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Message from the commissioner: Collaborating with Office for Civil Rights

July 10, 2018

disabilities

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Disabilities Commission

Kristen McCosh, the Commissioner of the Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities, provides a weekly update on the work happening in her office.

Last month, I had the opportunity to meet with staff from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

OCR is the federal agency that is responsible for enforcing the nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Although they are a federal agency, they have a local office in the JFK Federal Building in Government Center, very close to my office in Boston City Hall. In many ways, OCR is my counterpart on the national level.

During our meeting, we discussed ways that we may be able to work together to ensure that persons with disabilities in Boston are receiving equitable access to government services and resources on the city, state, and national level. Many issues of concern to the disability community cross between these jurisdictions, including housing, transportation, and health insurance (Medicaid, in particular).

In order to ensure disability equity in these areas of importance, we would like to develop a collaborative, multi-faceted approach that involves outreach, education, training, and collaborating on programs and policies. We’re also planning to connect OCR with the City’s Chief of Health of Human Services and other departments in the City HHS Cabinet.

Our first step will be to help raise awareness about OCR’s presence in Boston and the services they have to offer to people in the local disability community. To begin, I have invited their staff to host a table at our annual ADA Day Celebration this year on July 24, from 12 noon - 2 p.m. on Boston City Hall Plaza. The ADA is a landmark legislation that prevents discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, state and local government, transportation, and places of public accommodation.

On that note, I want to extend an open invitation for everybody to come out to our ADA Day event this year! This annual celebration is completely free, and it’s a great time for children, families, & individuals of all abilities. The general public is invited for food, music, t-shirts, and fun! There will also be a resource fair with information on various disability agencies and organizations. You can drop by OCR’s table to pick up some information about their work on preventing discrimination on the basis of disability. So please come out and join us on July 24 — I look forward to seeing you all there!

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