March 4, 2003 – A local advocacy group for the disabled got some training Saturday from a national leader in the field — Curt Decker, executive director of the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems.
Decker visited V.I. Advocacy Inc. to instruct its board of directors in the best and most effective ways to represent people with disabilities, the group's executive director, Amelia Headley LaMont, said.
Each of the seven V.I. Advocacy board members has a disability or has a disabled family member, LaMont said. She said Decker gave a history of protection and advocacy systems and aided board members in setting priorities for the territory.
"We have to set priorities," LaMont said. "Our decisions are based upon the priorities of the board and for disabled people in the community, primarily enforcing rights guaranteed under federal law."
The agency's attorney, Scott Martin, said Decker's input was especially valuable in that he heads up the umbrella organization of protection and advocacy systems in the United States and its territories. "He was instrumental in getting all of these off the ground; his arrival is pretty important," Martin said.
V.I. Advocacy flexed its muscle last week with an announcement that businesses failing to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 may soon become defendants in class-action lawsuits.
Two businesses are the targets of recently filed suits — the Green House Bar and Restaurant on St. Thomas and Barren Spot Mall on St. Croix. The suits allege that the establishments do not have facilities suitable for wheelchair-bound patrons. LaMont said last week that more suits would like follow.
Activists are expected to gather in front of the Green House at 10 a.m. Wednesday in protest, LaMont said.
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