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
February 7, 2013
Volume 10, Issue 1
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. Indianapolis 500 Venue to Get ADA Upgrade
On January 10, 2013, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), the largest stadium in the world and home of the Indianapolis 500, reached a settlement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreeing to bring its facilities into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement calls for IMS to add hundreds of wheelchair-accessible seats, accessible pathways to the infield, more parking options, and a new set of elevators and ramps for those who have limited mobility. Prior to the settlement, an inspection by the DOJ revealed the 104-year-old speedway had more than 360 ADA violations.
The settlement comes fourteen years after racing fan Dan Ward first filed a complaint against the venue. In May of 1999, Ward, who uses a wheelchair, purchased a pit pass that would allow him close access to the drivers during their practice runs. However, IMS officials wouldn't allow Ward to enter the pit area because they felt it would be unsafe. Ward's subsequent complaint has led to the creation of what the DOJ is calling a "comprehensive plan" that will put the IMS on a "definitive path to full compliance."
Full Story: Jill Disis, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Agrees to Make Changes to Accommodate Disabled Visitors, Indianapolis Star, Jan. 10, 2013, available at
2. Maryland Law Firm Settles Deaf Access Complaint
On January 3, 2013, the Department of Justice's Office of Civil Rights announced a settlement with a Maryland-based debt collection law firm over allegations that the firm had discriminated against individuals who are deaf. Multiple complainants claimed that the firm refused to accept phone calls through video relay services, a type of technology that allows a person who is deaf to communicate with another party through the use of a video sign language interpreter. The complaint further alleges that firm employees hung up on one complainant and informed another that she had to call back at a specific time when a manager was present.
The settlement requires the firm to pay $30,000 to the complainants, to revise its policies and procedures to ensure that the office accepts video relay service calls and treats people with disabilities equally, and to train its employees on ADA obligations. In regard to the settlement, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez stated that people with disabilities cannot be denied services simply because they use alternative ways to communicate and that the Justice Department will not tolerate this type of discrimination.
Full Story: Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Law Firm Over Discrimination Against Deaf Individuals, U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, Jan. 3, 2013, available at
3. DOJ Agreement Requires Tennessee to Expand Community-Based Services
On January 9, 2013, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an agreement in federal court ending twenty years of litigation with the state of Tennessee. Initially the litigation concerned the conditions at the former Arlington Developmental Center (ADC). The DOJ says that over the past twenty years the state has made notable changes in the delivery of services to former ADC residents and individuals who were at risk of being placed at ADC, and that in 2010 Tennessee closed ADC.
This new agreement will ensure that there are more community-based services to serve people with disabilities in their own homes by expanding the Medicaid home and community-based waivers to individuals who are Medicaid eligible. The expansion of services under this agreement will allow individuals with disabilities to transition successfully into the community and prevent at-risk individuals from being unnecessarily institutionalized.
Full Story: Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, Justice Department Obtains Comprehensive Agreement to Resolve Long Standing Litigation Regarding the Rights of People with Developmental Disabilities, U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, Jan. 10, 2013, available at
4. Court Says Jury Should Decide if Medical School Discriminated Against Deaf Student
On January 15, 2013, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that a jury should be allowed to decide if Creighton University (CU) discriminated against Michael Argenyi, a medical student who is deaf. Argenyi was accepted into CU's medical school in 2008 and requested accommodations to participate in lectures and labs and to communicate with patients. While CU did provide a microphone for professors to speak into so Argenyi's cochlear implants could pick up the frequency, the accommodation did not help and made it more difficult for Argenyi to understand his professors.
As a result of CU denying him a transcription system and interpreters, in his first two years of medical school Argenyi borrowed more than $110,000 in loans to pay for the accommodations. In his third year of medical school, Argenyi quit because CU refused to allow him to communicate with clinical patients through an interpreter, even if he paid for it. CU claims that the accommodations were too expensive and that Argenyi did not submit adequate documentation to show the accommodations were needed. Argenyi's attorney stated that CU was concerned that the use of interpreters compromises patients' confidential health information, and "should not be used in the real world."
Full Story: Margery A. Beck, Federal Appeals Panel: Deaf Med Student Can Sue, The Associated Press, Jan. 15, 2013, available at
1. Landmark Guidance Orders Equal Access for Student Athletes with Disabilities
On January 25, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance explaining school districts' existing legal obligations to provide students with disabilities equal access to extracurricular athletic activities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires school districts to provide equal access to student athletes with disabilities, but the existing guidance was vague and difficult to enforce. The newly-issued guidance is designed to clarify and give teeth to these existing requirements.
The guidelines direct school districts to make "reasonable modifications" for qualified students with disabilities as long as those modifications do not fundamentally alter the way the sport is played. Two specific examples of modifications stated in the guidance are the allowance of a visual cue alongside a starter pistol to allow a student with a hearing impairment to compete on a track team; and the waiver of a rule requiring the "two-hand touch" finish in swim meets so that a swimmer with one arm can participate at swim meets. Due to the force of the guidance, some advocates are speculating that it could do for athletes with disabilities what Title IX did for female athletes.
Full Story: Preston Williams, U.S. Department of Education Issues 'Landmark' Directive for Disabled Student Athletes, Washington Post, Jan. 25, 2013, available at
2. NASA to Mentor Students with Disabilities
This year, NASA and the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) are teaming up to help area high school students with disabilities learn about educational and career opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. The partnership will create mentorships between NASA staff with DCPS students and focus on the mentors' experiences. Students with disabilities tend to be underrepresented in the math and science fields, but NASA officials are optimistic that the exciting nature of its space programs will encourage DCPS students to pursue careers in these particular areas.
The collaboration between NASA and the DCPS is part of the larger DCPS Competitive Employment Opportunity Program, a career-focused mentoring program that connects selected high school students with disabilities to professional mentors in the greater District of Columbia area. DCPS students will begin meeting with their mentors in early 2013 and NASA also plans to invite some of these students to participate in the agency's 2013 summer internship program.
Full Story: Ann Marie Trotta, NASA to Work with D.C. Public Schools to Mentor Students with Disabilities, NASA Press Release, Dec. 14, 2012, available at
3. Advocates Call for Improved Early Intervention Services
On January 7, 2013, the Health & Disability Advocates (HDA), a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, filed a class action complaint against the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), alleging it has failed to properly transition children from early intervention services to early childhood special education. The formal complaint, which represents the interests of approximately 2,200 eligible children and their families, comes two and a half years after HDA first began working to improve the city's early intervention system.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires states to establish an early intervention service plan to children with disabilities prior to the child's third birthday, or else the child will be ineligible for special education services. HDA alleges that parents who apply to have their children assessed for early intervention services are often ignored or told to wait past this deadline. HDA further claims that some special education professionals in the district are not even aware of their legal obligation to provide early intervention services. CPS has admitted to having issues in delivering early intervention services but vows to make improved services a priority.
Full Story: Motoko Rich, Chicago Faulted on Learning Disabilities, New York Times, Jan. 7, 2013, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. Assistive Technology Research to Aid in Making Biology Labs Accessible to Students
On November 20, 2012, faculty members from the University of Pune (UoP) in India published a book based on their research that focuses on making biology laboratories accessible to visually-impaired students through the use of assistive technology. The book is entitled "Accessible Biology Lab for [the] Visually Impaired." The goal of the research was to implement assistive technology in biology labs which will encourage and enhance the independence and learning of students with visual impairments.
The assistive technologies researched for use in biology labs include a microscope with attached camera and/or a large TV screen or monitor to magnify images for students with visual impairments, a microscope connected to a tactile diagram machine and a color-detecting program which would identify the color of objects to blind students. The UoP faculty members hope that these assistive technologies will be implemented in universities and will lead to greater retention rates of students with visual impairments in scientific programs at the university level.
Full story: Prasad Joshi, Research Backs Assistive Technology to Help Visually Impaired in Bio Labs, Jan. 4, 2013, available at
See also: Ketan Kamble, et al., Accessible Biology Lab for Visually Impaired: Solution to the Problems Faced by Visually Impaired in Biology Practical, Nov. 20, 2012, available at
2. Oregon State University and Streetline, Inc., Develop Accessible Parking App
Over the winter break, the Transit and Parking Services staff at Oregon State University (OSU) and Streetline, Inc.. partnered to develop a free smartphone app called "Parker," which provides real-time information on accessible parking space availability on OSU's campus. Streetline, Inc., installed low power wireless sensors in seventy-five accessible parking spaces in various parking lots throughout OSU's campus. The sensors relay information to web and mobile apps, like Parker, which give the app users real-time information on parking availability.
OSU Transit and Parking Services staff hopes to make it safer and easier for persons with disabilities to find accessible parking through these apps. Additionally, they hope that these apps will ensure more efficient monitoring of accessible parking spaces so that students, faculty, staff or community members with disabilities will always have accessible parking available when they need it.
Full story: PR Newswire, Oregon State University Installs Parking Sensors to Show ADA Parking Space Availability via Mobile Devices, Jan. 7, 2013, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Coordinated Care to Reduce Adults with Disabilities' Use of Emergency Room
The National Institute of Health (NIH) published an online report on December 26, 2012, which found that access to regular medical care and the complexity of health issues of persons with disabilities may contribute to such persons' overuse of the emergency department. The report found that although persons with disabilities of the working age represent 17% of the US population, this same group represents nearly 40% of total emergency room visits.
Emergency visits can be associated with poor access to primary medical care. The report recommends that policymakers address this issue to offset the need for emergency care by providing "prevention and chronic condition management programs tailored for the functional limitation and service needs of people with disabilities." Such programs should also include integration of psychosocial care and 24/7 access to medical assistance. Finally, NIH recommends that there be enhanced communication between emergency department and primary care physicians, which could help prevent repeat visits.
Full Story: Maggie McGuire, Coordinated Care Can Address Disabled Adults' High Rates of Emergency Department Use, NIH News, Jan. 2, 2013, available at
2. Psychiatrists Approve New Diagnostic Statistical Manual, Asperger's Dropped
The Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), a diagnostic tool for autism and other conditions, is being updated and is expected to be published in May 2013. This is the fifth version of the DSM, to replace the fourth edition, which was released in 1994. While full changes to the fifth version of the DSM have not been made public, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) have announced some of the proposed changes.
Asperger's disorder, "a childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder," will no longer be considered part of the autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, the term "mental retardation" will likely be replaced with "intellectual developmental disorder." Further, the new DSM may place less focus on an individual's IQ score. The APA states these changes in the DSM will "help [to] more accurately and consistently diagnose children with autism."
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Psychiatrists Approve New DSM, Asperger's Dropped, Disability Scoop, Dec. 3, 2012, available at
1. LEAD: A New Collaboration to Promote Employment for People with Disabilities
The Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD) Center released the first issue of its quarterly newsletter in December 2012. As an introduction to LEAD and its newsletter, the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy's (ODEP) Assistant Secretary, Kathleen Martinez, explained that LEAD is blossoming into a resource for the latest and best practices for working with people with disabilities. LEAD also trains employers, policymakers and other organizations on disability issues and helps to find new ways to give people with disabilities more opportunities to enter the workforce.
Operating on a five-year grant from the ODEP, LEAD aims to not only increase employment among people with disabilities, but also plans to educate society on the needs of people with disabilities and make them a strong voice in communities. The organization's leadership team includes people with and without disabilities to ensure LEAD keeps its focus on the people they serve, not just the services they provide.
Full Story: Kathleen Martinez, Welcome from Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of the U. S. Department of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, LEAD Center Newsletter, Dec. 2012/Jan. 2013, available at
See also: ODEP, US Labor Department Awards $1.1 Million Grant to Establish Technical Assistance Center for Increasing Employment of People with Disabilities, DOL News Release, Sept. 27, 2012, available at
2. "Because" Encouraging Young People with Disabilities Is Important
On January 7, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy's (ODEP) Campaign for Disability Employment released a new public service announcement (PSA) entitled "Because" to encourage young people with disabilities to pursue career and personal goals. This PSA features real people with disabilities who succeeded in accomplishing their goals with encouragement from people in their community.
Throughout January, "Because" will be aired on over 1,400 English and Spanish television stations. Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary for the ODEP, remarks on how one person's encouragement can change the course of another's life. She hopes that this video will inspire others to support youth with disabilities in reaching their potential.
Full Story: ODEP, ODEP Launches Media Campaign Encouraging Youth with Disabilities to Pursue Career Goals, DOL News Release, Jan. 9, 2013, available at
See also: What Can You Do? Campaign for Disability Employment, Campaign PDAs, Campaign for Disability Employment, Jan. 7, 2013, available at
1. Study Shows that Parents with Disabilities Have Higher Risk of Losing Custody of Kids
National Council on Disability (NCD) released a report on September 27, 2012, that found parents with disabilities have a higher risk of losing custody of their children than parents without disabilities. "Parents with disabilities continue to be the only distinct community that has to fight to retain -- and sometimes gain -- custody of their own children," said autism rights activist Ari Ne'eman, a member of the council. "The need to correct this unfair bias could not be more urgent or clear."
People with disabilities also face more barriers in adopting children. Carrie Ann Lucas is a lawyer with muscular dystrophy and a single mother of four adopted children with disabilities. Lucas says child welfare officials have investigated her many times, beginning in 1999 when Lucas wanted to adopt her niece. During the process a social worker told a judge that "there was no way that handicapped woman could care for that handicapped child." The goal of the NCD report is to change this idea that people with disabilities cannot be effective parents.
Full Story: David Crary, Disabled Parents Face Bias, Loss of Kids, According to New Study, Associated Press, Dec. 12, 2012, available at
See also: NCD, Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children, National Council on Disability Publications and Policy Briefs, Sept. 27, 2012, available at
2. NYC Theater Makes Deal with NY Attorney General to Improve ADA Compliance
By the end of January 2012, 42nd Street Development Corporation will have improved access for customers purchasing wheelchair-accessible seats to comply with an agreement the corporation made with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The Attorney General's office found that the corporation was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not selling accessible seating tickets in the same method as other tickets, making it more difficult for patrons with disabilities to purchase tickets.
Schneiderman, who has an ongoing initiative to ensure ADA compliance and accessibility in sports arenas, theaters, and other public accommodation said, "This agreement takes us one step closer to fully realizing the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act -- encouraging independent living and providing equal opportunity." The agreement requires the corporation to ensure that accessible seats are sold in the same manner and hours as all other seats by the end of January 2013.
Full Story: Bryan Cohen, N.Y. AG Gets Deal with Theater to Provide Wheelchair Access, Legal Newsline, Jan. 15, 2013, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. NYC Fails to Implement a Persons with Disabilities Registry after Superstorm Sandy
Despite NY state law that recommends cities and counties create all-encompassing emergency preparedness plans, which include creating voluntary registries of persons with disabilities, New York City has failed to do so even in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. This storm brought about the deaths of 43 NYC residents, almost half of whom were elderly. Additionally, many persons with disabilities were stranded for days or weeks without necessary medical aid because emergency responders were unaware that they were still residing in mandatory evacuation zones.
Westchester and Suffolk counties, however, saved many lives due to their registries of persons with disabilities during Superstorm Sandy. The author of this article calls on NYC to develop such a registry so that New Yorkers with disabilities can be assured that they will receive aid in the event of an emergency.
Full story: Sasha Chavkin, Special-Needs Registries Saved Lives During Sandy, But Not in NYC, The New York World, Jan. 16, 2013, available at
1. Singapore Revises Its Fire Code to Include Provisions for Persons with Disabilities
On January 15, 2013, the revised edition of the Singapore fire code was released and many additions were implemented that address the needs of persons with disabilities. The new code will take effect on any building plans submitted for approval after July 15 of this year.
New additions to the fire code include a visual alarm in non-residential buildings, either a strobe or flashing light; buildings must have up to two designated holding points for persons with disabilities to wait for assistance in the event of an emergency; and such holding points should be equipped with communication devices, such as a distress button, which contacts the fire command centre within the building. These additions were added to the Singapore fire code based on feedback garnered from the architectural community, government agencies, and academic institutions to better protect individuals with disabilities in the event of a fire.
Full story: AsiaOne, 6-Month Grace Period for Revised Fire Code, Jan. 18, 2013, available at
See also: Singapore Civil Defense Force, SCDF Fire Code 2013, Jan. 15, 2013, available at
2. Second-Largest Indian State Remains Committed to Welfare of Persons with Disabilities
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, reiterated his support for ensuring the welfare and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. Madhya Pradesh is located in central India and is the second largest state in the country by area. Mr. Chouhan spoke at the marriage ceremony of 35 couples with disabilities, where he proclaimed it was the first and largest marriage convention of the state featuring such a large number of disabled couples.
In his speech, Chief Minister Chouhan announced the State Government will provide financial assistance to married couples if either one or both of the spouses has a disability, totaling Rs 25,000 ($464.81) if one of the spouses has a disability and Rs 50,000 ($929.63) if both have disabilities. He also made clear the state government would also provide compensation to the four couples from Uttar Pradesh, the state located north of Madhya Pradesh, also entering into wedlock at the ceremony.
Full Story: Gov't Committed to Rehabilitation of Disabled, The Times of India, Jan. 18, 2013, available at
1. Former Madam to Open an Accessible Sexual Health Facility for People with Disabilities
A former British madam, Becky Adams, is using the skills she learned from running a brothel to help people with disabilities fulfill their sexual desires. She currently facilitates arrangements between sex workers and people with disabilities free of charge. Adams does not only arrange sexual encounters, she also helps with logistics of sexual encounters, for instance, a married client who needs assistance putting on her lingerie and getting into bed so that her husband does not need to do these things for her. Adams is investing an estimated $100,000 to open a fully-accessible sexual health nonprofit facility in 2014 that will have ramps and hoists, as well as accessible round-trip transportation.
Full Story: Susan Donaldson James, Ex-Madam Uses Her Sex Skills to Run 'Brothel' for Disabled, ABC News, Jan. 10, 2013, available at
2. Miss Montana First Competitor with Autism in Miss America History
On January 12, 2013, Miss Montana, Alexis Wineman, was the first competitor with autism in the 92-year-old Miss America Pageant. While she did not win the competition, Miss Montana did make it to the semi-final rounds as one of the top 16 women out of the 52 competitors. Further, she was selected as "America's Choice" in an online vote.
Wineman was diagnosed with autism when she was eleven years old, and as Miss Montana she focused on autism awareness and considers herself an advocate. Beyond being able to share her story, Wineman said that being on television and making many new friends were highlights of competing in Miss America. However, now that the competition is over, she is ready to get away from the glamor and play some video games.
Full Story: Lesley Young, Beauty Queen with Autism Makes Miss America History, Disability Scoop, Jan. 15, 2013, available at
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The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter is the collaborative product of Editor-in-Chief David W. Klein, Ph.D., Executive Editor William N. Myhill, M.Ed., J.D.; Senior Editor Kelly J. Bunch, J.D.; and Associate Editors Alessandra Baldini, Robert Borrelle, Stephanie Woodward, Jenna Furman, Kate Battoe, and Jesse Feitel.
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