NWPVA strongly advocates for the rights of all people with disabilities, in accordance the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). NWPVA works hard to make sure every person with a disability receives the quality of care promised by the United States government. This chapter uses all necessary resources to ensure that Congress makes no cuts to Social Security or health care, and stands with and for the entire disabled community. The Chapter will continue to voice this community's needs and concerns at the local, state, and federal levels of government. The NWPVA Government Relations team will do what's in the best interests of veterans and all people with disabilities, and support the rights of all disabled people to employment, housing, accessibilty, fair and equal treatment, and all other necessary resources.
Although this year's legislative session went into overtime, the results for veterans are clear victories and some clearly enhance mental health, CHAMPVA insurance availability, historic veteran cemeteries and county veterans benefits.
HB 2793 was a bill all of us in the veteran community were advocating for its passage. It was our most important bill of the session. This is the first bill in the country to address gun control in a smart way. Here is a summary of this landmark legislation:
"Creates the safe homes task force to raise public awareness and increase suicide prevention education among new partners who are in key positions to help reduce suicide. Requires the University of Washington School of social work to administer and staff the task force and convene the initial meeting of the task force. Requires the department of health to develop and administer a safe homes project for firearms dealers and firearms ranges to encourage voluntary participation in a program to implement suicide awareness and prevention strategies. Requires the department of fish and wildlife to update the pamphlet on firearms safety and the legal limits of the use of firearms to incorporate information on suicide awareness and prevention. Requires a licensed pharmacist, a person holding a retired active pharmacist license, or certain other professionals holding a retired active license to complete a one-time training in suicide assessment, treatment, and management. Requires the schools of pharmacy at the University of Washington and Washington State University to convene a work group to jointly develop a curriculum on suicide assessment, treatment, and management for pharmacy students. Requires the department of health and the pharmacy quality assurance commission to jointly develop written materials on suicide awareness and prevention that pharmacies can post or distribute to customers."
HB 2637 is a new law that can provide capital funding for historic veteran cemetery preservation. Here is what this new law establishes:
"Creates the Washington state historic cemetery preservation capital grant program to benefit the public by preserving outstanding examples of the state's historical heritage, enabling historic cemeteries to continue to serve their communities, and honoring the military veterans buried within them. Requires applications for the capital grant program to be submitted to the department of archaeology and historic preservation in a form and manner prescribed by the department. Requires the director of the department to establish a committee to review applications."
HB 1213 enhanced county veteran benefits by expanding the definition of veteran to include our National Guard and Reserves; it:
"...revises the definition of 'family' and 'veteran' for purposes of the county veterans' assistance fund."
SB 6405 enabled electronic insurance companies to sell supplemental CHAMPVA policies without having a physical office in our state.
This could potentially reduce the price by 20%. There is only one state left in the country that still requires an insurance company to establish a brick and mortar facility to do business in the Internet age.
SB 6254 added additional license plate availability for recipients of the Purple Heart.
Our National Director, Michael Partridge, and member of the Veterans Legislative Coalition, is a Vietnam veteran Marine who at 19 was wounded in combat and represented our Chapter at the bill signing on March 25, a Good Friday in Olympia.
Finally, SB 6177 was passed as the Governor's veto of the original bill was overwritten by the Legislature on the final day of the special session along with 26 other bills that were vetoed and overwritten to become law.
This bill established the first medical cannabis research production license to begin the initial clinical trials on cannabis. With the anticipated re-scheduling of cannabis later this year Washington State is position to become a leader in this new pharmaceutical industry. This bill was modeled after the Department of Veterans Affairs Institutional Review Board's guidelines to enable peer-reviewed research to be conducted through qualified medical professionals.
We thank the sponsors of these bills, the Legislators that co-sponsored and voted for these measures and to Governor Inslee who advocated for the passage of these pieces of legislation that will make our veteran community a better place to be.
We also thank the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs and the Washington State Veterans Legislative Coalition for their leadership in making these dreams become reality. Without them, these bills would never see the light of day.
By Tom Bungert
The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad is located in Elbe, Washington. There are only a few steam engines still operational in the United States. As part of the advocacy team for NWPVA, I took the journey to do an assessment of how the train was wheelchair accessible. You cannot help but notice the huge concrete paved slab where the train stops. They had purchased two hydraulic lifts, one for each station for easily lifting power wheelchairs or scooters in and out of the sidecar, which could hold three power wheelchairs at each of the three huge windows. The ride was like traveling back in time. The train leaves Eble and then travels to the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad Maintenance and Restoration facility along pristine Mineral Lake. It is home to one of the most unique collection of logging locomotives in the world. After a lengthy talk with the staff, I found out that the majority are volunteers. The conductor explained to me their goal was to remodel a train car to be set up for more wheelchair users by following the ADA guidelines. They were also building a dock near the lake, which would be completely paved for wheelchair accessibility when they expand the journey to the lake by train. The volunteers are doing all the work on the restoration and hope to have it in service in the near future. For a train ride experience that's unforgettable, call this number - 888-783-2611. The NWPVA Advocacy Team is helping to pave the way for more wheelchair accessibility and adherence to the guidelines of the ADA throughout the region.
BluePath is growing in the Pacific Northwest with an initial focus on the regions surrounding Seattle, WA, Eugene and Portland, OR, and Anchorage, AK. With a national network of ADA Information Centers, BluePath has the potential support to become a nationwide resource. BluePath needs YOU to help build the directory! You can register as a PathFinder at: bluepath.com and suggest a business for membership. This is the right time to remind the business community about the marketing power of people with disabilities!
Find Disability-Friendly Businesses on the "BluePath"
Most restaurant reviews don't include comments on accessibility, leaving potential customers with mobility challenges to guess whether they can get in and around a restaurant to enjoy the food. The same is true for other retail establishments, hotels, and businesses, especially when one is traveling or in unfamiliar territory.
At the same time, business owners may incorrectly assume their building is completely accessible, when relatively minor changes might vastly improve the ease with which any customer could access their services. A new resource by the University of Washington's Northwest ADA Center should bring business owners and customers with disabilities together.
A Resource for Customers with Disabilities
This resource is BluePath, a website that lists the accessibility features of some local member businesses throughout Seattle and surrounding areas. The goal of BluePath is to provide detailed information about a restaurant, store or hotel so a customer can be informed about the types of access before arriving at the business. BluePath informs people so they "know before they go" that they will find a reliable, usable "Blue" Path!
In case you're wondering, Blue represents the familiar signs with the international symbol of accessibility. However, BluePath has a trendy logo that can be displayed in the window of member businesses. When you see the BluePath logo, you know the business is willing to provide you with a welcoming, user-friendly experience. BluePath allows customers, called PathFinders, to rate accessible features and to write reviews about their experience. Business owners then have the opportunity to respond to comments, allowing discussion and education surrounding access.
A Resource for Businesses, BluePath is also designed to provide technical assistance to businesses to help them get on the BluePath and become aware and proactive about access and customer service for people with mobility and sensory challenges. Sara Woody is Northwest ADA Center's BluePath Coordinator. "Even though businesses have been required since 1990 to be accessible," Woody explains, "there are a lot of ways that we can inform business about things they don't realize they don't know." BluePath is trying to assist businesses with their accessibility surveys. Otherwise, a business can go to the BluePath website and print out a self-assessment checklist to review the various elements of their facility, including parking, entrance, interior routes, and restrooms. The checklist helps identify any issues or barriers.
In Woodinville, WA, Nathan Wetmore, General Manager of Redhook Brewery, took action on several BluePath recommendations. He painted an extra accessible parking space closer to the entrance, got a quote for automatic doors, and bought asphalt to smooth out the bottom of the curb ramp leading to the entrance.In Eugene, OR, BluePath assessed several St. Vincent de Paul locations and made a number of recommendations. As a result, Charlie Harvey, Associate Executive Director, widened aisles at is stores, lowered mirrors to allow people using wheelchairs to see better, and changed door handles from knobs to levers.
The University of Washington Committee on Accessibility graciously invited the Northwest Paralyzed Veterans of America Advocay Team to join them on a tour of the new Husky Stadium. The site visit took place in August of 2013 and was arranged by UW Athletic Director, Chip Lydum and ADA Coordinator Amanda Paye.
Mr. Lydum kept NWPVA informed about the progress of the stadium from the beginning to the end of the construction and the Advocacy Team had regular meetings with him concerning wheelchair accessibility issues. The stadium has a design similar to Qwest Field, seat prices range from $99 to $499, and alcohol is now be sold inside the stadium, a first for UW.
Although the new stadium will hold only 70,000 people, compared to 73,000 in the old stadium, it features huge improvements in wheelchair accessibility. There are now 730 wheelchair accessible and companion seats in the new stadium, 600 more than the old stadium's 130 seats.
Just west of the main stadium entrance on Mountlake Boulevard at E 17 is a parking lot for 30 wheelchair accessible vehicles. The University of Washington staff will be closely monitoring these parking spaces by requiring drivers to produce disability identification cards to match displayed placards/DP plates.
The pathway from the entrance at E17 leads to the north side of the football field facing the end zone and past the slogan, Mighty Are the Men Who Wore the Purple and the Gold emblazoned on the wall. The field has been lowered so that the wheelchair seats are just 10 feet above the surface, providing excellent views throughout all of the wheelchair accessible locations. As we entered the hallway inside the stadium, we could not help but notice how extremely spacious the area was, with more room added for maneuverability.
In the Club Sections on both sides of the field, the University of Washington used a universal design, making every seat either wheelchair accessible or capable for able-bodied individuals. A really nice touch is an overhang above the seating preventing people from getting wet. Additionally, another great feature in the design of the wheelchair accessible seating areas, including the Club Section, is that there is no room for passage behind the seats.
Underneath the east side of the lower seating area is an enormous medical facility. Directly across the stadium are the athletes' locker rooms, a state-of-the-art weight room, two large theaters for both offense and defense with massive TVs for studying film, and even a barbershop with a purple and gold swirling barber pole.
These huge stadium improvements will help the University of Washington compete with other top-notch colleges in the recruitment of the best athletes from around the country.
This new stadium is a shining example of how to build an athletic facility that is above and beyond ADA requirements!