for all its consumers and employees: “Building and scaling an Inclusive Store Framework is central to our mission of connection and will lead to greater access for all” stated Katie Young, Senior Vice President of Store Operations.

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One of the first Starbucks customers based on the Inclusive Spaces Framework/Starbucks

Starbucks’s Inclusive Spaces Framework has been developed by a distinctive community of customers, workers, partners, and accessibility experts, with the primary goal of providing scalable accessibility solutions for all commercial spaces. This concept began to take shape during the Covid-19 pandemic, where social distancing and the risk of contracting the disease prompted some branches to create specific time blocks. During these blocks, immunocompromised, elderly, and disabled customers could shop in a less crowded environment.

Starbucks inaugurates its first café supported by the principles of the Inclusive Spaces Framework

On February 16th, Washington, D.C. became the first city to open a Starbucks designed to provide accessible service for everyone. These innovations include a multitude of improvements, both physical and digital, that streamline the entire customer interaction process with the establishment and staff, enabling unrestricted access.

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A new employee at the Washington D.C. Starbucks showcasing the facilities/Starbucks

Among these novelties, the coffee company has highlighted updates to the point-of-sale (POS) systems, which have been transformed into portable devices, making it easier for customers to make purchases and acquire products. Through an intuitive design, supported by a voice assistant and accompanied by visual confirmations, this setup caters to the needs of all customers without any distinction.

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On the other hand, this revamped store features new lighting and an improved sound system, both designed to offer a more inclusive experience by avoiding glare and reverberations. Additionally, the order tracking panels in this store have been updated, allowing customers to easily and instantly know which stage of preparation their purchase is in. Furthermore, multiple communication channels have been enabled to notify the customer when their order is ready.

Finally, the store has been designed to ensure the complete independence of people with disabilities when accessing and placing their orders. This is achieved through electric doors, which can be activated by a button at different heights and angles, reducing the effort required to open them. Additionally, continuous, and obstacle-free pedestrian pathways have been created, and the counters are lower with overhangs to accommodate wheelchairs, making interaction with employees and the store more accessible.

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The new staff at Starbucks in Washington D.C./Starbucks

However, for most retail centers, remodelling their premises to comply with ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations poses a significant challenge. That’s why Starbucks will not only begin remodelling its establishments but also ensure that its framework of inclusion is accessible to everyone, just like its stores. This framework will provide a gradual program for designing inclusive spaces that enhance the retail environment, surpassing the requirements of the ADA.

By: Álvaro Lago

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Kevin Williams, An Advocate Of Disability Rights has passed away at 57

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Kevin Williams, a Colorado civil rights attorney who spent his career fighting for the rights of people with disabilities, died on February 10, 2024 after a brief illness. He was 57 years old.

Williams served as the legal program director for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), a non-profit organization that fights for social justice and systemic change for people with all types of disabilities. He joined the CCDC in 1997, shortly after graduating from the University of Denver’s Law School.

Williams was a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down following a vehicle accident when he was 19. He used his personal experience and legal knowledge to combat prejudice and impediments faced by persons with disabilities in a variety of settings, including public transportation, housing, health care, education, and employment.

He was involved in various lawsuits and settlements that led to increased accessibility and participation for individuals with disabilities in Colorado and elsewhere. 

Some of his major cases were:

Filing a lawsuit against his own law school for breaching the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and establishing a wheelchair-accessible graduation site.

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Bringing a lawsuit against the United States Olympic Committee for discriminating against Paralympic competitors and denying them equitable funding and training opportunities.

Requiring the operators of Red Rocks Amphitheatre to provide accessible parking, seating, and tickets for those with disabilities.

Obtaining a court order prohibiting the Denver Regional Transportation District from purchasing inaccessible buses and ordering them to conform with the ADA.

Negotiating a settlement with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to allow people with disabilities to obtain long-term services and supports in their own homes and communities rather than institutions.

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Williams was also a mentor and pioneer in the disability rights movement, inspiring and educating new lawyers and activists to carry on his legacy. He was known for his enthusiasm, brilliance, and sense of humor, as well as his compassion and regard for others.

Kevin was a brilliant lawyer, a fierce advocate, and a dear friend,” said Julie Reiskin, CCDC’s executive director. “He improved the lives of many people with disabilities and made the world a better place for everyone. He will be deeply missed, but his work will continue.”

By: Rowland Obiosah

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