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
March 25, 2015
Volume 12, 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. POP CULTURE: News and topics may vary
J. ANNOUNCEMENTS: Books, financial aid, and events
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Americans with Invisible Disabilities Stretch into the Millions
Certain disabilities are immediately apparent, while others referred to as "invisible" disabilities are not. Common invisible disabilities include learning disabilities, many mental health impairments, and health conditions. For instance, Carly Medosch (age 33) was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which leaves her with intense fatigue and full-body chronic pain. She says that she is able to pass as a healthy and normal person. For example, bending down to retrieve something can take a lot out of her, which is not apparent to observers.
People with invisible disabilities face unique challenges in society and employment. Doubt and accusations sometimes arise against those with invisible disabilities when requesting accommodations. It is estimated that the number of Americans with an invisible disability reaches into the millions. Between 2005 and 2010, invisible disabilities were the most commonly named conditions in disability discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Full Story: Editor, WNPR News, People with "Invisible Disabilities" Fight for Understanding, Mar. 8, 2015, available at
2. PAM Transport Ordered to Pay $477,399 in Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought suit against PAM Transport, Inc., (PAM) alleging violation of the ADA. The lawsuit alleged that PAM subjected its truck driving employees to overly broad medical inquiries. PAM's medical clearance policy required all drivers to notify them whenever the driver had any contact with a medical professional. The court ordered PAM to change its policy to require notice only when contact with a medical professional is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
PAM is required to pay $225,998 in back pay and interest, $49,114 in compensatory damages, and $202,287 in punitive damages to 12 of their former truck drivers. EEOC views the punitive damages award, which is nearly equal to the other damages awarded, as reinforcement of the ADA prohibition against overly broad medical inquiries.
Full Story: Press Release, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, PAM Transport Ordered to Pay $477,399 in EEOC Disability Case, Mar. 4, 2015, available at
3. Surcharge for Gluten Free Customers
Anne Marie Phillips, a Californian woman with celiac disease, filed a lawsuit against P.F. Chang's alleging violation of the California civil rights law and the ADA. Her complaint alleges that P.F. Chang's has been charging her and similarly situated individuals a $1.00 surcharge when ordering from the gluten-free menu, and that items with identical ingredients on both menus cost a $1.00 more on the gluten-free menu.
Under the ADA a surcharge may not be charged to persons with disabilities to cover costs of reasonable modifications, including special foods to meet particular dietary needs. However, the ADA requires a restaurant to provide special foods for patrons with disabilities only if it usually makes such special orders on request in the course of business and the goods can be easily obtained from their suppliers.
Full Story: Allergy Law Project, That'll be a Dollar - Suit Alleges Surcharge on Identical items for Gluten Free Patrons at P.F. Chang's, Feb. 20, 2015, available at
1. Racial Overidentification Rarely Addressed by States
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states are required to have policies and procedures to prevent overidentification or disproportionate representation by race and ethnicity of students receiving special education services. Additionally, states are tasked with determining when overidentification occurs and is significant. When it is determined that a district has overidentified students in specific racial or ethnic groups for special education services, 15% of the federal money the district receives must be used on programs in grades K-3 designed to prevent overidentification.
States have substantially different standards for determining whether a racial or ethnic group is being overidentified. Louisiana, for instance, in the 2011-12 school year flagged 104 school districts (one third of all districts flagged in the country) for overidentification of students having disabilities by race and ethnicity. In Louisiana, if students of any racial or ethnic group are identified as having a disability at a rate twice as high as students in a different group any given year, the district is flagged for overidentification. In contrast, the standard in Nebraska is for any group to have an identification rate three times higher than other groups for a two-year period. In the 2010-11 school year, no school district in Nebraska fell within this category.
The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) is concerned about overidentification. While many at NASDSE are in favor of the federal government stepping in and creating a more uniform standard of overidentification, some believe that the No Child Left Behind Act was proof that "one size does not fit all" and federal guidelines may not solve the problem.
Full Story: Christina Samuels, Bias in Special Education Identification Rarely Flagged by States, Education Week, Mar. 16, 2015, available at
See also: IDEA Regulations: Disproportionality and Overidentification, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education, Feb. 2, 2007, available at
2. California Reveals Plan to Improve Special Education
A special task force in California has released its plan to overhaul the special education system in the state. The plan stems from continual noncompliance with federal laws throughout the state. One of the key points of the new plan is to emphasize early intervention. Part of the plan would equalize state funding at the preschool level for children with disabilities. Currently, these are costs that have been carried by local school districts. The reports states that the funding now in early intervention programs could save billions in future expenses. The task force has been consulting with the state department of finance to determine where the money would come from.
Another emphasis of the plan is increased teacher training in special education. The plan calls for both general and special education teachers to be trained together in areas such as intervention, content standards, and behavioral management. The plan also calls for more professional development for special education aids. Connie Kasari, a professor at UCLA, believes that many of the 14,000 students diagnosed with autism in the Los Angeles school district are in segregated classrooms, not because of an inability to handle the work of a general education class, but because of a lack of preparations among teachers in those classes.
Full Story: Jane Meredith Adams, Task Force Unveils Plan to Overhaul Special Education, EdSource, Mar. 6, 2015, available at
See Also: Statewide Special Education Task Force Report, available at
3. Legislative Update: Congress Looking to Inform Parents about Alternative Diplomas
Alternative diplomas provide another means for students with disabilities to graduate high school without receiving a traditional diploma. However, they typically are not accepted by colleges for admission. A new bill in Congress would provide more information to parents of students with disabilities before they agree to have their child pursue an alternative diploma. Under the proposed bill, there would be clear guidelines states must adhere to regarding students who qualify for an alternative diploma. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania introduced the bill. He believes that deciding the educational track of a child is too important a decision to make without all the necessary information.
Alternative assessments are tests based on different academic standards. Often if a student takes these tests he or she may be unable to receive a traditional high school diploma. To avoid that possibility, the bill would assure alternative assessments are only given to students with more severe disabilities. It would call on IEP teams to consider testing annually on a subject to subject basis. The legislation also calls for school districts to be clearer in reporting the number of students who are taking alternative assessments.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Lawmakers Look to Rein in Alternative Diplomas, Disability Scoop, Feb. 18, 2015, available at
4. Legislative Update: State Legislatures Looking to Further Special Education Through Training and Funding
A group of educators and lawmakers in Connecticut are hoping to pass legislation to increase the training of all teachers in the field of special education. This is part of an effort to help identify students with special needs early so they do not fall behind in their classes. The proposed training would include social-emotional learning, assistive technology, differentiated instruction, and cultural competency. However, critics are concerned this increased training may lead to fewer students with disabilities being identified, because teachers will try to teach the kids on their own without a proper evaluation.
In Utah, a bill has passed in the House that would increase the salaries of special education teachers. Under the proposed law, teachers of special education, as well as science, engineering, and math, would make $4,100 more than teachers in other subjects. Brad Last, a sponsor of the bill, wants to recognize the opportunities for teachers with specific training. Those in opposition to the bill claim that there are teacher shortages throughout the state in all subjects, so no one area should receive more funding than others.
Full Story: David Desroches, Lawmakers and Educators Seek More Special Education Training for All Connecticut Teachers, WNPR News, Mar. 3, 2015, available at
Full Story: Nadia Crow, House Bill Would Give $4,200 to STEM, Special Ed Teachers, Good 4 Utah, Feb. 25, 2015, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. Update to Registry of Public Safety Answering Points
Since December 30, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has maintained a database that lists the 911 call centers that support text-to-911 services. These centers are also known as public safety answering points (PSAPs). The registry includes the PSAP name, state, county, and city and is downloadable from the "9-1-1 Master PSAP Registry" link below. The FCC most recently updated this list on March 9, 2015.
The PSAPs are intended to operate without major disruption during emergency situations including natural disasters. The FCC uses PSAPs to implement its guidelines for emergency preparation, response, and recovery.
Full Story: Federal Communications Commission, 9-1-1 Master PSAP Registry, Mar. 9, 2015, available at
See Also: Federal Communications Commission, Emergency Planning: Public Safety Answering Points, available at
2. Adaptive Technology - For Us, by Us
David Hayden, an alum of Arizona State University, demonstrated that the best technologies are those that engage the user in the design and development process. He illustrated this point when he helped the school's researchers develop technology that would help him access the blackboard in his classes. David has a visual impairment and needed assistance taking notes and seeing the blackboard in class. He helped develop an application that allowed him to view the blackboard on half of his mobile tablet while using a "notes" interface on the other half of the screen. Then he was able to link sections of the notes to the frames in the video. Dubbed the "Note-Taker," the app enabled David to better access information in class. David is now manufacturing his Note-Taker prototype to be used by others.
Full Story: Sethuraman Panchanathan, The Best Adaptive Technologies Are Designed by, Not for, People with Disabilities, Slate, Mar. 3, 2015, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. People with Disabilities Are at a Substantially Higher Risk for Poor Healthcare
A recent study led by Oregon State University researcher Gloria Krahn, found that people with disabilities are at a substantially higher risk for poor health outcomes that are avoidable. The study concluded that people with disabilities are two and half times more likely to report that they didn't get access to health care because of cost. Women with disabilities are less likely to have up to date mammograms. Tracking people with disabilities as they move through the health care system was also cited as a problem.
The study concludes that people with disabilities fall under the medical category called "health disparity group." Being designated as a health disparity group is the first step increasing awareness and outreach initiatives for people with disabilities. The study recommended that access to health care and related services needs to be easier for people with disabilities. Training healthcare workers, such as mammogram technicians, in awareness of issues facing persons with disabilities is important.
Krahn indicates it is important for technicians to know what to do for a woman in a wheelchair to ensure she gets the right test. If a mammogram technician is not trained to treat women with disabilities, then they won't receive proper breast exams. Krahn believes that this study is proof that people with disabilities should be designated as a health disparity group. She hopes that this will end any debate over the limited access to health services for people with disabilities.
Full Story: Mike McInally, Working for Better Health for the Disabled, Albany Democrat-Herald, Mar. 08 2015, available at
2. A New Resource Is Available for Down Syndrome Research
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Health recently established a Down syndrome registry. This registry aims to answer questions about Down syndrome and the health of those who have it. The survey is secure and collects information from people with Down syndrome over time. After completing the survey, participants can see how their scores compare to other participants and trends worldwide. The registry also provides links to health care providers for participants. Members of the registry are invited to participate in voluntary clinical trials resulting in further research for the community.
David Egan, a self-advocate, spoke about why he joined the DS-Connect registry: "It gives you a general understanding of Down syndrome mostly and it gives people a sense that it is a great resource that can be used for communities everywhere." He wanted to make sure that people know that there are many ways to support the research through the DS-Connect interface beyond just providing survey material.
Full Story: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Health, DS-Connect®: The Down Syndrome Registry, Mar. 13, 2015, available at
1. Policy Research Brief on Employment for People with Disabilities
The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) recently released a policy brief on the intersectionality of people with disabilities who are in poverty. The brief takes a state-by-state look at the poverty rate, the percentage of people with disabilities who are unemployed and seeking employment, as well as the percentage of people with disabilities who are in the labor force.
Researchers found that these rates vary greatly by state. However, people with disabilities are three to four times more likely to be in poverty. Further, participation in the workforce by people with disabilities is two to three times less than those without disabilities in every state.
Full Story: Research and Training Center on Community Living, Employment for People with Disabilities in Poverty: A Need for National Attention, Policy Research Brief 25(1), White House Blog, Feb. 25, 2015, available at
2. The Disability-Related Skills Not Discussed in a Resume
Sarah Blahovec was diagnosed with Crohn's disease seven years ago. She graduated from college summa cum laude and has had difficulty finding a job. As an individual with a disability, she has acquired unique skills, including the ability to manage multiple doctors' appointments, understand complicated treatment information, clearly communicate, and multitask.
Sarah wrote a "Dear Hiring Manager" cover letter that included all of her disability-related skills that she felt did not fit in her resume. She notes that many employers and human resource professionals see her disability and become doubtful of her strengths, skills, and efficiency. But Sarah is not her disability. It is a part of her that has enabled her to acquire a marketable set of skills.
Full Story: Sarah Blahovec, Dear Hiring Manager: All the Disability-Related Skills I Can't Put on My Resume, The Blog, Feb. 24, 2015, available at
1. New Technology Helps People with Visual Impairments
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), the government organization that prints money, has developed a machine called the iBill Talking Banknote Identifier that will read all denominations of American paper money. The BEP partnered with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to test the dissemination and demand for the iBill Talking Banknote Identifier late in 2014, and nearly 15,000 units were ordered during this pilot program.
As of January 2, 2015, the BEP made the iBill Talking Banknote Identifier available to all people who are blind or visually impaired free of charge. Those who wish to receive one must submit an application, which can be found on the BEP's website.
Full Story: Rosie Rios, Nationwide Release of the BEP's U.S. Currency Reader Program to Help the Blind and Visually Impaired, Treasury Notes Blog, Jan. 6, 2015, available at
See Also: U.S. Currency Reader Program, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Mar. 12, 2015, available at
2. 3D Printing Makes it Easier to Get Prosthetics for Children
Most children born with missing hands or fingers have to learn to compensate for their congenital loss without the aid of prosthetics. They are too expensive for most parents to buy, and even if parents have the financial ability, it is impractical to do so since children grow so quickly. E-NABLE, an organization that designs prosthetics specifically for children, developed a new low-cost method of making them.
Using three dimensional printers, volunteers from e-NABLE can create prosthetic hands for as little as $20. E-NABLE matches children, who need prosthetic hands, with volunteers who can design and assemble them. The organization keeps their designs in the public domain so that anyone who wants to make one of their prosthetics can do so for free.
Full Story: Jaqueline Mroz, Hand of a Superhero: 3-D Printing Prosthetic Hands That Are Anything but Ordinary, N. Y. Times, Feb. 16, 2015, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. National Fire Protection Association Conference and Expo
On June 22-25 the National Fire Protection Association is hosting a conference and expo in Chicago, Illinois. This exposition will be featuring products for people with disabilities and their families as well as products for building managers and first responders. Examples of the many types of products suitable for exhibit at the Accessibility Expo include enhanced alarming systems, directional sound devices, voice-to-text/text-to-voice devices, video phones for ASL users, power wheelchairs, accessible vehicles, signage, and accessibility training and preparedness programs for employers.
In addition to the products being shown at the expo, the conference will include educational sessions addressing mobility, vision, hearing, speech, and cognitive issues. The current list includes eight different programs on emergency evacuations.
Full Story: National Fire Protection Association, Calling All Accessibility Vendors! NFPA Newsletter, Mar. 2015, available at
2. Prime Minster of Japan Pledges $4 Billion in Disaster Relief
The Prime Minster of Japan, Shinzo Abe, pledged $4 billion in assistance for disaster preparedness. He made the pledge on March 14 in a keynote address to the 3rd U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction as it got under way in Sendai Japan, the city badly damaged in 2011 by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. More than 40,000 people were expected to take part in this conference, which was held in Sendai from March 14 to March 18. The provision is part of Japan's initiative for cooperation for disaster preparedness. As the representative of the host country, Abe said Japan wanted to share its knowledge and technologies learned from the earthquake and tsunami disaster with the world at large.
Prime Minster Abe also emphasized that considerations should be paid to people who are vulnerable, such as women, children, the elderly, and the disabled. Abe said it is important for people in those categories to get involved in disaster preparedness programs. It will be another 10 years before the United Nations holds another World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.
Full Story: Toshinari Kuwayama and Atsushi Hiroshima, Four Years After: Abe Promises $4 Billion in International Assistance for Disaster Preparedness, The Asahi, Mar. 14, 2015, available at
1. DRI Report Exposes Abuses Against Women with Disabilities in Mexico
On February 25, 2015, Disability Rights International (DRI) released a report detailing the abuse and denial of sexual reproductive rights of women with psychosocial or psychiatric disabilities in Mexico City, Mexico. DRI's investigation found that a large number of the women were pressured by health officials or their family to undergo surgical sterilization. Some of these women with psychosocial or psychiatric disabilities were subjected to the operation without knowing. The report also revealed that 43 percent of the women surveyed were abused by their gynecologist. This abuse ranged from emotional abuse to sexual assault and rape. DRI's research indicates that forced sterilization of people with disabilities is mainly perpetrated to cover up sexual abuse and to prevent pregnancy.
DRI based its report on interviews with 51 women who used state-run clinics in Mexico City. Priscila Rodriguez, DRI's Director of Women's Rights Initiative for the Americas, called on the Mexican government to combat the "egregious human rights violations perpetrated against women with disabilities . . . that have long been ignored."
Source: Jo Tuckman, Mexican Women with Mental Health Problems Pressured into Sterilisation, The Guardian, Feb. 26, 2015, available at
Full Report: Priscila Rodriguez, Twice Violated Abuse and Denial of Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women with Psychosocial Disabilities in Mexico, Disability Rights International and Colectivo Chuhcan, 2015, available at
2. Amnesty International Briefing Uncovers Abuse of People with Disabilities in Somalia
On March 12, 2015, Amnesty International released a report detailing how people with disabilities in Somalia are at risk of forced marriage, violence, rape, and forced evictions. The report found that the unstable Somali government, resulting from two decades of conflict, renders people with disabilities vulnerable to further exploitation.
Amnesty International is calling on the Somali federal government to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and to develop national legislative steps to protect Somali citizens with disabilities. The report hopes these steps will prevent further abuses.
Full Story: Somalia: People with Disabilities Exploited, Raped and Abused, Amnesty International, Mar. 12, 2015, available at
3. Zero Project Release of 2015 Report on Implementation of CRPD
On February 23, 2014, The Zero Project released the 2015 Zero Project Report, which measures implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Zero Project collected data from over 150 countries worldwide and received contributions from 650 experts. This year the report focused on independent living and political participation and highlighted 50 Innovative Practices and Policies that the Zero Project sees as global role models.
I. POP CULTURE
1. Punk Rockers with Down Syndrome Are Raising Awareness at Eurovision Contest
Eurovision is not well known in the United States. However, in Europe it is very popular. Eurovision is a contest where musical acts representing different countries compete for personal fame. It is described as a mix of Olympics nationalism and American Idol. Representing Finland this year is the punk rock group Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (PKN). PKN's goal is to raise awareness and support for Down syndrome, which is something very close to home for the band, as all four members have been diagnosed with it.
The group will play their song "Aina Mun Pitaa (I Always Have To)." The song deals with the frustrations of rules in daily life, a fairly common theme in punk rock music. Bassist Sami Helle does not think the band is trying to be political in any way, but just rebelling against some societal norms. The band is clear that they do not want sympathy votes. Helle says, "We are not that different from everybody else -- just normal guys with a mental handicap."
Full Story: Finland Punk Band PKN Set for EuroVision, BBC, Mar. 1, 2015, available at
See Also: Rafi Schwartz, Meet the Punk Rockers Raising Learning Disability Awareness in This Year's Eurovision Contest, Good Magazine, Feb. 5, 2015, available at
2. Meet Kayla Montgomery: A High School Track Star with Multiple Sclerosis
Kayla Montgomery was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 14. Determined not to give in to the disease, she began running. When she joined her high school track team she was one of the slower runners on the team. After hard work and determination she has become one of the fastest distance runners in North Carolina. She is now 19 and a freshman at Lipscomb University. She continues to race cross country for the school.
As she runs, her body heats up, which exacerbates her MS symptoms. Eventually she can no longer feel her legs as they continue to run beneath her. At the end of every race, her coach is there to catch her as she collapses. The joy she gets from running far exceeds the agony she experiences temporarily after a race.
ESPN Video: Tom Rinaldi, E:60 - Catching Kayla, ESPN, available at
See Also: Shannon, She's a Record Breaking Runner ... So Why Does Her Coach Catch Her at the End of Every Race?, Glenn Beck, Feb. 9, 2015, available at
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
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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.; and Associate Editors Danielle Morrison, Nathan Pearson, Tesla Goodman, Philip Ross, Douglas Curwin, and Kate Battoe.
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