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
December 10, 2014
Volume 11, Issue 9
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. POP CULTURE: News and topics may vary
J. ANNOUNCEMENTS: Books, financial aid, and events
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Congress Prepared to Pass Bipartisan Financial Savings Act in December
After years of waiting, the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) was passed by the House of Representatives on December 3, 2014. The ABLE Act would allow people with disabilities to establish a savings account to deposit up to $14,000 in accounts annually without risking eligibility for government benefits like social security. Medicaid coverage under the Act would be protected no matter how much money is deposited in the accounts. Funds that are saved under an ABLE account can be used for education, health care, transportation or housing. Any interest earned on these funds is earned tax free.
The proposed Act was originally introduced in 2006. Legislators and advocates are attempting to push the bill through the Senate before the end of the year when a new Congress will convene. It is expected to pass with bipartisan support.
See the full text of the bill and its status:
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Lawmakers Poised to Vote on ABLE Act, Disablityscoop.com, Dec. 2 2014, available at
See Also: Alex Rogers, House Passes Bill to Help Disabled Save for Living Expenses, Time, Dec. 3, 2014, available at
See Also: Congress Plans to Pass Bill to Widen Federal Help for Disabled, Fox News, Dec. 3, 2014, available at
2. Settlement Improves Outlook for Employees with Disabilities at the SSA
After ten years of litigation the end is in sight for Ronald Jantz, a deaf employee of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other employees with disabilities. Jantz filed a class action suit against the SSA for its alleged discriminatory practices in promoting employees with disabilities. Earlier this month, the EEOC preliminarily approved a classwide settlement that would improve the policies and procedures that affect the careers of employees with disabilities at the SSA. This settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or discrimination, but there will result in sweeping changes regarding the reasonable accommodation process and provision of assistive supports at the SSA. Additionally, $9.98 million dollars will be set aside to pay the claims of eligible class members as well as the legal fees and expenses of the class's counsel.
Full Story: PR Newswire, Social Security Administration and Class Action Counsel Announce Major Settlement of Class Action on Behalf of Employees with Targeted Disabilities, Nov. 5, 2014, available at
3. $60,000 Penalty for Business Owner Denial of Patron with Service Animal
An Oregon businesswoman was assessed a $60,000 penalty for denying access to her business to a woman because of her service animals. Confusion persists as to what qualifies an animal to be a service animal and where service animals are legally protected to go with their handlers. Public education is needed to combat this confusion. The size of the penalty imposed was, in part, to educate the public that disability discrimination in public places is not acceptable. Entities of public accommodations are permitted to only ask if the service animal is required due to the handler's disability and what work or task the dog has been trained to perform. Further inquiring is prohibited by the ADA.
Full Story: George Rede, Despite Hefty Penalty in Oregon Civil Rights Case, Expect More Action, Discussion on Service Animals, The Oregonian, Nov. 12, 2014, available at
4. CRPD Remains Plagued by Senate Inaction
Earlier last month the National Association of Evangelicals dropped their opposition to the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). The dropped opposition could result in gaining the necessary support from U.S. Senate Republicans, believed Senator Tom Harkin. This belief was short lived, however, as such support appears unlikely, according to a vote count of the GOP, which shows Republican holdouts unmoved.
For 30 years, Sen. Harkin has advocated for the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities during his time in the U.S. Senate. His hope was to see the CRPD ratified before his retirement from the U.S. Senate in January. Ratification of the treaty has been completed by 140-plus countries and Sen. Harkin is "dismayed" that the U.S. is not amongst them. The United States voice will remain absent from implementation of the treaty unless it ratifies.
Full Story: James Q. Lynch, Senate Inaction on Disability Rights Dismays Harkin, Sioux City Journal, Nov. 20, 2014, available at
5. To Disclose or Not to Disclose Mental Disability to Employers
More than 18 percent of adults in America have a mental, behavioral or emotional disability. Employees with such disabilities may have to decide if/when/how they go about informing their employer. Employees with mental health disabilities are more likely to disclose to their supervisor than the human resources department due to fear of having a negative comment in their employment records. Even though our society as a whole has seen a reduction in stigma toward mental health disabilities, less progress has occurred in the employment context, making disclosure "dicey," according to Clare Miller. In order to increase the number of persons with disabilities in the workforce, new federal regulations under section 503, in part, require employers that are either federal contractors or subcontractors to encourage their employees to disclose their disabilities.
Full Story: Alina Tugend, Deciding Whether to Disclose Mental Disorders to the Boss, New York Times, Nov. 14, 2014, available at
1. Increased Diagnosis of Autism Has Contributed to Special Ed. Teacher Shortages
Special education teachers are in demand across the nation. One of the reasons is the increased number of children being diagnosed with autism. Without enough special education teachers, the student-special education teacher ratio is very high. Without enough faculty, many students are not getting the individualized attention they need to help them progress.
Helen Esquivel has two sons with autism. She has seen firsthand the difference it had made when a special education specialist provides early intervention services. One of her sons has regressed socially, while the other, who received early intervention, is communicating better than ever and becoming more independent.
Full Story: Rebecca Parr, Autism Surge Creating Special Education Teacher Shortages, Disability Scoop, Nov. 4, 2014, availability at
2. University of Maryland to Begin a Disabilities Studies Minor and Certificate Program
The University of Maryland has received a grant from the state to begin developing a disabilities studies program. The program will offer a minor and a certificate in disability studies. Leading the development of the program are two special education professors Carolyn Fink and Peter Leone. One professor feels the program will bring awareness to the idea that we are all people in an environment and that the environment can be changed to be accessible to everyone.
The professors emphasize that this is not a course solely for individuals with a disability. Professor Fink has said that families today are filled with people who are differently abled and added, "We want University of Maryland to step up and be on the cutting edge of how as a society we think differently about what we mean by this concept of disability." With disability awareness increasing in society, other departments in various social sciences on campus have given their support to the development of the program.
Full Story: Grace Toohey, Univ. of Md. to Offer a Disabilities Studies Minor, Certificate Program, The Diamondback, Nov. 7, 2014, available at
3. WMU Receives over $3 Million in Grants for Blindness and Low Vision Department
The Department of Blindness and Low Vision at Western Michigan University is among one of the oldest of its kind. The university has recently received four grants totaling $3.7 million to assist the department in training specialists to help individuals with vision impairments live better lives. The University plans to train the next generation of rehabilitation therapists, counselors, and teachers for the visually impaired.
The Chair of the Department says the grants should have a national impact. The department attracts students from across the country and these students will bring the training and knowledge they have gained back home with them. The National Eye Institute estimates that as many as five million people in the country have vision impairments and that number is increasing. Unemployment is a problem among these individuals and the University is hoping the specialists they train will be able to increase positive employment outcomes for these individuals.
Full Story: Mark Schwerin, WMU Awarded $3.7 Million for Programs in Blindness and Low Vision, WMU News, Nov. 10, 2014, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. National Council on Disability Issues Recommendations Regarding Technology
In its multifaceted report that addressed several issues ranging from the CRPD to data trends in disability policy, the National Council on Disability (NCD) made several suggestions to improve technological accessibility. Many of their suggestions involved tax incentives or identifying more cost effective ways to increase the availability of accessible technology. Their other recommendations targeted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Labor (DOL). For the FCC, the NCD suggested a continued priority on identifying barriers to broadband access and distributing guidance on best practices to the communications industry and device manufacturers. To the DOL, the Council suggested disseminating guidance on developing accessible job announcements and teaching young students technical skills to prepare them for employment opportunities in the technology industry.
Full Story: National Council on Disability, National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, Oct. 31, 2014, available at
2. Information and Communication Technology Internationally and the CRPD
A joint report prepared pursuant to the CRPD summarized the progress being made internationally regarding information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility. After spending the last seven years working collaboratively, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict) published this report of best practices to be implemented on a policy level. The report is meant to guide national policy in the creation of ICT accessibility policymaking in the future. By the end of 2014 it is expected that seven billion people will have mobile phone subscriptions and three billion will be Internet users; however, few nations have policies in place to ensure that people with disabilities can access these technologies.
The recommendations are organized into six different modules, which are discussed in greater detail. Those modules are: (1) ICT accessibility legal, policy, and regulatory framework; (2) ICT accessibility framework on public access; (3) mobile communications accessibility policy framework; (4) television/video programming accessibility policy framework; (5) web accessibility policy framework; and (6) accessible ICT public procurement policy framework.
Full Story: International Telecommunications Union, Model ICT Accessibility: Policy Report, Nov. 2014, available at
3. RESNA Completes Film on the Life Experiences of Users of Assistive Technology
RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society) member Lynne Deese, an assistive technologist with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program (NCATP), recently completed a film that highlights the life experiences of assistive technology users. The film, An Accessible Life, focuses on how these users attend school, interact with others, and participate in meaningful employment through the use of assistive technology. Of particular note is the focus on facilitated communication, which is a form of augmentative and alternative communication that enables communication through typing or pointing while an aide provides physical and/or emotional support.
Full Story: RESNA, Short Film "An Accessible Life" Debuts at State Conference, Nov. 19, 2014, available at
View the Film: NC Assistive Technology Program, An Accessible Life,
See Also: Lisa Jo Rudy, Facilitated Communication and Autism, About Health, Feb. 5, 2014,
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Home-Care Workers Won't See Wage Increases Just Yet
The Department of Labor announced in early October that they will hold off on enforcing a new regulation requiring the home-care industry to pay minimum wages, overtime pay, and the travel time of home-care workers who look after elderly people and people with disabilities. Yet disability rights advocates like the Center for Disability Rights and Adapt oppose the implementation and enforcement of these regulations. If wages are increased without increasing the amount of government funding available, they argue the quality and quantity of services will drop.
The home-care industry is the fastest growing industry in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Currently the average home-care worker makes about $17,000 a year. The government funds most of this industry through Medicaid and other public programs. One solution suggested for the cost of overtime benefits is to hire more healthcare workers, but this solution comes with costs to the patients as well. More workers mean a decreased sense of privacy and personal connections. Disability rights groups that recognize the unfairness of home-care workers' wages would support a plan that increases funding as well as wages.
Full Story: Josh Eidelson, Raise Pay for Home-Care Aides? Disability-Rights Groups Say No Way, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Oct. 23, 2014, available at
2. Women with Disabilities Struggle to Gain Access to Breast Cancer Screenings
Women with disabilities in New York are less likely to receive regular breast cancer screenings because many facilities are unprepared and ill equipped to receive them. Women with and without have the same incidence of breast cancer, however, women with disabilities are 33% more likely to die from it. Many facilities are only accessible by steps and located within buildings without elevators. Once a patient is able to find a location they can reach, other issues may arise like examination tables that do not have an adjustable height, or because armrests interfere with wheelchair accessibility. Staff members often lack proper training on addressing the needs of women with disabilities seeking breast exams.
Azzlee Blackwood told her story of struggling to receive preventive care. Cancer has played a major role in Azzlee's life that lost two parents to cancer as well as several other family members. She hasn't received a screening in over three years because her last exam was too traumatizing for her to return. During her mammogram she informed her technician her legs were shaking and that she needed to take a seat to avoid falling. Her request was refused and she was told she could sit when they were finished. When medical practitioners refuse to provide accessible medical equipment, or accommodate patients, they are likely in violation of federal disability law.
Full Story: Mindy Friedman, Medical Practitioners Must Improve Access to Breast Cancer Screening to Women with Disabilities, NYDailyNews, Nov. 17 2014, available at
1. NCD Annual Report Makes Recommendations for Employment
In the 2014 "National Disability Policy: A Progress Report," NCD reported that in 2012 76.3% of people without disabilities aged 21 to 64, compared to 33.5% of those with disabilities, had jobs. To combat this issue the report notes several laws and initiatives, including Executive Order 13658, issued by President Obama in 2010, new regulations for Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act that require federal contractors to ensure that at least 7% of their employees are people with disabilities, and "Add us In" an initiative sponsored by the Department of Labor to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the small business community. The NCD recommended that the DOL adopt universal language and guidance regarding what accommodations and natural supports in the workplace setting look like.
Additionally, NCD addressed the history behind the subminimum wage and the need for its phasing out. Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act created the subminimum wage and the NCD has estimated that at least 420,000 people with disabilities are employed under this statute. Although Executive Order 16358 required federal contractors to pay all workers the same minimum wage regardless of their degree of disability, other places of employment, such as Sheltered Workshops, still pay 95% of their employees with disabilities a subminimum wage. The NCD suggested that the DOL require 14(c) employers to provide their employees with information on how to transfer to integrated employment settings and prohibit placement in a subminimum wage program on any Individualized Education Plan (IEP) including as a postsecondary transition goal.
Full Story: National Council on Disability, National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, Oct. 31, 2014, available at
2. New Section 503 Regulations Require Higher Pay for People with Disabilities
People with disabilities continue to be paid far less than minimum wage in the United States. However, policies are being advanced to raise the wages of persons with disabilities and to transition more people into mainstream employment. The new year will be met with a new rule that requires federal contractors to pay employees at least $10.10 per hour. Under the new Section 503, federal contractors are encouraged to have seven percent of their workforce comprised of persons with disabilities.
Those in opposition to the new rules fear even fewer employment opportunities for people with disabilities, because some workers will get a raise while others are let go due to payroll constraints. Proponents acknowledge that the opposition's fear may be an unintended consequence. However, they view the subminimum wage standard for people with disabilities as exploitation and the new policies are important for disability rights.
Full Story: Lorraine Woellert, Higher Pay? Some Disabled Say No, Thanks, as U.S. Forces it, Bloomberg, Oct. 23, 2014, available at
See Also: Northeast ADA Center, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act New Rules: Fact Sheet, Nov. 26, 2014, available at
3. How to Make Preemployment Testing Nondiscriminatory
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) in collaboration with WellPoint has identified several accessibility issues with preemployment testing. Many employers use preemployment testing to weed out applicants who are not qualified. With the new regulations for Section 503 that require federal contractors to affirmatively recruit, hire, and promote people with disabilities, accessibility concerns regarding preemployment testing have been revisited.
JAN identified several issues including timing limitations for people with dexterity issues or cognitive impairments and operability issues with screen readers for those with visual impairments. WellPoint then provided best practices for addressing these types of issues. Tests can be built with a timing feature that can be modified and text that can easily be enlarged. Sometimes, the applicant's assistive technology is not compatible with the testing technology and so alternate assessments have been developed. From their review JAN and WellPoint noted simply that to ensure preemployment testing is not discriminatory two things are necessary: an expectation that accommodations during the testing process will be provided and access to specialists who can ensure accessibility.
Full Story: Job Accommodation Network, Making Preemployment Testing Accessible: WellPoint Offers a Best Practice, JAN E-News: Fourth Quarter, 2014, available at
4. Institute for Community Inclusion Publishes Brief on WIOA
The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) is a national leader for the development of resources and supports for people with disabilities and their families. It recently published a brief outlining the impact of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which President Obama signed into law on July 22 of this year. WIOA reauthorizes many of the programs and trainings made possible from the Clinton administration's Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and is aimed at modernizing America's workforce to better include people with disabilities. The brief covers many topics including the increased role for vocational rehabilitation in transition services and limiting the use of subminimum wages for people with disabilities. Proposed regulations for WIOA will be published in January of 2015, followed by a public comment period. The law will go into full effect on July 1, 2015.
Full Story: Rachel Jenkins, New Brief Explores the Impact of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act on People with Disabilities, Tennessee Works, Dec. 1, 2014, available at
See Also: David Hoff, WIA Is Now WIOA: What the New Bill Means for People with Disabilities, The Institute Brief, 31 (Aug. 2014), available at
5. Michigan Governor Seeks to Tap Market Potential of Employing People with Disabilities
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has placed an emphasis on seeing that more people with disabilities gain employment. He has hosted a business summit for the past two years, which have seen an attendance of around 400 Michigan businesses and resulted in employment of more than 1,000 people with disabilities. Governor Snyder refers to people with disabilities of working age in Michigan as a market that is both untapped and remarkably talented. In Michigan more than half a million working age people with disabilities are not working, of which nearly half have a college degree or education.
Full Story: Mike Zelley & Rick Keyes, Give Michigan's Disabled a Chance to Work, Detroit News, Nov. 6, 2014, available at
1. New Program in Utah County Allows People with Disabilities to Live Independently
In Utah, people with mild disabilities who don't qualify for services through the Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) often have nowhere to receive the minimal help they need to live independently. Latitude, a program started in Salt Lake City, Utah, offers services specifically for this population and is now going to expand to offer services in Utah County, which is in northern Utah just south of Salt Lake City.
After an intensive intake process that involves assessing skills, hobbies, employment and health, Latitude helps people find a living situation that is suited for them. This includes assistance with searching for a job, finding a place to live, and learning independent living skills. According to Program Director Sherrie Stanton, it is best if people start working with Latitude while they still live with their parents, but Latitude can also provide on-going assistance with budgets, meal plans and grocery shopping for people who are already living on their own.
Full Story: Monica Villar, Their Voice: Latitude Disability Program to Be Launched in Utah County, Herald Media, Nov. 17, 2014, available at
2. Indiana Contest to Improve Independence for People with Disabilities
ADEC, an agency that advocates for and provides services to people with disabilities, is holding a contest to develop new technology to make independent living easier for this population. Divided into three categories, the contest aims to improve individual ability to perform personal care tasks, access technology, and engage in the community. The contest is open to teams from high schools, colleges and business in and around Michiana, Indiana. Don Wierenga, ADEC's director of day services and assistive technology, hopes that this contest will result in the creation of a simple and replicable innovation to help people with disabilities live more independently.
The contest is having an unplanned effect: a widening awareness of the needs of people with disabilities. Many of the more than 200 college and high school students in the contest have toured ADEC to generate design ideas. One student stated that the tour opened her eyes to the needs of other people. In addition, two instructors have altered their assignments to reflect the concepts of the contest. The results of ADEC's contest will be announced in March 2015.
Full Story: Sarah Duis, ADEC Technology Challenge Encourages Schools, Businesses to Help People with Disabilities using Technology, The Elkhart Truth, Dec. 3, 2014, available at
See Also: Press Release, ADAC, ADEC Launches New Tech Challenge, Dec. 3, 2014, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. Federal Communications Commission Holds Wireless Communications Forum
On November 7 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held an Accessible Wireless Communications Forum. During the all-day event the FCC brought in panelists to discuss the progress of the Text-to-911 program, emergency systems, and radio and television alerts. The main topic of the forum was the current status of the text-to-911 program. Text-to-911 is currently only available in a few regions and only to holders of certain phone plans. By December 31, 2014, all phone carriers and some internet texting apps are required to provide a pathway for texts-to-911. Currently all four of the major providers, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile have voluntarily complied with this requirement.
The second hurdle for text-to-911 local call centers is to have the necessary technology to receive these texts. The FCC provides a chart of regions where call centers are capable of receiving texts. See Text-to-911 Regions: http://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/text-to-911-deployments.pdf. In the meantime the FCC urges people not to rely on text-to-911, and to continue using the relay and TTY technology currently in place. The FCC forum can be accessed with close captioning.
Full Story: Federal Communications Commission, Accessible Wireless Emergency Communications Forum, Nov. 7, 2014, available at
See Also: Text-to-911 Informational Video
2. Federal Emergency Management Agency Retroactively Denies Sandy Aid Checks
Ten members of the Belle Harbor Manor community have been declared retroactively ineligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid checks they received two years ago following Hurricane Sandy. Belle Harbor Manor houses people with disabilities, the elderly, and the poor. Following Hurricane Sandy the residents were relocated several times to various state funded shelters. Many of the residents applied for aid, and FEMA claims that checks given to the residents were only to be used for temporary housing. Residents, however, claim they were not told the money was to be used for housing and never expected they would have to return the money.
Robert Rosenberg, age 61, for instance recently received a bill for $2,486. Mr. Rosenberg has spinal cord injuries and other chronic health problems. He says when he received the money in 2012, he spent it on clothing and food, both of which were in short supply after the disaster. He said he was urged by FEMA workers to apply for aid and was told the money was a gift, not a loan. FEMA gave Rosenberg until November 15, 2014, to file an appeal or pay $2,486. Lawyers on behalf of the residents argue this is an undue financial burden.
Full Story: David B. Caruso & Michael Kunzelman, FEMA Tells Residents it Needs Sandy Money Back after Wrongly Disbursing Funds, Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2014, available at
3. Special Challenges for People with Disabilities in Ebola Stricken Sierra Leone
On August 4, 2014, the first of several city wide quarantines was set in place in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Adam Huebner working for Handicap International was concerned about the effect these quarantines would have on people with disabilities. He explained that in Sierra Leone people with disabilities often support themselves via odd jobs or begging, and live day to day. Generally people with disabilities in this community don't have access to a stockpile of food or other essentials for the duration of the quarantine. Another issue troubling Mr. Huebner is the dissemination of information about the disease. Blanket Ebola awareness messages have been ineffective in reaching people with disabilities.
In response to the need for clear public information Handicap International organized awareness sessions at schools, institutional living centers, and at communities for people with disabilities. The organization took this opportunity to show that Ebola wasn't just a "faceless killer." The organization talked about germ theories and addressed the various beliefs the beneficiaries had about the disease.
Full Story: Adam Huebner, Ebola's Forgotten Victims, NY Daily News, Nov. 17, 2014, available at
1. BBC Journalists Expose Abusive and Dangerous Guatemalan Mental Health Institution
On December 4, an undercover investigation by the BBC revealed the disastrous condition of the Federico Mora Hospital in Guatemala. The investigation uncovered unsanitary conditions, including urine on mattresses and patients covered in their own feces. The BBC also reported that the mental health institution lacks the necessary medication to treat patients. Further, the hospital director admitted to the undercover reporter that hospital's guards sexually abused patients of the hospital and that a patient kept in an isolation tank committed suicide.
Disability Rights International (DRI), a U.S.-based interest group, spent three years collecting information on the hospital. In 2012, DRI published a report that described Federico Mora Hospital as "the most dangerous facility our investigators have witnessed anywhere in the Americas." The report warned that any person with or without a disability may be subjected to inhuman treatment or torture. DRI brought legal action against the Guatemalan government in the form of a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The IACHR trial will begin in 2015.
Full Story: Chris Rogers, Inside the 'World's Most Dangerous' Hospital, BBC, Dec. 4, 2014, available at
See Also: Disability Rights International, BBC Shines Spotlight on Abusive Institution in Guatemala - and DRI's Fight to Protect Detainees, Dec. 5, 2014, available at
2. Australian Forced Sterilization Practice Questioned by Disability Groups
On November 3, the People with Disability Australia (PWDA) asked the United Nations Committee to the Convention against Torture to look into the forced sterilization and behavior modification techniques used against people with disabilities. The report notes that Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory are the only state governments in Australia who have implemented legislation prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment. Forced sterilization is considered a form of torture by the United Nations.
The report also implored Australia to enact legislation prohibiting the use of sterilization against children with disabilities. According to the Senate Community Affairs, Australian courts have approved 47 applications to sterilize people with disabilities over the last ten years. The PWDA report cited a 2010 Family Court of Australia decision allowing a hysterectomy of an 11-year-old girl with Rhett syndrome, as an example of the acts it is trying to prohibit.
Full Story: Bridie Jabour, Disability Groups Go to UN over Australia's Forced Sterilisation Practice, The Guardian, Nov. 3, 2014, available at
See Also: Antonia Malloy, Australian Disability Group Submits Report to UN Calling for Legislation Against Forced Sterilisation, The Independent, Nov. 3, 2014, available at
3. Dramatic Improvement Needed for Data Collecting of Disability
In late October, Lynne Featherstone warned that over a hundred million people with disabilities in developing countries will remain unaccounted for unless the world acts to refine its data collection techniques on disability. Featherstone is the United Kingdom's Parliamentary Undersecretary for International Development. The World Health Organization estimates that around one billion people, or fifteen percent of the world's population, have a disability
Featherstone believes that government actors are ignoring the large number of people with invisible disabilities around the world. According to Nora Groce, the director of the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre, better data will allow for a better understanding and more effective combating of the barriers faced by people with disabilities.
Full Story: Sam Jones, People with Disabilities 'Simply Don't Count' in Many Developing Countries, The Guardian, Oct. 23, 2014, available at
I. POP CULTURE
1. Breaking Bad and Glee Stars Speak Out Against Bullying Children with Disabilities
Some of the most known individuals with disabilities are the ones people see on television or in movies. Several notable actors from popular TV shows are making efforts to stop bullying against children with disabilities.
R.J. Mitte is best known for playing Walter Jr. in the show Breaking Bad. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of three and is now working actively with the #CutTheBull campaign. Mitte was bullied as a child and recognizes that children with disabilities are especially at risk when it comes to bullying. He wishes to set an example and encourage people to pledge and join the #CutTheBull campaign. He is also working closely with the Screen Actors Guild to cast a more representative proportion of individuals with disabilities in television and movies. For more information about #CutTheBull visit www.cutthebullnow.org.
Lauren Potter plays Becky in the show Glee. She told her story to students at the University of Illinois at Springfield about how she was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth and now has a role in a popular TV show. During her speech she also advocated against bullying. Bullied severely as a child, Potter does not want any child to feel degraded in the way she did. She has joined the campaign to stop the "R-word" and was chosen by President Obama to lead a committee for those with intellectual disabilities.
Full Story: Angeligue Smith, R.J. Mitte of 'Breaking Bad' Wants You to 'Cut the Bull', Windy City Times, Oct. 29, 2014, available at
See Also: Raven Wilson, Glee Star, Lauren Potter Visits UIS, UIS Journal, Nov. 5, 2014, available at
2. Online Petition Calling for Disney to Create a Princess with a Disability
An online petition has gained over 70,000 signatures calling for Disney to create an animated hero with Down syndrome. Individuals with disabilities have been featured in past Disney films, but never Down syndrome, and never as the leading role. With the impact Disney movies have on children in teaching moral lessons and distinguishing right from wrong, it would provide a powerful platform to raise awareness in children about individuals (children or adults) with disabilities. Disney princesses have grown more diverse in recent years but have still not broken down the disability barrier. The representation from a Disney movie could help in the fight against bullying and discrimination that children with disabilities face.
To view the petition, visit
Full Story: Amanda Andrade, Petition Calls for Disney Princesses with Down Syndrome, Opposing Views, Nov. 3, 2014, available at
See Also: Ben Child, Petition Calls for Disney to Create Princess with Down's Syndrome, The Guardian, Oct. 31, 2014, available at
3. Hit Song "All About That Bass" Parodied into "All About That Chair"
Meagan Trainor's song "All About That Bass" has received a large amount of airplay on the radio over the past few months. The song has been certified platinum and reached number one on the US Billboard charts. With the popularity of sites like YouTube, hit songs like this are often parodied and receive thousands and sometimes millions of views. While not all of the parodies are meant to be positive, every now and then you will find one that is. Heather Schouten creatively rewrote the lyrics to "All About That Bass" to be more applicable to her situation. Her version, titled "All About That Chair," is a clever re-write that centers on her life using a wheelchair, but is able to keep the same message of the original song, self-acceptance.
See the Video:
Full Story: Melissa McGlensey, The Wheelchair Parody of "All About That Bass" Is Better Than the Original, The Mighty: Superheroes Among Us, available at
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