Whew! What a weekend! I had a fantastic time with a great group of talented people who I have to give a shoutout to: N.R. Brown, Jay Chandlier, Ryan Easterly, Catherine Hefferan, Lauren Karas, Julia Myers, Matt Winterhalter, and Keri Williams. We are “Meridian Rain.” 🙂
We spent this last weekend writing, rehearsing, finding/setting up locations, shooting, editing, and submitting a short 5-minute film for the Disability Film Challenge (DFC). The DFC is a 48 Hour short film competition whose purpose is “to motivate disabled and non-disabled film makers to be proactive in the film industry and to supply them with a means of exposure for themselves and their projects.” I included their promotional video below.
“Under the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act], State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.“
However, that access doesn’t always happen and a particular violator is taxi cabs. What makes it particularly difficult, is that, as someone with a visual impairment, I can’t even tell if a cab is purposely bypassing me. All I know, is that it takes me an inordinate amount of time to catch a cab. How do I even know this kind of discrimination exists? Or that it is relatively prevalent? From the few times where a friend or colleague has hailed a cab for me and after the car has pulled up, when I go to enter the vehicle the driver objects to my presence with the dog.
I phrase it that way because that is what is happening. It isn’t refusing a dog, it is refusing me. I am the one needing to get somewhere and I am the one paying the fare. The dog is merely my “mobility aid.” She helps me get from A to B. She is quiet, well-behaved, and well-groomed. What bothers me the most is the idea that cab drivers are looking for fares. They want to transport people. Here I am, a willing customer, a non-driver, and I want to give him or her my money. I WANT to be their customer. What is sad, is they don’t want me.
However, this post isn’t about my tales of woe, it is about someone setting out to do something about this injustice. And no, it isn’t me. All the credit goes to our local WUSA 9. Russ Ptacek, Felix Ortiz, and Erin Van der Bellen put a call out for people with disabilities, in particular service dog users, to see how big a problem it is. They set up a “sting” operation and discovered “of 42 cabs tested, using passengers with wheelchairs or guide dogs, 20 cabs – or 48% – either drove right past the passenger with a disability in favor of another fare, took them to the wrong location without warning, or charged an illegal extra fee.”
Russ, Felix, and Erin continued this with a second operation, this time with the DC Taxicab Commission following them, ready to write tickets for cabs that bypassed passengers with service dogs. That night, I was there, and there were cabs that drove by and they got ticketed. Yay! Okay, maybe I did help a little with this one. The follow up operation also highlighted that the taxi drivers were warning each other via their radios that it was a “sting” operation so the response numbers were skewed. Though “even with the warnings, eight of 19 cabs tested that night failed” to pick me up. But that disappointment aside, and perhaps even more important, Washington DC’s Office of Disability Rights, and the Office of Human Rights decided to explore the issue and set up meetings with DC’s Taxi Commission and representatives from the various cab companies and also with drivers to see what could be done to address the issue.
No, the problem isn’t solved and people will still discriminate, but I want to give a big hats off and kudos to WSUSA 9’s Russ, Felix, and Erin. The world isn’t fair, but you’re shining a little light and doing your part to make sure it has a chance to be a little bit better. I’d call that the best kind of journalism.
Just as a note, Russ just got an Emmy nomination for his work on this story. The Award celebration is June 14. We’re rooting for you!
Yes! Today is a lovely, lovely, day. I gave to Greg Rucka and Rick Burchette’s Kickstarter. For some time I had been reading their amazing webcomic Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether. Greg, Rick and Eric Newsom have built something fantastic, so when the opportunity came to have all of the work collected into a volume, I jumped at the chance. Considering they blew past their original goal, finishing at over 500% more than the original amount requested, I wasn’t the only one. 🙂
This is my second short film effort, a play on the game Candy Crush Saga. Having seen quite a few videos showing the danger of video games, I thought it might be interesting to write something that skewed the other direction. In our little film, Candy Crush is a critical necessity for American society to succeed economically.
We had a fantastic team put together: Olivier Le Blanc who is an amazing director, Josefin Pehrson as our producer, who made sure everything went smoothly, Rudy Telson as DP, Jamie Coupar on Sound, Elaine for Graphic Design. Several people also did double duty as actors.
“Candy Crush: An American Saga” was a part of the CueFILM Series. (It was the easiest/best way to find the footage). cueFILM is a weekly film festival delivered to your home or portable device and highlights filmmakers from the Virginia, D.C., and Maryland community. cueFILM launched May 5, 2014 at 8pm on Cox NoVa 74/77.
Seeing it as a part of the film series reminded me that I have photos from the set. Please see below. 🙂