Paralyzed Veterans of America Supports Efforts to Make New York's Four Freedoms Park Fully Accessible for Wheelchair Users

WASHINGTON, DC—(Marketwired – May 09, 2016) – Today's New York Times highlighted concerns over accessibility to the Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Four Freedoms Park on New York's Roosevelt Island. In the four years since the park was opened, the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy has maintained that the design calls for a “barrier–free illusion” to enhance views, while the New York Mayor's Office for People With Disabilities has advocated for ramps and railings that would make the park more accessible for wheelchair users.

Paralyzed Veterans of America, the only veterans service organization solely representing veterans and all people with spinal cord injury or disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), today reacted to the ongoing issues with this memorial to the nation's 32nd president that is maintained and operated in partnership with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

Statement from Paralyzed Veterans of America Acting Executive Director Sherman Gillums:

“We applaud the New York Times for drawing national attention to something that might be considered a local issue, in a local park. Anytime a public space is not fully accessible to all, it is indicative of a larger, more pervasive issue of discrimination that deserves attention.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed more than 25 years ago, promises equality of opportunity by prohibiting disability–based discrimination and removing barriers to participation for people with disabilities. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was in planning for more than two years before construction began in 2010. Paralyzed Veterans of America sees no acceptable reason it should not be fully accessible to all Americans.

“In the article, the president of the conservancy says the consequences of compromising the architect's original design vision by making the park fully accessible 'outweighed the value.' The value of the civil rights of our nation's veterans and all persons with disabilities should outweigh design vision and budget constraints.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is a memorial to our 32nd President, who used a wheelchair during his presidency due to polio. Paralyzed Veterans of America supported efforts to ensure that he would be memorialized as a wheelchair user as part of the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC. The statute of FDR using a wheelchair was dedicated in 2001.

While some modifications have been made to make the park more accessible since it opened in 2012, the park's sunken terrace with a popular vantage point of the East River, can only be reached by climbing steps. New York City officials are withholding a permanent certificate of occupancy and hundreds of thousands of dollars in financing until the accessibility dispute is resolved.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, we have ensured that veterans have received the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a partner for life, Paralyzed Veterans also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation and advocates for veterans and all people with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (

The Generation Trap: Grandparents Often Find Themselves Without Support When Forced to Take Over Raising Their Grandchildren

HOUSTON, TX—(Marketwired – May 09, 2016) – When one hears the phrase sandwich generation, it evokes visions of post–graduate adult children needing a spare bedroom and laundry facilities at their working parents' house until the right–paying job comes along. The reality of multigenerational housing, however, is much more grim.

But the onus isn't so much on the still–active parents of a semi–slacking Fine Arts degree holder; it's on the grandparents who are spending their golden years raising their young grandchildren on their own. And the middle part of that sandwich, the parents? Conspicuously missing.

According to the United States Census Bureau, across the United States more than 5.8 million children are living in their grandparents' homes, with more than 2.7 million grandparents taking on the responsibility for these children. And for one million children living in these homes with their grandparents, none of their parents are present.

“There are several reasons why grandparents are finding themselves — once again — the primary caretaker of children; not for their children, but their grandchildren,” said Julie Ketterman, a Houston–based family law attorney who focuses on families who find themselves involved in investigations and legal cases involving Child Protective Services. “In the 1970s, about three percent of children lived in grandparent–maintained households. Now, the number is double that.”

Ketterman also hosts the weekly radio program Where Justice Lies on Wall Street Network's Business News Radio 1110 AM KTEK, where she has built up a massive following as she exposes corruption and problems in the family courts and with CPS malfeasance. She points out research that has explained the increase in grandparent–led households.

“Back in the '60s and '70s, typical grandparent/grandchild relationships were defined by holiday get–togethers and summer vacation getaways,” she said. “But this pattern shifted in the 1990s and 2000s by the need of the adult children — and the grandchildren — for support, childcare and both short– and long–term co–residence due to teen pregnancy, divorce or financial hardship.” Recent research backs up Ketterman's claim, finding that people experiencing economic distress — brought on by such issues as the sluggish economy, slowly recovering housing crisis and high unemployment rate — are more likely to live in multigenerational households.

But Ketterman points out a darker reason for the increase in parents dropping their children off with Nana and Papa for good: the pervasiveness of drugs and alcoholism. According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, more than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics, nearly 11 million of which are under the age of 18. The number is magnified considerably when you add those children who have parents impaired by illegal drugs.

“Three out of four child welfare professionals across the nation cite substance abuse as the top cause for the dramatic rise in child maltreatment,” said Ketterman. “Additionally, these same professionals say that children of addicted parents are more likely to enter, and stay longer in, foster care.”

Each year, nearly 12,000 infants are abandoned at birth or kept at hospitals, 78 percent of whom are drug–exposed. Ketterman cites this as an indication that addicted parents would be prone to leaving their children with their own parents. Coupled with the dramatic rise in heroin use — the Centers for Disease Control have stated that deaths from heroin have quadrupled since 2000 — it's no surprise the numbers of grandparents raising their young is high.

Adding to the conundrum is the fact that laws typically don't favor grandparent/grandchild custody issues. Oftentimes, out of fear of being discovered and their grandchildren taken away by CPS, the grandparents keep quiet about the living arrangement and don't avail themselves of services that might help them.

This ignorance, according to the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) “GrandFamilies” website, compels the parties involved to remain isolated: “They lack information about the range of support services, resources, programs, benefits, laws and policies available to help them successfully fulfill their caregiving role.” Ironically, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, grandparents who find themselves raising the grandchildren without the participation of either parent tend to be at higher poverty levels than grandparents living alone or providing co–residence with their own adult children.

So what if you are a grandparent who finds yourself with unexpected and permanent tiny house guests? Ketterman has some pointers.

“Grandparents play an important role in their grandchildren's life, and can develop strong bonds that last a lifetime,” she said. “Today, every state has some type of grandparent visitation law. Typically, in certain circumstances, grandparents may file suit requesting custody if they believe it is in the child's best interest, and a court can authorize grandparent visitation of a grandchild if visitation is in the child's best interest.” She lists these circumstances as including the parents being divorced; one or both parents abusing or neglecting the child; one or both parents being incarcerated, found incompetent, or died; a court–order terminating the parent–child relationship; or the child having lived with the grandparent for at least six months.

“But frequently the deck is stacked against the grandparents,” said Ketterman. “Most visitation statutes do not give a grandparent an absolute right to visitation. Also, a grandparent may not request visitation if the grandchild has been adopted by someone other than the child's step–parent.”

Ketterman states that grandparents who are finding themselves are the caretakers of their grandchildren — whether their adult children are residing with them as well or not — must seek legal counsel immediately to get answers, protect themselves and their grandchildren, and benefit from services that may be available to them, especially if they intend to file for legal custody. She warns that petitioning for an official kinship placement is a double–edged sword. “The second an official record is opened, you have to see it through to the end, and you're at the mercy of agencies like CPS if you even get to keep your own grandchild or minor family member,” she said. “Carefully weigh your options before making a decision like that, and certainly try to talk with a lawyer who is dedicated to putting your family's welfare first.”

Houston–based attorney Julie Ketterman's areas of legal practice include CPS defense, family law, federal and state criminal defense, juvenile law, appellate law and mediation. The heartbeat behind her work is defending the rights of families battling Child Protective Services (CPS). Currently, she practices law in Harris County, surrounding counties and all of Texas. Ketterman was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1999. She has frequently and successfully fought CPS for children, parents, grandparents and other relatives. She encourages people who have found themselves in a situation with CPS to call her at 713–652–2003 for a free phone consultation.

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