The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter
An electronic publication of
The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law
The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
May 2, 2012
Volume 9, Issue 3
The Disability Law & Policy Newsletter is a monthly publication that aims to inform disability advocates, scholars, and service providers of the most current issues in disability law, policy, research, best practices, and breaking news.
Below is a topical overview of the items presented in this issue.
A. CIVIL RIGHTS: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Sections
504 & 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and state civil rights law
B. EDUCATION: Special education & youth transition to successful postsecondary outcomes
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Assistive, information, and communication technologies
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS: Social Security Income / Social Security Disability Income / Medicaid & Medicare
E. WORKFORCE: Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA), & Vocational Rehabilitation
F. INDEPENDENCE: News for and about the Independent Living Movement
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS: Disaster mitigation and preparedness news
H. INTERNATIONAL: News for and about disability topics outside the U.S.
I. MISCELLANEOUS: News and topics may vary
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Justice Department Settles with Pennsylvania Youth Football League under the ADA
On March 20, 2012, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it has reached a settlement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with, a youth football league in Mountain Valley, Pennsylvania. This settlement resolved a complaint filed by the mother of a seven-year-old boy with ocular albinism, a condition resulting in little or no pigment in the eyes and causing extreme sensitivity to sunlight. The complaint stated that the league refused the mother's requests to allow the child to wear a football helmet with a tinted visor, and the DOJ determined that by so refusing, the league failed to make a reasonable modification of its policies, practices, and procedures as required by the ADA.
Under the settlement agreement, the league must develop and implement a disability rights policy, train officials on ADA requirements, and grant reasonable modifications modification requests such as the one in this instance. In addition, the league is ordered to pay $1,000 to the complainant's family.
Full Story: Department of Justice, Justice Department Settles with Mountain Valley, Pa., Midget Football League Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Mar. 20, 2012, available at
2. Justice Department's 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design Take Effect
On March 15, 2012, the Justice Department announced that the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards) go into effect. These new standards were adopted as part of the revised regulations for Titles II and III of the ADA, published on Sept. 15, 2010, to make buildings and facilities accessible to Americans with disabilities.
The 2010 Standards set new requirements for fixed or built-in elements in facilities including detention facilities, courtrooms, amusement rides, boating facilities, golf and miniature golf facilities, swimming pools, and play areas. These new standards also clarify issues that have arisen since the issuance of the last set of standards, such as reach ranges and accessible routes. The standards provide clarified requirements for dispersal and lines of sight for accessible seating and companion seating in assembly areas such as stadiums. The 2010 Standards also discuss the provision of accessible hotel rooms across various classes of rooms available.
Full Story: Department of Justice, Justice Department's 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design Go into Effect, Mar. 15, 2012, available at
3. Children with Disabilities "Warehoused" in Florida Nursing Homes
In early March 2012, disability rights advocates filed two lawsuits in federal court in Fort Lauderdale against the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) alleging that the Agency has been "warehousing" children with disabilities in nursing homes designed for elderly individuals in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and state law.
The lawsuit, brought by Paolo G. Annino, director of the Health Care Access Project at the Florida State University Law School; Miami disability rights attorney Matthew W. Dietz; and the North Florida Center for Equal Justice, charges that Florida needlessly and illegally warehouses about 250 severely sick and disabled children in nursing homes. According to the lawsuit, these children are forced to remain for months or even years in these institutions even after doctors clear them to go home because the state will not pay for home care. A second lawsuit claims that about 3,300 at-risk children still at home fear that lack of services by Florida Medicaid will force them into nursing homes in the future.
Florida pays nursing homes about $180,000 a year, per child, whereas round-the-clock home nursing would cost $250,000 a year. However, according to Denise Wronowski, an advocate for children with disabilities, other combinations of services that many families use to keep children at home would cost less than keeping children in nursing homes.
Last month, the Pompano Beach-based Florida Association for Medically Fragile Children issued a white paper stating that since the number of older patients in Florida nursing homes is declining, the industry is struggling and: "[w]ith their eye on their shrinking bottom lines, geriatric facilities are lobbying to fill their empty beds with medically fragile children and young adults. But they are not equipped to do so. Even worse, they are lobbying to provide reduced levels of care."
Full Story: Bob LaMendola, Disabled Kids Illegally Warehoused in Nursing Homes, Lawsuit Claims, Miami Herald, Mar. 14, 2012, available at
Fred Grimm, Kids Don't Belong in Old-Folks Homes, Miami Herald, Mar. 17, 2012, available at
Parents of Children in Nursing Homes Wage Legal Battle, CBSMiami, April 26, 2012, available at
On March 6, 2012, a group of human-rights groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix accusing Arizona's Department of Corrections of unconstitutionally denying adequate medical and mental-health care to inmates in state prisons and routinely keeping inmates diagnosed with mental illness in solitary confinement in brutal conditions. The lawsuit alleged that prisoners suffer serious, preventable injuries and death as a result and seeks to force the state to improve prison health care. The suit seeks class action status on behalf of 33,100 prisoners. Many states prohibit solitary confinement for inmates diagnosed with serious mental illness, but Arizona routinely places inmates with mental illness diagnoses in long term solitary confinement and uses solitary cells to house suicidal prisoners, according to the suit. The lawsuit alleges that prisoners on suicide watch are forced awake every 10 to 30 minutes day and night and that the walls and food slots are smeared with blood and feces. Prisoners in solitary confinement receive two cold meals a day and may leave the cells only three times a week for a shower and a maximum of two hours' exercise in a windowless concrete cell.
According to the suit, four of the six prisons housing prisoners with serious mental illness had no psychiatrist on staff as of November, and one patient had not seen a psychiatrist in four years. The corrections' spending on health-care staff fell by $4.4 million, or 8.7 percent, from 2009 to 2011. As of November, over 20 percent of health-care positions were vacant. In addition, in the past fiscal year, overall corrections spending on health care fell 27 percent from the previous year. The suit alleges failure to provide adequate medication and care and says corrections officers often refuse to give inmates the forms they must fill out to request medical appointments or to pass treatment requests to medical staff.
The suit seeks an order to compel the department to provide adequate medical and mental-health care staffing, to provide timely and adequate treatment, medication, and access to adequate mental-health care, and to prohibit isolation that puts prisoners at risk of physical and mental harm.
Full Story: American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona Press Release, ACLU Lawsuit Charges Arizona Prison Officials with Failing to Provide Adequate Health Care, Inhumane Use of Solitary Confinement, Mar. 06, 2012, available at
1. Charter School Seeks Students with Disabilities
The Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem is making an effort to recruit students with high-functioning autism. The Neighborhood Charter School is using the Department of Education's Autism Special Disorders Nest program as a model for their school. The school's founders, Patricia Soussloff and Ruth Meyer, are attempting to recruit low-income, preschool aged children whose families may be unaware that their children have autism. During their visits to daycare centers and conversations to personnel at health clinics and community groups, the founders are seeking out children who may behave differently, but have yet to be diagnosed with autism.
The school is public and funded by the city and will begin with kindergarten and first grade students. There will be two lotteries; one with sixteen seats set aside for children on the autism spectrum and the second one for general education students.
Full Story: Anna M. Phillips, In Harlem, a Charter School Recruits Autistic Children, New York Times, Feb. 3, 2012, available at
2. The Arc Stands Up Against the Use of Restraints and Seclusion in Classrooms
In March, 2012, The Arc, an advocacy group and service provider for individuals with disabilities, wrote Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, to express their concern about the American Association of School Administrators report that promoted the use of restraints and seclusion in schools. The Arc believes that "the harm suffered by students through the use of dangerous restraint and seclusion practices in our nation's schools is unacceptable."
The Arc strongly suggests that Congress take immediate steps to protect all students in schools by passing the Keeping All Students Safe Act (Act). Senator Harkin and Representative George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Act to limit the use of physical restraint to situations where someone is in danger of being harmed. The Act also addresses the need for proper training for personnel and alerts parents to the use and potential dangers of restraint and seclusion.
Full Story: The Arc Stands Up for Safety of Kids with Disabilities in the Classroom, Questions Report that Promotes Restraint and Seclusion, Mar. 19, 2012, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. White House Seeks to Improve Internet Access for People with Disabilities
The White House has recognized that people with disabilities need access to technology, including the Internet, to fully participate in our society. To improve the accessibility of government websites, the White House met with many key stakeholders, including advocacy groups and the Access Board, to develop the framework of a strategic plan. The government sought input from the public to help further develop this strategic plan. The public was encouraged to review the current plan and submit comments on what had already been proposed, as well as submit new ideas on how federal agencies could improve their website accessibility for individuals with disabilities. On April 25, 2012, a summary of the site analytics was posted at the following link:
Full Story: Kareem Dale, Lesley A. Field, and Steven VanRoekel, Implementing Section 508: Improving Access to Government Information and Data for Persons with Disabilities, White House Office of Public Engagement, Mar. 19, 2012, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Study Shows Doctors Prescribe Risky Painkillers More Often to Veterans with PTSD
The Department of Veterans Affairs has has released a study that suggests that doctors are twice as likely to prescribe morphine and other powerful painkillers to veterans with physical injuries in addition to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than veterans with physical injuries alone. Veterans who return home from war with PTSD are at an increased risk for prescription drug abuse, and according to the study, drug and alcohol overdoses and suicide were all more common in veterans with PTSD who received these prescriptions. Doctors often prescribe these powerful drugs in the hope that the reduction of physical pain will also alleviate emotional distress. They face the challenge of reducing pain caused by physical injuries while also addressing the mental health concerns of our veterans.
The study's authors call for safer treatment for veterans with physical injuries and PTSD, including therapies other than opiates. The young age of many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan also highlight the need for behavioral counseling, war wound therapy, and long-term pain management as opposed to treatment with opiate painkillers. The study also suggests that overburdened primary care physicians outside the VA health system may be too quick to prescribe opiate painkillers. The results of the study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Full Story: Lindsey Tanner, Risky Painkillers More Often Prescribed to Vets with PTSD, Study Finds, Mar. 6, 2012, Huffington Post, available at
2. House Introduces Bill Aimed at Increasing Patient Access to Expensive Medications
On March 19, 2012, Representatives David B. McKinley (R-WV) and Lois Capps (D-CA) introduced the Patients' Access to Treatments Act of 2012, a bi-partisan bill aimed at alleviating insurance cost-sharing practices that limit patient access to vital medications. Many insurance policies place the most expensive medications into a higher tier, which requires patients to pay a higher percentage share than a traditional co-payment. This cost-sharing practice can run patient out-of-pocket expenses into the thousands of dollars and often prohibits many people with serious health conditions from affording these medications altogether. The Patients' Access to Treatment Act would improve patient access to these important medications by limiting the cost-sharing requirements for specialty and innovative medications.
The bill is also supported by the American College of Rheumatology, the Arthritis Foundation, and other medical and patient groups. Dr. James O'Dell, the President of the American College of Rheumatology, stated that the Patients' Access to Treatment Act could reduce unnecessary surgeries and emergency room visits as well as reduce the high costs of long-term care for people whose health conditions worsen because they are not able to access the proper medication.
Full Story: Arthritis Foundation Press Release, Legislation May Improve Patient Access to Vital Medications: High Out-of-Pocket Costs a Barrier to Health, Mar. 20, 2012, available at
1. Starbucks Sued for Disability Discrimination
A California man sued Starbucks, alleging disability discrimination. During an interview for a barista position at a Starbucks store in San Diego, Eli Pierre says that he was discriminated against because he only has one arm. Mr. Pierre says that, following the interview, the hiring manager told him that he could not work there with one arm. The hiring manager then made insulting comments about Mr. Pierre's past work experience.
Mr. Pierre was upset about the discrimination; he had never been treated badly at similar jobs, and past employers often told him he excelled. His attorney, Joel Larabee, said "[t]he strong policy of the state of California and the federal government is to allow people with disabilities the opportunity to get jobs like this." The Starbucks district manager apologized for what the hiring manager did and offered Mr. Pierre an interview at another store. Starbucks' corporate office stated: "Starbucks does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We take this candidate's claims seriously and are currently investigating the matter to determine the appropriate course of action."
Full Story: Lyneka Little, California Man with Half an Arm Sues Starbucks, Alleging Discrimination, ABC News, Feb. 14, 2012, available at
See also: Man Claims Discrimination in Starbucks Job Interview, 10 News, Feb. 3, 2012, available at
1. Bank of America Accused of Discriminating Against People with Disabilities
Two individuals living in separate states reported that Bank of America imposed higher standards on them when applying for mortgage loans because of their disabilities. The individuals complained to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that Bank of America required them to provide documentation of their disabilities and personal medical information in order to qualify for a mortgage.
After HUD received these complaints, they began an investigation and found that Bank of America forced borrowers with disabilities to comply with unnecessary and burdensome requirements to qualify for mortgage loans. John Trasvina, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, says that these practices are against the law and that mortgage companies "may not single out homebuyers with disabilities to delay or deny financing when they are otherwise eligible." The U.S. Department of Justice is now handling this matter.
Full Story: Michael P. Tremoglie, HUD Accuses Bank of America of Discrimination, Legal Newsline, Mar. 1, 2012, available at
2. DOJ Grants Extension for Hotels to Comply with Pool Accessibility Requirements
The enactment date of a regulation announced in 2010 and scheduled to go into effect on March 15, 2012, that would require hotel pools to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act has been postponed. to six months, meaning that the rules for making hotel pools accessible to people with disabilities will not take effect this month as planned. The regulation requires that existing public pools, including hotel pools, be made accessible by installing pool lifts that cost $3,000 to $6,000.
The Department of Justice granted the extension after hotel owners and managers threatened to close their pools and fill in their whirlpools because of the regulation. While some hotels have already installed lifts in anticipation of the March 15 deadline, the American Hotel & Lodging Association has lobbied for extensions, claiming that the government guidance on this issue is vague. When finally enacted, the regulation will make a difference to people with disabilities, such as Lisbet Dula, a wheelchair user who had a wheelchair-accessible room in a hotel that overlooked an inaccessible pool and could not even sit by the pool because of steps blocking the path. "It's ... right to have the same access as anyone else to something you're paying for," Dula said.
Full Story: Barbara De Lollis, Deadline for Hotel Pools to Be ADA-Compliant Extended, USA Today, Mar. 15, 2012, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. Conference Recognizes Vermont's Inclusive Response to Hurricane Irene
On March 26-29, 2012, the National Hurricane Conference took place in Orlando, Florida. The conference aimed to improve Hurricane preparation and recovery efforts, in part by highlighting notable programs and organizations. This year, a presentation by Vermont Emergency Management (VEM), the Boston office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the American Red Cross focused on Vermont's response to Hurricane Irene in 2011. The state established the Vermont Interagency Emergency Response Committee, including representatives of FEMA, VEM, Red Cross, and over forty disability organizations. The committee ensured that residents with disabilities and access or functional needs were able to participate in recovery programs by collaborating through daily conference calls and sharing local resources. Vermont was also recognized for its planning initiatives and implementation of the Functional Needs Support Services Guidance to provide emergency shelter for residents with disabilities through the use of a special Sheltering Team. FEMA representatives have stayed in Vermont after the hurricane to assist state, local, and community leadership toward full recovery for the state.
Full Story: Vermont in Spotlight at National Hurricane Conference, Mar. 26, 2012, available at
National Hurricane Conference information can be found at
Functional Needs Support Services Guidance information can be found at
1. First Hindi Braille Newspaper Launched in India
On March 19, 2012, the Reliance Foundation released the first edition of the Reliance Drishti (Drishti), the first Hindi Braille newspaper in India, at the Kamla Mehta School for the Blind. Swagat Thorat, editor-in-chief of Drishti and the writer of a bi-monthly Braille periodical called "Sparshdnyan" said "[i]n practically every Indian household, mornings are synonymous with a hot cup of tea and the newspaper ... but no one has really thought about the thousands of visually impaired people in the country who were deprived of this basic facility."
The Drishti will be published on the first and third Monday of every month. Additionally, the Drishti will be circulated for free in 325 institutions working with the blind in India. The Drishti, which aims to reach 20,000 blind people across India, will contain articles about current events, politics, foreign affairs, business, sports, science and technology, arts, and health.
Full Story: Hindi Newspaper in Braille Launched in India, Disability News Asia, Mar. 20, 2012, available at
2. Cebu Province Lawmaker Seek Early Voting for Persons with Disabilities
On March 5th, 2012, in the Phillipines, province of Cebu Representative Gabriel Luis Quisimbing filed House Bill 5964, known as the Early Voting for Persons with Disabilities Act of 2012. The proposed legislation would allow people with disabilities and the elderly (who qualify under the law) to submit their ballots one working day before the day of the elections.
"During the 2010 national and local elections, many senior citizens and people with disabilities left their polling places because they cannot endure the long lines and lengthy procedures in order to cast their votes. Hence, they were deprived of the opportunity to exercise the very basic right of suffrage," said Quisimbing. The legislation proposes to coordinate various election agencies to allow for the early elections.
Full Story: Cebu Lawmaker Seeks Early Voting for Senior Citizens, PWDs, Sunstar, Mar. 6, 2012, available at
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