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
September 11, 2013
Volume 10, Issue 5
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. Goodwill Industries Paying Employees with Disabilities Less than Minimum Wage
Goodwill Industries, a multibillion-dollar company, uses a 75-year-old federal law known as Section 14(c) as a loophole to pay its workers with disabilities as little as 22 cents an hour while paying the CEOs of approximately 150 Goodwill franchises salaries that totaled more than $30 million. Goodwill International CEO Jim Gibbons defended Goodwill's practices claiming that for many people who make less than minimum wage, the experience of work is more important than the pay. "It's typically not about their livelihood. It's about their fulfillment. It's about being a part of something," he said. However, Sheila Leigland, a blind woman who worked at a Goodwill store, quit her job when she returned to work after knee surgery and found that her wage had been dropped to $2.75 per hour. "At $2.75 it would barely cover my cost of getting to work. I wouldn't make any money," she said. "It's a question of civil rights," she added. "I feel like a second-class citizen. And I hate it."
Those who oppose Section 14(c) hope that a new bill currently before Congress would repeal Section 14(c) and make subminimum wages illegal across the board. "Meaningful work deserves fair pay," the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Gregg Harper, stated, "This dated provision unjustly prohibits workers with disabilities from reaching their full potential."
Full Story: Anna Schecter, Disabled Workers Paid Just Pennies an Hour - And It's Legal, NBC News, June 21, 2013, available at
2. Rhode Island Phasing Out Sheltered Workshops, Focuses on Integrated Employment
Rhode Island, after recently adopting the Employment First policy, is moving to eliminate sheltered workshops that have been violating the rights of people with disabilities for years. The Employment First policy prioritizes finding jobs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in integrated workplaces. In June, Rhode Island began to shut down its sheltered workshops, including the one at Training Thru Placement, Inc., which the U.S. Justice Department began investigating in January because approximately 200 people there were unnecessarily segregated, performing manual labor for substandard wages, and little effort was being made to assist these individuals in obtaining more meaningful work in integrated settings.
Most people who currently work in the Training Thru Placement facility earn $1.57 per hour, on average, and assemble, sort and package jewelry or medical equipment, even though they are capable of working and want to work at a typical job placement. With the new Employment First Policy, individuals with developmental disabilities will no longer be placed in sheltered workshops. Instead, they will receive assistance in accessing jobs in typical work settings, working with employees and customers without disabilities and earning competitive wages. The sheltered workshops will be phased out in the next two to three years.
Full Story: Erika Niedowski, RI to Close All 'Sheltered Workshops' For Disabled, The Associated Press, June 14, 2013, available at
1. August CHAT Camp at the Burton Blatt Institute
In early August, the Burton Blatt Institute and the Communication Hope through Assistive Technology (CHAT) program had their pilot introduction of the CHAT Camp. This one-week day camp experience offered children with disabilities who are nonverbal a variety of onsite and offsite activities to communicate with augmentative communications tools, learn, explore, and make friends with each other. While the campers were having fun, the parents and legal guardians attended workshops led by various disability studies speakers and adults who use augmentative and alternative communication methods. Parents also had the opportunity to connect and share life stories with other families.
Full Story: CHAT Camp at BBI, August 5-9, 2013, BBI, available at
See Also: Daily CHAT Camp Blogs, BBI, available at
2. Dozens Attend Project ENABLE Session for Disability Awareness Training
In July and August, two Project ENABLE workshops were held at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies (iSchool) for librarians, educators, and faculty from sixteen states. Project ENABLE is funded by a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Faculty of the iSchool's Center for Digital Literacy and the Law School's Burton Blatt Institute conducted the week-long workshop addressing disability awareness, developing inclusive school library programs and services, and collaboration for the thirty three-person teams comprised of school librarians, general and special educators. The $237,973 grant permitted the expansion of Project ENABLE's program beyond its initial roots in New York State and the development of the free Project ENABLE online learning modules. Library Science faculty from nine universities also attended to learn how to incorporate the Project ENABLE curriculum in their graduate programs.
See: Diane Stirling, Dozens Attend Project ENABLE Session for Disability Awareness Training, BBI, July 8, 2013, available at
3. Feds Allege Transition Program Amounted to Sweatshop
In early June, the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Civil Rights Division sent a 17-page letter to local officials in Providence, RI, stating that students with developmental disabilities were paid 50 cents to $2 per hour doing tasks for a sheltered workshop while participating in a vocational program at Mount Pleasant High School. Records for the workshop were poor and wages did not correspond to the jobs students performed. One student said she was required to spend all day there at times to meet production deadlines.
Even when requested, students were not offered opportunities to try competitive employment placements and once they left high school, the students were "funneled to segregated, sheltered, workshops." The DOJ found that the city "planned, structured, administered and funded its transition service in a manner that imposes a serious risk of unnecessary segregation" in violation of the ADA. As a result of the investigation, the sheltered workshop has been closed and an agreement reached so that individuals with disabilities can "find, get, keep, and succeed in real jobs with real wages" and when they are not working, these individuals will be provided access to integrated, community-based recreational, social, educational, cultural, and athletic activities.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Feds Allege Transition Program Amounted to Sweatshop, Disability Scoop, June 13, 2013, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. FCC Proposal for Accessible Television Guides for the Blind
In early June, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it was working on a proposal to improve accessibility for blind and visually-impaired television users in accordance with the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The proposal includes a requirement that cable and satellite television providers have an option to have TV menus or guides read aloud. Additionally, the proposal requires that the essential functions of the TV, such as volume adjustment, program information, and configuration settings, to be accessible to blind and visually-impaired users. The FCC expects to publish the proposed rule by October of this year. It will be able for public review and comments for fifty days after its publication.
Full Story: Julian Hattem, FCC Proposes Making TV Menus Accessible to Blind, The Hill, June 17, 2013, available at
2. Microsoft Utilizes Motion Sensor Technology for Kinect Sign Language Program
Microsoft has developed a sign language translation and conversation program for its Xbox Kinect. The design utilizes motion sensor technology, such as that used by the Samsung Galaxy S4, to convert American Sign Language (ASL) into text or speech by tracking a person's hand gestures. The program also allows a person who does not know ASL to use text which is then converted into ASL using an avatar. The design is still in the development stages and Microsoft has not set a release date for the program yet.
Full story: Xbox Kinect Will Let You Talk to Your TV...in Sign Language, Huffington Post, available at
See Also: Steve Dent, Microsoft Research Turns Kinect into Canny Sign Language Reader, Engadget, July 18, 2013, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Affordable Care Act May Mean Better Coverage for Persons with Disabilities
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has outlined new essential health benefits that insurance companies will be required to cover when the act goes into effect January 1, 2014. Some habilitative services will be covered under the ACA because they are categorized as an essential health benefit. These services include individual medical aid that is designed to improve day-to-day living for persons with disabilities.
However, the ACA appears to allow health insurance companies some degree of choice as to which kinds of habilitative services to cover within benefit categories. The interpretation of this ACA's inclusion of habilitative service coverage will have a significant impact on persons with disabilities who require individual treatments to enhance their daily living. The federal government plans to review the ACA periodically after it takes effect.
Full story: Eric Whitney, Health Care Law Presents Complex Choices for People with Disabilities, Disability Scoop, Aug. 13, 2013, available at
1. Governors Move toward Improving Employment Rate for Persons with Disabilities
At the National Governors Association meeting this summer in Milwaukee, governors began working on policy recommendations that may improve the employment rate of persons with disabilities. One in three adults with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64 are employed according to a February Census Bureau report.
The governors hope to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities by modifying state hiring practices and workplaces. Additionally, the governors are also trying to encourage private-sector hiring of persons with disabilities by promoting K-12 work readiness preparation and supporting businesses that are seeking employees by providing liaisons to agencies that support persons with disabilities.
Full Story: Governors Push to Help Disabled Find Jobs, SF Gate, Aug. 9, 2013, available at
2. Job Applicant Claims Paruresis as a Disability under the ADA
Jennifer Conner, who was diagnosed with "shy bladder" syndrome, or paruresis, as an adolescent, is suing Iowa Methodist Medical Center for requiring her to take a drug test without making any considerations for her paruresis. Conner was required to provide a urine sample after she was hired as an organ transplant financial coordinator and failed to do so. Conner's job offer was then rescinded.
Conner claims that the hospital discriminated against her by forcing her to provide a urine sample in a bathroom without running water, which would aid her ability to urinate, and by increasing her anxiety by having nurses knock on the door to check on her multiple times. She was eventually asked to leave the bathroom when she could not provide a sample after some time, and then had to wait until she could use the facilities again which caused her further physical discomfort and anxiety. In 2007, paruresis was acknowledged as a disability under the ADA in Kinneary v. City of New York when a unanimous vote by the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. However, in 2010, this decision was reversed when the Second Circuit found that the plaintiff was not otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of his job.
Full story: Michelle Castillo, Woman with "Shy Bladder" Claims She was Discriminated against During a Drug Test, CBS News, Apr. 29, 2013, available at
See Also: Kinneary v. City of New York, 601 F.3d 151 (2d Cir. 2010); unpublished 2007 decision available at
1. HUD Releases New Guidance for Accessible, Integrated Housing
In an effort to increase integrated housing opportunities for individuals with disabilities who are transitioning from, or at serious risk of entering, institutional settings, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new guidance to HUD-assisted housing providers on how they can support Olmstead efforts. A lack of integrated and affordable housing options has been a significant barrier to states that are working to transition individuals with disabilities from segregated institutional settings to integrated, community-based settings as required by the Supreme Court's Olmstead mandate.
"There is a tremendous need for affordable housing where individuals with disabilities are able to live and be part of the very fabric of their communities," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "HUD is committed to offering housing options that enable individuals with disabilities to live in the most integrated settings possible and to fully participate in community life." HUD's guidance, though helpful to some individuals with disabilities, is limited to HUD funding recipients, such as states, local governments, public housing agencies, and developers of multifamily properties.
Full Story: Shantae Goodloe, HUD Issues New Guidance to Encourage Participation in State Efforts to Assist Individuals Moving Out of Institutions and into Housing, HUD.gov, June 4, 2013, available at
1. China's Disabled Pupils Face Exclusion amid Pressure to Adapt, Warns Human Rights Watch
In mid-July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report entitled "As Long as They Let Us Stay in Class," which reveals a gulf between the government's promises and its actions. In 2008, China ratified the U.N. treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which obliges the country to provide equal access to education for children with disabilities. While China's officials paint a cheery picture of the country's disability programs, "some schools fail -- or simply refuse -- to provide these students what they need." Further, even if disabled pupils complete their compulsory education, colleges require them to undergo physical examinations and are permitted to reject them based on the results.
China is home to at least 83 million people with disabilities, 40% of whom are illiterate, and 28% of children with disabilities are not receiving the basic education to which they are legally entitled. Children enrolled in special schools are often separated from their parents at a young age and many parents are unaware of the school's existence. The report states that parents often do not realize their children have equal rights. In addition, at mainstream schools, "the teachers there don't know about teaching kids with disabilities. They have very little support, very few resources, very little training." Mainstream schools often put the burden on the child to adapt to their environment: "one parent was explicitly told by the school that since her child is in a 'normal environment,' it is the child with the disability who must adapt, not the other way around." HRW found few or no accommodations provided to students in mainstream schools at all stages of education. The HRW report is based on 62 interviews conducted in China between December 2012 and May 2013 with children with disabilities or their parents.
Full Story: Jonathan Kaiman, China's Disabled Pupils Face Exclusion amid Pressure to Adapt, Warns HRW, The Guardian, July 16, 2013, available at
1. American Sign Language Interpreter Catches Attention at Bonnaroo
Holly Maniatty, an American Sign Language interpreter who interpreted for musicians at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, caught the attention of the social media world when a video of her interpreting for the Wu-Tang Clan was posted in mid-June. Many people were fascinated by Maniatty's signing because they had never seen anyone interpret hip-hop. Maniatty, who studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester, has been signing at concerts for 13 years. To prepare for shows, Maniatty watches videos of artists, reviews and memorizes lyrics, and researches local dialects to ensure accurate interpreting. She also studies the body movements of the artist so that she can also convey the meaning through her own body as a part of the interpreting so that the Deaf concertgoers can have an equal experience.
One hard of hearing woman at Bonnaroo, Kat Murphy, watched Maniatty interact with the rappers and thought Maniatty was "amazing" and "didn't skip a beat" even when rapper Killer Mike jumped off the stage and onto Maniatty's platform, started rapping even faster, and saying every dirty word he could think of just to see if Maniatty could keep up. Before Bonnaroo Killer Mike did not even know he had Deaf fans, but after the show he said he was "honored" to have Maniatty interpreting for him. "You wonder how they can even keep up," he says. "That's an art form; that's more than just a technical skill."
Full Story: Amy K. Nelson, How Do You Say Shaolin in Sign Language? Meet the Interpreter Who Has Signed for the Wu-Tang Clan, Killer Mike, and the Beastie Boys, Slate.com, June 21, 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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