The Caucus of Workers World Party for Disability Accessibility and Rights hosts a second Sunday Dialogue from zoom every month. On July 11th, at the sixth of these dynamic sessions, DJRC spokesmen discussed key struggles for access and fair wages for disabled people.
DJRC activist Renée Imperato shared how the expansion of New York’s alfresco restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of social contradictions. The ruthless rush to open up the economy, hoping to save the collapsing restaurant industry, tore to pieces the pavement and street access rights guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The privately-built, expanded, outdoor sidewalk restaurants use public space rent-free – they include sidewalks maintained by the taxes paid by workers – while outdoor dining can block street access and severely limit mobility. Imperato said he watched meetings where the NYC City Planning Commission celebrated “how wonderful street life is now,” without being aware of struggles with mobility for people with disabilities.
Linked to the pavement problems, delivery bikes – some with motorized pedal assistance – electric scooters and small motorcycles have injured and even killed disabled people and seniors in the city. Lisa Banes, a 65-year-old actress, died this way on a Manhattan street in June.
The caucus decided to file a statement of protest at the NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, demonstrating some companies whose outdoor restaurants impede safe access for both disabled and disabled pedestrians.
Disabled workers demand fair wages and social benefits
The caucus will review the progress of litigation conducted by the National Association of the Blind to Achieve Minimum Wage Equity for Disabled People. Loopholes in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act allow companies to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum hourly wage.
Attendees on the second Sunday recalled an effective lunchtime protest by members and friends of the Workers World Party in 2014 at a goodwill store in Long Island City, Queens, near the conference room where the WWP National Conference was being held. Goodwill is known for paying disabled workers less than the minimum wage. A DJRC activist shared the experiences of her mother’s employees. Another caucus member identified goodwill’s dire record of sexual harassment and racial management behavior, occupational safety violations, and deaths.
Finally, Princess Harmony reported on the closure of the only US city-funded recreation center for people with disabilities – the Carousel House in West Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.
Next up for the Caucus is a webinar on July 29th that will support the rights of incarcerated workers with disabilities and highlight why the ADA was not enough for any of us, regardless of our disabilities. For more information, the caucus is available at [email protected]
Yudelovich is a DJRC caucus activist with neurodivergent and hearing impairments.