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
July 8, 2014
Volume 11, Issue 4
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
J. ANNOUNCEMENTS: Books, financial aid, and events
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Push for CRPD Ratification Expected to Be Renewed
The Supreme Court's decision in Bond v. United States on June 2, 2014, provided a path forward for the Senate to consent to ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), according to Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. The Bond decision centered on the prosecution of a local crime under the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. The Court's ruling shows that an international treaty can maintain existing states' rights and prerogatives. One of the major concerns of ratifying the CRPD was that it would negate or overrule state and/or federal laws already in place; with the Bond decision, the Court has clearly shown that the ratification of an international treaty does not automatically restrict federalism or the rights of individual states. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin agrees: "The Supreme Court's ruling in Bond has removed any possible remaining reason for hesitating to enact the Convention. ... The Court's decision clearly shows that such a treaty can be ratified ... without undermining and, in fact, preserving states' rights."
The unanimous judgment handed down in Bond supports the assertion that there is no obstacle to ratifying the CRPD. A coalition of over 800 disability, veteran, and faith organizations working in support of the CRPD have already called on the Senate to proceed promptly to ratification of the CRPD.
Full story: Niels Lesniewski, Dole, Harkin Renew Disability Treaty Push after SCOTUS Decision, CQ-Roll Call, Inc., June 3, 2014,
See also: United States International Council on Disabilities, Disability Advocates Call for Senate Action on Treaty Following Supreme Court Ruling in Bond Case, June 2, 2014,
2. Civil Rights Act of 1964 Anniversary
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted July 2, 1964, and is still considered a landmark piece of legislation for civil rights across the nation. As the 50th anniversary of the Act approaches, many events to celebrate are being announced.
On June 20th, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services joined with the U.S. Department of Justice to host "From Segregation to Integration: Celebrating Landmark Anniversaries," a day commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, as well as the 15th Anniversary of the Olmstead decision.
For further information: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Office for Civil Rights,
See also: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Office for Civil Rights, May 2014,
3. NYC Approves Surcharge to Pay for Accessible Taxis
In December of last year, New York City reached a settlement agreement to make at least half of its taxis wheelchair accessible within the next six years. At the time of the settlement only 233 out of the city's 13,000 cabs were accessible. To pay for those accommodations the de Blasio administration unanimously passed a rule providing for a 30 cent surcharge on all cab fares beginning next year.
However, it is unknown how this new rule will affect the settlement agreement against New York City. The Taxi and Limousine Commission selected the Nissan NV200 van as the sole taxi vehicle for the next ten years as part of its Taxi of Tomorrow plan. Last month, Judge Daniels of the Southern District of New York allowed the class of plaintiffs to amend their complaint to challenge the legality of this vehicle choice under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Full Story: Matt Flegenheimer, NYC Approves 30 Cent Surcharge to Pay for Accessible Taxis, The New York Times, Apr. 30, 2014,
See also: Press Release, Disability Rights Advocates, Federal Judge Rules New Yorkers with Disabilities Can Challenge Taxi of Tomorrow in Lawsuit Seeking Accessible Taxis, Apr. 8, 2013,
4. Supreme Court Rules Capital Punishment Exemption Unconstitutionally Applied
On May 27, 2014, the Supreme Court issued a 5 to 4 decision in Hall v. Florida, finding that Florida's courts were interpreting unconstitutionally a state statute that provides that an individual who otherwise would be considered for the death penalty is ineligible if the individual is determined to have an intellectual disability. Florida's courts used the IQ score as a barrier to reviewing further evidence of intellectual capacity, did not acknowledge that the score could be imprecise or allow for a range instead of a specific number score, and did not comport with the decisions or practices of the majority of other states. A handful of states also have similar hard cutoffs for intellectual disability in regards to capital punishment.
According to Justice Kennedy's majority opinion, "Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number." If a defendant, such as Hall, is within a range, rather than above or below a specific cutoff, he should be allowed to offer additional evidence of disability, such as the inability to learn basic skills or adapt to changing circumstances.
Full story: Robert Barnes & Matt Zapotosky, Supreme Court Strikes Down Florida Law on Intellectually Disabled Death Row Inmates, The Washington Post, May 27, 2014,
See also: Hall v. Florida, SCOTUSblog, May 27, 2014,
1. Charter Schools Must Follow Federal Civil Rights Laws
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issued a "Dear Colleague" letter on May 14, 2014, clarifying that charter schools have the same obligations to abide by federal civil rights laws as regular public schools. It includes specific guidance for charter schools related to admissions, students with disabilities, English-language learners, and discipline.
The letter firmly reminds charter schools nationwide that they cannot discriminate in admissions on the basis of race, national origin, or disability status. Charter schools are required to ensure FAPE for every student, and thus must provide appropriate evaluation and assessment; special aids, services, and programs; and equal opportunity to access non-academic and extracurricular activities. Additionally, because national data released back in March from the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection showed that students with disabilities continued to be disciplined at higher rates than their peers, the letter guided charter schools to step back from zero-tolerance policies and to ensure that their policies and practices don't have a "disparate impact" on students who have disabilities.
Full story: Evie Blad, Federal Civil Rights Laws Apply Equally to Charter Schools, Guidance Says, Education Week, May 14, 2014,
See also: Dear Colleague Letter, U.S. Department of Education: Office for Civil Rights, May 14, 2014,
2. LSAC Settles Discrimination Lawsuit
The U.S. Department of Justice announced on May 20, 2014, that the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) settled a lawsuit against the LSAC claiming discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Allegedly, the LSAC routinely denied accommodation requests and had engaged in widespread and systemic discrimination in violation of the ADA.
The settlement includes a payout of $7.73 million to over 6,000 individuals who had been denied accommodations or had their tests marked to identify such individuals to prospective law schools. The agreement also requires the LSAC to reform its policies and stop flagging LSAT scores for people who receive extended time.
Full story: Jennifer Smith, Law School Admission Council Settles Disability Lawsuit, Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2014,
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. New Technology Helps Diagnose Severe Intellectual Disability
New genome sequencing technology is capable of diagnosing up to 62% of persons with a genetically-determined severe intellectual disability based on genetic data, which is a higher result than all other current technologies combined. Researchers discovered 84 new sequence variations and eight new "copy-number variations" associated with severe intellectual disability. Study co-author Joris Veltman, a geneticist at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, asserts that these new findings suggest that genetic anomalies that aren't inherited are a major cause of severe intellectual disability: "Only in exceptional cases it is a hereditary cause and the mutation is found in the genes of father, mother or both."
Full story: Charles Choi, Genome Sequencing Reveals Severe Intellectual Disability in Patients, Live Science, June 4, 2014,
See also: Whole Genome Sequencing Reveals Severe Intellectual Disability in Patients, News-Medical.net, June 5, 2014,
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Disability Advocates Alleged Denial of Medical Care for Individuals with Disabilities
On May 23, 2014, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Not Dead Yet, and 12 other disability rights organizations filed an amicus brief in a case challenging the University of Wisconsin Hospital Center's alleged practice of counseling families of people with developmental disabilities to withhold care for treatable but potentially life-threatening medical conditions, such as pneumonia. It is claimed that doctors from the University of Wisconsin Hospital Center based their recommendations to withhold treatment on their own beliefs that the patients had a low quality of life as individuals with disabilities. The brief argues that such actions represent widespread medical discrimination practices against people with disabilities and that legal protections are necessary to protect vulnerable individuals from the denial of care.
The hospital's Ethics Committee did not supply their approval for the doctors' decisions. The Chairman of the Committee, however, defends the use of electric shocks to modify the behavior of children and adults with disabilities and supports the "Ashley Treatment," which involves removing the reproductive organs and artificially stunting the growth of children with developmental disabilities.
Full story: Press Release, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Disability Rights Orgs File Amicus Brief Challenging Withholding Medical Care Due to Disability, May 27, 2014,
2. CDC Reports Nearly Half of Individuals with Disabilities Are Physically Inactive
A new study released on May 6, 2014 by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly half of adults with disabilities are physically inactive, which puts their health in serious risk. Researchers said that the number of inactive individuals with disabilities is alarming and that they are 50% more likely to report having a chronic condition like cancer, diabetes, stroke, or heart disease. The CDC says health professionals and community leaders need to work with those with disabilities to help them overcome barriers to fitness and recreation.
Full story: Michelle Diament, CDC: 1 In 2 with Disabilities Physically Inactive, Disability Scoop, May 7, 2014,
See also: Dianna D. Carroll et al., Vital Signs: Disability and Physical Activity - United States, 2009-2012, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 6, 2014,
3. Method of Screening Children for Autism Spectrum Disorders May Work at 9 Months Old
Researchers have been looking for a method to diagnose children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) at a younger age. Most children are not diagnosed until the age of four, although ASD has been identified as early as the age of two. Researchers recently conducted a study on 1,000 children that may lead to diagnoses of ASD in children as young as nine months.
The current screening tool for ASD is the M-CHAT questionnaire that is completed by parents and interpreted by a healthcare provider. However, the method being studied by researchers relies on two biomarkers; head circumference and head tilting. Those children whose head circumference was above or equal to the 75th percentile for children their age, was in a ten percent discrepancy with their height, and who failed the head tilting test were considered at risk for ASD or a developmental or language delay. These children were then evaluated by specialists to differentiate between the two disorders. Of those considered at risk for ASD, 93% retained the diagnosis when it was made by a clinician at age three.
Researchers will continue to study the reliability of this method. According to Andre Gropman, Chief of Neurogenetics at Children's National, "the sooner we identify these delays, the better the outcome for those affected."
Full Story: Children's National Medical Center, New Method of Screening Children for Autism Spectrum Disorders Works at 9 Months Old, Science Daily, Apr. 15, 2014,
1. New Rules for Disability Caregivers Prompt Changes
Beginning January 1, 2015, two million home care workers (or direct care workers) will be able to earn minimum wage and overtime pay because of a final rule put into effect by the Obama Administration last September that extends the Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage requirement. Fifteen states are already paying home care workers minimum wage.
With this new requirement not only will millions be able to earn a better wage, but turnover in these fields likely will decrease and quality of care for clients is expected to improve. There is discontent among some employers and legislators who face additional costs beginning in January. But ultimately, as the National Employment Law Project says, "The changes in the final rule 'will correct a decades-old injustice that has fueled poverty wages and destabilized an increasingly vital industry.'"
Full Story: Pamela M. Prah, New Rules for Disability Caregivers Prompt Changes, Disability Scoop, Apr. 28, 2014,
See also: Press Release, US Department of Labor, Minimum Wage, Overtime Protections Extended to Direct Care Workers by US Labor Department, Sept. 17, 2013,
2. Job Training Goes High-Tech for People with Autism
Researchers are using virtual software to simulate job interviews with people on the autism spectrum. The software was previously used to train FBI agents, and enables potential applicants to complete an interview with a human resources representative and then receive feedback. The software simulates different interview styles and adapts questions based on an interviewee's answers. The findings published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders report improved confidence and responses in actual interviews as a result of the software program.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Job Training Goes High-Tech for People with Autism, Disability Scoop, May 9, 2014,
3. Public Input Sought on Employment Regulations
The EEOC announced on May 15, 2014, that it is inviting public input on potential revisions to the regulations implementing Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by federal agencies. The EEOC is looking to expand the description of what it means for federal agencies to be "model employers" of individuals with disabilities. They have issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comments from members of the public on what the amended regulations should say and will accept such comments until 5:00pm EDT on Monday, July 14, 2014.
Full story: Press Release, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC Seeks Public Input on Regulations Requiring Federal Agencies to Be 'Model Employers' of Individuals with Disabilities, May 15, 2014,
See also: US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The Federal Sector's Obligation to be a Model Employer of Individuals with Disabilities, Federal Register, v. 79, pp. 27,824-826, May 15, 2014,
1. Guidelines Issued for Emergency Transportable Housing
The final guidelines for emergency transportable housing were published in the Federal Register on May 7, 2014. The Access Board's guidelines furnish new requirements that supplement current accessibility guidelines for residential dwelling units, and add provisions and exceptions specific to emergency transportable housing units.
These emergency housing units are used to provide temporary housing for individuals whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by a disaster until permanent housing is found. The newly released guidelines specify what accommodations need to be included, such as mobility aids, communication accessibility, and clearances, and how many units are required to incorporate these accommodations.
Full story: US Access Board, Board Issues Guidelines for Emergency Transportable Housing, May 7, 2014,
See also: US Access Board, Final Guidelines for Emergency Transportable Housing, Federal Register, v. 79, pp. 26,125-143, May 7, 2014,
2. Proposed Shift in Tennessee's Priorities to Focus on Independent Living and Employment
On May 30, 2014, Tennessee released a "concept paper" for overhauling the way the state cares for people with intellectual disabilities. State officials will collect feedback from families, advocates, and the public and then Tennessee must submit a more detailed plan for approval by the federal Medicaid program. If approved, this plan could make Tennessee the first state in the nation to specifically gear services toward independent living and employment as the "first and preferred option." Tennessee is looking to shift its priorities from around-the-clock residential care for thousands of people to a system that would provide more services such as personal assistance and transportation while offering vocational training, job coaching, and job support.
Full story: Anita Wadhwani, Tennessee Could Lead Way on Disability Services, The Tennessean, May 31, 2014,
1. South Africa Implements Process for Inclusive Voting
Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires that ratifying countries provide people with disabilities the accommodations that will enable their equal right to vote. Yet many individuals with disabilities, such as in South Africa, have not had equal access to voting. South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) implemented processes for elections in early May 2014 to enable people with disabilities to vote, including the improvement of Braille ballot paper.
Full Story: Lebo Tshangela, Disability Group Gives IEC the Thumbs Up on Special Voting, SABC News, May 6, 2014,
2. Voices Against Violence Project Documents Elevated Risk of Violence Against Women with Disabilities
The Voices Against Violence project, an initiative of Women with Disabilities Victoria, the Office for the Public Advocate, and the Domestic Violence Resources Centre Victoria, was launched in May of 2014 in Victoria, Australia. This project highlights research findings that women with disabilities experience violence to a higher degree and for longer than women in the general population, with stereotypes of disability contributing to this preventable violence.
The project includes seven individual reports and conveys the extent and nature of violence against women with disabilities in Victoria, Australia. Natasha Stott Despoja, Ambassador for Women and Girls and Chair of the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children, is hopeful that the research provided by the Voices Against Violence project will offer a solution to such violence: "The answer to preventing this violence lies in addressing the norms and behaviours that support rigid gender roles and gender stereotyping and in gender equality."
Full story: Women with Disabilities Victoria, Voices Against Violence Launch,
I. POP CULTURE
1. Dancing Sisters Featured on Good Morning America
The Good Morning America television program featured North Portland sisters, Uriah Boyd (18) and Kiera Brinkley (20), on June 4, 2014. Brinkley lost parts of both arms and legs to an infection when she was two years old, yet through her determination she taught herself to move and dance. Brinkley notes that professional dancing is hard on the body. Amputees, especially, "aren't really supposed to dance." Dancing sharpens Brinkley's bones to pencil points. Every time she relevés -- a ballet move that puts most dancers on their tiptoes and Brinkley on bone ends -- she is edging herself one step closer to surgery. Because of this, every few years she goes to the hospital for a doctor to break the sharpened bones off and reset her legs. She spends months afterward unable to independently walk, use the bathroom, or fix meals for herself.
After a performance at the Newmark Theater, the sisters helped raise more than $20,000 for their documentary "Soar" through a crowdfunding platform. The film follows the past two years of the sisters' lives using dance and disability to explore the ways siblings form separate identities from each other. "It's about the human potential, how we grow and contract and continue and live," said Melissa St. Clair, a dance choreographer who works with the sisters.
Full story: Casey Parks, Good Morning America Features North Portland Dancers, Sisters Shaped by Disability, Oregon Live: The Oregonian, June 4, 2014,
See also: Casey Parks, Documentary follows sisters Kiera Brinkley and Uriah Boyd through dance, disability and search for identity, Oregon Live: The Oregonian, Mar. 19, 2014,
2. Archie Comics Introduces First Character with a Disability
In an effort to better reflect modern life, comic book mainstay Archie and his pals are set to get their first-ever friend with a disability. The new character, Harper, is described as a "spunky fashionista" with a "dynamic personality." Those behind the comic said that despite being depicted in a wheelchair, she does not let her disability define her. Harper's first appearance is in "Archie" No. 656, which became available June 18.
According to "Archie" writer and artist Dan Parent, "You don't want the character to be only about [the disability]. ... And she uses her disability to empower other people. So we address it, but we don't make the entire story about it."
Full story: Jessica Goldstein, Meet Harper: The First Archie Comics Character with a Disability, Think Progress, June 5, 2014,
See also: Michelle Diament, Comic Book Adds Character with Disability, Disability Scoop, June 4, 2014,
The staff of the Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter welcomes suggestions for announcements incorporating a focus on disability law or policy in forthcoming issues. If you would like to bring calls for papers or proposals, conferences or events, book announcements, new resources, or scholarship, fellowship or internship competitions to our attention, please send them to email@example.com. Thank you.
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