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
April 9, 2013
Volume 10, 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. Settlement Between New Jersey & Disability Activists Means More Community Services
On February 26, 2013, two long standing lawsuits between Disability Rights New Jersey activists and Governor Christie's administration have been settled. The lawsuits claimed that New Jersey failed to provide adequate community services for people with developmental disabilities. Under the settlement, the state will allocate millions to expand community programs and downsize institutions. The state is now in the process of closing two of the state's seven institutions and will allocate that funding to community placements.
Some parent advocates are opposed to the decision to close institutions. "The governor has no clue about the pervasive disabilities our family members live with, since he has never set foot in a developmental center," said Cindy Bartman, of the Coalition to Save Residents Homes at Developmental Centers. However, disability rights activists are praising Governor Christie for this decision because people with disabilities have the right to live in the community instead of being locked away by their family members in institutions.
Full Story: Harvy Lipman, Christie Administration, Disability Rights Group Settle Suits over Community Services, NorthJersey.com, Feb. 26, 2013, available at
2. Small Towns Moving Public Offices to Accessible Buildings
The Lewisboro, New York, Police Department is currently moving the location of its headquarters to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The department's old building was lauded for its character and charm but lacked the type of accessible entrances and other amenities required by the ADA. The Lewisboro Police are calling the new building "ideal" not only for its accessibility but because it is in a central location and close to the town's other public offices and schools.
The Lewisboro Police's relocation seems to be part of a larger trend. More and more small towns are recognizing their legal obligations and are moving their offices from inaccessible structures to buildings that comply with the ADA. The mayor of Amesbury, Massachusetts, for example, is calling for City Hall to be moved to an accessible location. The current, two-story City Hall building was built in the 19th century and lacks both an accessible front entrance and elevator access to the second floor.
Full Story: Katherine Pacchiana, Lewisboro Police Cruise into Cross River, Lewisboro Daily Voice, Mar. 15, 2013, available at
See Also: Mac Cerullo, Mayor Wants to Move City Hall, Newburyport News, Mar. 13, 2013, available at
3. Sen. Harkin Introduces Movie Accessibility Bills
On March 13, 2013, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced two bills that would broaden access to the movies for people with disabilities. The first bill, the Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility (CINEMA) Act, requires movie theaters with two or more screens to offer closed captioning and audio descriptions of films. The law would be an amendment to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 which prohibits disability discrimination by places of public accommodation.
Senator Harkin also introduced the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act, a bill that would require captioning and narration on all airplanes where in-flight video entertainment is offered. The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 prohibits airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities but does not include captioning or narration requirements. Harkin has referred both bills to a committee for consideration.
Full Story: U.S. Senate Newsroom, Harkin Introduces Legislation to Expand Captioning and Improve Access to Movies, Senate.gov, Mar. 13, 2013, available at
4. EEOC Files Suit Against Toys "R" Us for Refusing to Provide Sign Language Interpreter
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a federal lawsuit against Toys "R" Us in March 2013 for violating the rights of a Deaf job applicant by not providing her with an interpreter. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants with disabilities unless providing the accommodation would be an undue hardship. In this case, the EEOC says providing an interpreter would not have been an undue burden, taking into account the large size and resources of the company.
The suit alleges that Toys "R" Us refused to provide an interpreter for Shakirra Thomas for her interview and that Thomas's mother served as her interpreter for the interview. The suit also alleges that Ms. Thomas was not hired because she is deaf. Disability rights advocates say that discrimination like this is common and contributes to the high unemployment rate of people with disabilities.
Full Story: Martha Neil, EEOC Sues Toys 'R' Us, Says Company Failed to Provide Interpreter for Deaf Job Applicant, ABA Journal, Mar. 20, 2013, available at
5. Civil Rights Head Leaves DOJ for Labor Department
President Obama has nominated Thomas Perez, the current Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, to be the new head of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Senate must confirm Obama's nomination before Perez assumes his new role as Secretary of Labor.
During his tenure in the Civil Rights Division, Perez has made disability rights a top priority. His office has initiated or supported many suits to uphold the rights of those with disabilities, including cases addressing the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities in sheltered workshops and the rights of students with disabilities to bring service dogs to school.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Future of Disability Rights Enforcement Unclear, Disability Scoop, Mar. 19, 2013, available at
B. EDUCATION1. Agreement Ensures Accessibility of South Carolina College Websites
On March 6, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the South Carolina Technical College System (SCTCS) reached an agreement that ensures that the websites of SCTCS and its 16-member colleges are accessible to persons with disabilities. College and university websites are designed to provide instantaneous and comprehensive information to employees, applicants, students, and others. An OCR review of SCTCS, however, discovered that its sites were not readily accessible to persons who are blind, have low vision, or have other print-related disabilities.
Under the agreement, SCTCS must (1) develop a resource guide that provides information about web accessibility requirements; (2) direct that the SCTCS website and the websites of all the member colleges be accessible to students with disabilities; and (3) annually review the system's and colleges' websites and monitor steps taken to correct any accessibility problems identified. OCR will continue to monitor SCTCS's websites until they are in full compliance with the law.
Full Story: U.S. Department of Education, Civil Rights Agreement Reached with South Carolina Technical College System on Accessibility of Websites to People with Disabilities, U.S. Department of Education Press Office, Mar. 8, 2013, available at
2. Ohio Teacher Creates "Reverse Inclusion" Classroom
Amanda Englehart, a special education teacher at Kenston High School in Ohio, is gaining accolades for creating a "reverse inclusion" classroom that brings general education students into the special education classroom. The semester-long elective course focuses on the history and social interaction of individuals with disabilities and fosters interaction between typical students and their special education peers.
The class grew out of an after-school program created by Englehart called the Creating Exceptional Character Club. The success and popularity of the club among students both with and without disabilities led Englehart to approach the school board with a proposal for an elective course. Englehart cites increased social interaction between students with and without disabilities outside of the classroom as one of the main benefits of the course.
Full Story: Andy Attina, Kenston Teacher's 'Reverse Inclusion' Club Brings Typical Students into Special Needs Classes, Sun News, Mar. 18, 2013, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. New Wearable Technologies Synced with Smart Phones Aid Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing
In early March, two companies released wearable technologies that aid the Deaf and hard-of-hearing in receiving notifications or calls on their smart phones that they may otherwise have missed. Wearable technologies have been developed in watch and bracelet form, utilizing features like flashing lights and/or vibrations when notifications or calls are received on their smart phone.
These wearable technologies are entirely customizable. Users can receive notifications of everything from incoming calls and emails to app updates. These technologies also allow the user customization through using different flashing colors and vibrations for various contacts, apps, or types of notifications.
Full Story: PR WEB, Celebrate Deaf History Month with New Advances in Technology which Benefit the Deaf Community, Mar. 18, 2013, available at
2. Greyhound Lines, Inc., Uses Assistive Technology to Develop a Disability Channel
On March 5, 2013, Greyhound Lines, Inc., announced that it was partnering with eSSENTIAL Accessibility to create a Greyhound Disability Channel on their bus services. Greyhound, the largest North American provider of intercity bus service, hopes to use the channel to promote Greyhound itself and to inform persons with disabilities of employment opportunities within the company.
Greyhound's implementation of this Channel is part of a loyalty initiative directed toward persons with disabilities. The Channel will include information on Greyhound's travel promotions and specials, wheelchair-accessible buses, boarding and rest stop assistance, and the company's hiring opportunities.
Full Story: PR Newswire, Greyhound Joins Initiative to Provide Technology-Enabled Communications Channel to Support Consumers with Disabilities, Mar. 5, 2013, Market Watch, Wall Street Journal, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Changing Social Security Disability Rules with Regard to Addiction
On March 22, 2013, the Social Security Administration's new Social Security Ruling (SSR) 13-2p will go in effect, which provides explanations on how to consider whether drug addiction and alcoholism are "material to [the] determination of disability claims and continuing disability reviews." SSR 13-2p replaces previous rulings and questions whether "a disability would exist in the absence of an individual's drug or alcohol addiction."
A physician and addiction recovery specialist stated that "[T]he key to reducing disability claims and promoting greater health is providing quality treatment. ... We know that a great number of mental health disorders are exacerbated by an individual's drug use, though that drug use, at least initially, is frequently an effort to self-medication. If we can help a person remove drugs and alcohol from the medical equation, we can get a much better idea of what other mental health issues are presenting and provide treatment." In many cases, alleviating the issue of addiction greatly diminishes an individual's permanent disability for Social Security purposes.
Full Story: PR Newswire, Changing Social Security Disability Rules with Regard to Addiction, PR Newswire, Mar. 18, 2013, available at
See Also: Wolters Kluwer, SSR 13-2p Issued on Evaluating Cases Involving Drug Addiction and Alcoholism, Wolters Kluwer: Law and Business, Mar. 15, 2013, available at
See Also: Nathaniel Hubley, New Social Security Ruling-SSR 13-2: The New Ruling's Implications on Claims for Disability Benefits, E-zine Articles, Feb. 22, 2013, available at
1. Partners Come Together for Disability Employment Initiative
The national Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) is a grant program mandated by Congress that seeks to employ as many as possible youth and adults with disabilities who use American Job Centers and other specialized agencies to search for jobs. So far, 23 states have received funding from the DEI to boost their employment-seeking services for people with disabilities.
On March 12 and 13, almost 200 people from federal and state agencies met to share ideas about how the DEI can improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris stated that there needs to be more follow-up with consumers after they find work. He also advocated for more training for staff and improving outreach programs. Other officials stressed the partnership of government departments and members of the DEI need to increase its effort to find people jobs.
Full Story: Department of Labor, Partners Come Together for Disability Employment Initiative, DOL, Mar. 14, 2013, available at
2. ILR Study Suggests Benefits of Hiring Disabled Workers
Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) conducted a study called "Leveling the Playing Field: Attracting, Engaging and Advancing People with Disabilities," started by researchers who wanted to know more about the employment of people with disabilities. Funded by a $3.75 million grant from the United States Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and other sources, the study found that there are many hidden advantages for employers who hire employees with disabilities.
Some of these benefits include increases in productivity, attendance, morale, and customer relations. Researchers found that 87% of consumers favored working with companies that employed people with disabilities. In addition, some employees with disabilities need reasonable accommodations to perform their jobs do not normally cause a financial burden to employers. Because of this, the ILR is advocating for employers to seek out employees with disabilities, according to the director of ILR's Employment and Disability Institute, Susan Bruyère.
Full Story: Anushka Mehrotra, ILR Study Suggests Benefits of Hiring Disabled Workers, The Cornell Daily Sun, 15 Mar. 2013, available at
1. Government Removes Barriers to Federal Employment for People with Disabilities
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued final regulations concerning the Schedule A Hiring Authority, a hiring authority for the appointment of people with disabilities in the federal workforce. The new regulations make the Schedule A process easier for applicants with disabilities because they are no longer required as a condition of appointment to obtain "certificates of readiness," a formal assessment written by a medical professional, vocational rehabilitation specialist, or disability benefit agency, that states the applicant could perform in a particular work environment.
Removing this requirement is consistent with the President's policy of removing barriers and encouraging people with disabilities to seek employment in the federal workforce, which he expressed in Executive Order 13548, Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities. Schedule A hiring is one tool used by the federal government to meet the goals of the President's Executive Order. In the 2011 fiscal year, 7.96 percent of all new hires in the federal government were individuals with disabilities. "It's important to recruit, hire, develop and retain a competitive and diverse workforce, so that we tap the potential of all groups -- including Americans with disabilities," said OPM Director John Berry.
Full Story: Lindsey O'Keefe, OPM Issues Final Rule to Simplify Schedule A Hiring Authority for Persons with Disabilities, OPM.gov News Release, Feb. 21, 2013, available at
2. Disability Rights Advocates Clash with Union Members over Closing an Institution
By the end of this year, the Monroe Developmental Center (MDC) of Rochester, NY, is set to close and 90 individuals with developmental disabilities will be moved into community settings. However, the Public Employees Federation (PEF) representatives, such as Randi DiAntonio, tried to use fear as a tool to keep MDC from closing by saying, "Some of them have psychiatric histories, criminal histories and they require a very specialized level of specialized care." PEF also received support from Assemblyman Mark Johns who stated, "We cannot allow these types of people to get out on the street into the community as much as we want to main line everybody."
Disability rights advocates attended the PEF conference and clashed with the PEF members who want to keep the institution open. The advocates believe PEF is only interested in saving the jobs of its members and is using unrealistic safety issues to reach their goal. "Some people do need continued support and service and that is very accomplishable in settings that are not institutions," said Chris Hilderbrant, Chief Operating Officer of the Center for Disability Rights. Governor Cuomo's office agrees with the disability rights advocates and said the plan to close MDC is tied to the Olmstead Supreme Court decision.
Full Story: Evan White, Union Questions Closure of Monroe Developmental Center, 13WHAM, Mar. 8, 2013, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. Trial Begins Against N.Y.C. for Ineffective Disaster Planning
On March 11, 2013, opening arguments in the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID) v. Bloomberg case began, a class action alleging that N.Y.C.'s lack of disaster preparedness planning for persons with disabilities violates federal law. BCID's lawyers will use the experiences of persons with disabilities in Tropical Storm Irene and Sandy to demonstrate N.Y.C.'s failure to rescue persons with mobility issues from their high-rise homes and to provide accessible transportation and evacuation shelters for persons with disabilities.
The city asserts that their current disaster plan encompasses the needs of every New Yorker, including those with disabilities. BCID is asking for a new, improved disaster plan that addresses the emergency needs of persons with disabilities.
Full Story: Cindy Rodriguez, City's Treatment of Disabled During Disasters to be Scrutinized During Trial in Class Action Lawsuit, WCNY, Mar. 11, 2013, available at
1. Turkish Airline Makes Commitment to Improved Services for Persons with Disabilities
Turkish Airlines has agreed to continue improving its services for passengers with disabilities across the airline's entire fleet. After an article was published highlighting problems with the carrier's policies and access issues, several administrators within the airline have promised to improve its services and procedures. Mehmet Tayfur Dogan and Sennur Tatli, Director and Supervisor of the airline's documentation division, highlighted some of the ways Turkish Airways will continue to provide access for persons with disabilities.
Turkish Airlines is providing its on-board safety cards in Braille to provide access for persons with visual disabilities, and has committed to update and maintain the information on its website relating to accessibility. Further, the airline has identified issues with its ability to provide prenotification for access services requests. In the coming weeks, Turkish Airlines will work in cooperation with both Munich International Airport and Milan Malpensa Airport "to significantly improve the quality and timely availability of assistance passengers with reduced mobility experience upon arriving at EU airports."
Full Story: Turkish Airlines Commits to Improve Disabled Passengers Services, Feb. 26, 2013, available at
2. Disability Hate Crimes in England Go 'Overlooked' Throughout England and Wales
A recent review into the practice of police throughout England and Wales has uncovered that hate crimes involving persons with disabilities are often mishandled in the criminal justice systems of the two respective nations. Police in England and Wales recorded more than 1,700 disability hate crimes from 2011 to 2012. The report provides detail of how many police officers are both reluctant and "too sensitive" to ask victims if they are disabled after a hate crime has occurred. This seemingly common occurrence leaves individuals with disabilities who are the victims of these crimes disappointed and lacking justice.
According to the report, inspectors also found that many police forces in these two nations lack a support system to help victims with disabilities from the moment the crime occurs to when the matter is brought to court. Additionally, prosecutors are often unclear in identifying and analyzing these hate crime offenses and oftentimes do not obtain enough evidence from police when going to trial. Senior police officials assure these considerations are being taken seriously, and they are working "hard to improve its handling."
Full Story: Disability Hate Crime is 'Overlooked and Under-Reported,' Mar. 21, 2013, available at
I. POP CULTURE
1. Television Show Goes Silent & Uses Only ASL to Make a Statement
On March 4, 2013, the television show "Switched at Birth," which has used American Sign Language (ASL) in its episodes since its inception, made a bold statement by airing an episode where ASL was the only language used, and besides the background music, the episode was almost completely silent. During the episode one character, Daphne, set off the alarm in a house. This scene illustrated the confusion a deaf person can experience. As hearing characters were running around, Daphne and the viewers did not know why at first because both the viewers and Daphne could not hear the alarm going off.
Using ASL to make a statement was powerful, particularly for this episode, because Daphne's Deaf school was being threatened as the school board wanted to shut down the Deaf school and integrate Deaf students into hearing schools. The students protested on campus and refused to leave. In the next episode, where the protesters will learn if they can save their school, there will be sound. Lizzy Weiss, the creator of the show, said that this will probably be the only all-ASL episode they ever do because they want to keep it a special experience.
Full Story: Jason Hughes, 'Switched At Birth' Goes Silent with Episode Almost Entirely in ASL, American Sign Language, Huffington Post, Mar. 5, 2013, available at
2. Disability Community Applauds The Onion for Taking on Inspiration Porn
On March 21, 2013 The Onion, an American news satire organization, published a satirical article entitled "Amputee Inspires Others Not To Lose Limbs." The article, posted in the Human Interest section, discussed how a man who had his legs amputated several years ago had to "overcome many personal obstacles" but that his greatest achievement is his ability to inspire others not to lose their own limbs. The piece goes on for several paragraphs about how inspiring the man is and how others have learned so much from him and appreciate their own limbs so much more after hearing his story.
Since the article's release on the Internet, the Disability Community has been applauding The Onion for taking on what many in the Disability Community call "inspiration porn." Inspiration porn is an image or a story of a person with a disability doing something completely ordinary such as talking, working, or throwing a ball, that is used to "inspire" people without disabilities. Many people with disabilities have rejected inspiration porn, including Stella Young, a reporter who wrote "We're not here for your inspiration." Because the Disability Community rejects inspiration porn, the community was excited to see The Onion write a satirical piece about it. After reading the piece, Lawrence Carter-Long stated, "The Onion knows the only thing inspiration porn can't overcome is satire. Quite funny." Other people with disabilities on social networking sites also appreciated that article, saying, "Spot on parody of inspiration porn!" and "The Onion knows what's up."
Full Story: Amputee Inspires Others Not to Lose Limbs, The Onion, Mar. 21, 2013, available at
See Also: Stella Young, We're Not Here for Your Inspiration, The Drum, July 3, 2012, available at
See Also: (SATIRE), The Onion: Amputee Inspires Others Not to Lose Limbs, Cripple Fabulous: Hell on Crutches, available at
See Also: Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement, Facebook Post from Mar. 21, 2013, Facebook.com, available at
J. SPECIAL FEATURE ARTICLE WRITTEN BY STEPHANIE WOODWARD
Society tends to view people with disabilities as asexual beings or nonviable sex partners and the media is promoting these stereotypical notions of people with disabilities. Recently articles have been written about "The Sessions," a movie about a man with a disability who uses an iron lung and hired a sexual surrogate to lose his virginity. The media has also focused on Becky Adams, a former madam who is planning on opening an accessible brothel in 2014. These stories perpetuate the idea that the only way for individuals with disabilities to have sex is to pay for it. This idea is both harmful and false.
"I want a world that sees disabled people as sexual and valid prospective partners," said Mik Scarlet, a writer and campaigner in sexuality and disability. However, media portrayals of people with disabilities are not helpful. Laurence Clark, a comedian with cerebral palsy, pointed out that the media rarely shows people with disabilities in relationships or having sexual partners. In reality though, many people with disabilities do have sex. A survey of 1,000 individuals with disabilities in the United Kingdom found that 85 percent of the people had had sex and almost 50 percent had a sexual partner.
Not only do people with disabilities have sex, but they enjoy sex. Sophie Morgan, a woman who became paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident, is frequently asked "Can you have sex?" Morgan says she enjoyed sex before she was paralyzed and still has sex and enjoys sex now. She thinks that having a disability offers the opportunity to be more creative in the bedroom because people with disabilities may enjoy sex in different ways. Morgan is frustrated that movies like "The Sessions" send the message that people with disabilities cannot have fulfilling sex lives.
Rachelle Friedman, a woman who became paralyzed before her wedding, also gets asked questions about her sex life. While her sex life is not exactly the same as before she had a disability, she and her husband still have sex and they still enjoy it. Additionally, Friedman clarified that she can have babies and that she and her husband plan to have children when they feel financially stable.
In fact, many people with disabilities get married and have children. Clark and his wife, Adele, who also has cerebral palsy, were featured in the BBC documentary "We Won't Drop the Baby," which followed them as they prepared for their second child's birth. Not only are they married and having children, but they believe many people with disabilities are in emotionally and sexually fulfilling relationships.
People with disabilities do not just date and marry each other like the Clarks. There are many "mixed" relationships where one partner has a disability and the other does not, such as Morgan and Friedman who are both in relationships with men without disabilities.
Whether individuals with disabilities are in "mixed" a relationship or a relationship with another person with a disability or not in any relationship, the fact remains that people with disabilities can have sex and enjoy sex much like everyone else.
See: Frances Ryan, 'I Want a World Where Disabled People Are Valid Sexual Partners' New Film The Sessions Has Put Disability and Sex in the Spotlight. But Is the Focus on Prostitution Helpful? The Guardian, Feb. 12, 2013, available at
See: 'The Paralyzed Bride' Talks Life & Sex as a 27-Year-Old Quadriplegic, The Daily Beast, Feb, 27, 2013, available at
See: Sophie Morgan, Can You Still Enjoy Sex if You're Severely Disabled? This Bride-to-Be, Who Has No Feeling from the Chest Down, Gives a Resounding Yes, Yes, YES!, Daily Mail Online, Mar. 9, 2013, available at
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