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
November 30, 2015
Volume 12, Issue 10
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: ADA, Section 504, CRPD Ratification
B. WORKFORCE: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Vocational Rehabilitation
C. EDUCATION: Special Education, Youth Transition, Postsecondary Education, & Outcomes
D. HEALTHCARE: Access, Services, Benefits, and the Affordable Care Act
E. TECHNOLOGY: Assistive, Information, and Communication Technologies
F. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Disaster Preparation, Mitigation, and Response
G. INDEPENDENCE: Community Integration
H. INTERNATIONAL: Topics Outside the United States
I. POP CULTURE: News and Topics Vary
J. EVENTS AND FUNDING: Conferences, Calls for Proposals, Papers, and Presentations
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. DOJ Settles with Youth Wrestling League to Accommodate Child with Disability
The Department of Justice reached a settlement with the Pikes Peak Youth Wrestling League in Colorado to prevent discrimination against a child with disabilities. There were allegations against the youth sports group that it was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act when it would not allow a child with dwarfism to play down to a lower age group. Under the agreement, the league is required to adopt and publicize a nondiscrimination policy. ADA training will be given to league employees and coaches and the league will be required to report to the Justice Department on its compliance with the agreement.
Full Press Release: Justice Department Settles with Colorado Youth Wrestling League to Prevent Disability Discrimination, United States Department of Justice, Oct. 29, 2015, available at
2. Vermont Prisoner Files Discrimination Lawsuit over Lack of Transitional Housing
A lawsuit was filed by a prisoner with disabilities in Vermont for a lack of transitional housing. The inmate, who has remained unnamed, claims that he has been incarcerated past the minimum sentence requirements because there is no transitional housing available that could accommodate his disability. The inmate has been eligible for release since July but is still incarcerated despite other inmates in similar situations being released.
The inmate was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and depression. He claims he is being held "because of the failure of the state to have a reasonable functional system in place to identify and implement appropriate disability related supports in the community to prevent continued, unnecessary and harmful institutionalization." A.J. Ruben of Disability Rights Vermont says there is a shortage of transitional housing for individuals with disabilities. According to the Department of Corrections Commissioner Lisa Menard, over 200 inmates are incarcerated past their minimum sentence because they do not have adequate housing to live in.
Full Story: Elizabeth Hewitt, Inmate Sues State for Disability Discrimination in Transitional Housing, VTDigger, Oct. 16, 2015, available at
3. Individuals with Disabilities Are More Likely to Face Employment Discrimination
According to a recent study done by Rutgers University and Syracuse University, individuals with one or more disabilities are more likely to face discrimination than those without a disability. The study, called "The Disability Employment Puzzle: A Field Experiment on Employer Hiring Behavior" looked at groups of near identical cover letters sent to employers for accounting positions. Some of the letters mentioned the applicant having a disability, while others did not. According to the study, the individuals with disabilities were 26% less likely to be considered, while experienced applicants with disabilities were 34% less likely to be considered. The study did show that the Americans with Disabilities Act appears to reduce the bias against people with disabilities. The bias was most pronounced in workplaces with less than 15 employees. Employers of this size are not covered by the ADA.
Full Story: Noam Scheiber, Fake Cover Letters Expose Discrimination Against Disabled, New York Times, Nov. 2, 2015, available at
See Also: Jon Levine, Study Finds People with Disability Are More Likely to Face Employment Discrimination, Science.Mic, Nov. 2, 2015, available at
1. Department of Defense Celebrates 20 Years of Hiring People with Disabilities
The Department of Defense celebrated its 20th year of hiring college students and recent graduates with disabilities. The workforce recruitment program helps break down barriers to hiring people with disabilities. The program participants bring a freshness, excitement and enthusiasm, which adds to the Department of Defense's "military readiness goal."
The work of Bryan Richardson is a great example of how hiring people with disabilities has contributed to the military readiness goal. Bryan is a program analyst who primarily conducts research. He says that he is uniquely qualified for his position because of his disability. He said one thing that people with disabilities have in common is having some limitation that they need to find a way to overcome. "They have to be creative problem-solvers to find ways to function with their limitations. And they can apply that same creative problem-solving in their jobs and their lives."
Full Story: Terri Moon Cronk, Workforce Recruitment Program Marks 20th Anniversary, U.S. DoD, Nov. 12, 2015, available at
2. Rutgers Begins a New Housing and Employment Program for Students with Autism
Rutgers University is looking to create a one of a kind housing and employment opportunity for people with autism. New hires with autism could start coming on board by late next year and will be supported by clinical staff and graduate students, officials said. In addition to working on campus, those in the program will participate in life skills training and recreational activities.
According to the University President, Robert Barchi, the effort is designed to demonstrate the role that college campuses can play in creating work and housing opportunities for a growing demographic of adults on the spectrum. Individuals with autism ages 21 and over will be eligible for the program, which may offer short- or long-term opportunities depending on the preferences of participants.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, University to Employ, House Adults with Autism, disabilityscoop.com, Nov. 10, 2015, available at
1. Federal Government Discussing Question of Service Dogs in Schools
a. The Department of Justice has brought suit against a school district in Rochester, New York, for barring a child's service dog from accompanying her to school unless the dog's handler is present. The student has Angelman syndrome, autism, epilepsy, asthma, and hypotonia and has the service dog to detect seizures and apply pressure to prevent outbursts. While the student was allowed a one-to-one to assist her during the day, the school allegedly denied multiple requests to have her service animal accompany her in school without a full time handler present. The Department is asking the court to order the school district to allow the student to handle her dog with assistance from school staff.
b. The U.S. Supreme Court has also been asked to weigh in on the issue of service animals in schools. Fry v. Napoleon School District was recently decided by the Sixth Circuit. Fry was a student with a disability who was prescribed a service animal to help her perform certain tasks. The school would not let the service animal accompany her to school because her IEP provided for a one-on-one aide to help her throughout the day. As a result of the school's decision, the child's parents removed her from the school and began homeschooling. They eventually enrolled her in a private school. The parents brought suit on her behalf under the ADA seeking monetary damages. The Federal District Court granted a motion to dismiss in favor of the school, ruling that the exhaustion requirements under IDEA had not been met, precluding a suit under the ADA. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, and the family is seeking for the Supreme Court to hear the case.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Obama Administration Sues School over Service Dog, DisabilityScoop, Sep. 30 2015, available at
See Also: Michelle Diament, Supreme Court Asked to Weigh in on Service Dog Case, DisabilityScoop, Oct. 30, 2015, available at
See Also: Fry v. Napoleon School District, 788 F.3d 622 (6th Cir). Available at
2. KU and UNH Receive Federal Grants for Disability Programs and Research
The University of Kansas has received a federal grant to help individuals with disabilities attend school while at the same time supporting them and their families in preparing for the student's career and adulthood in general. The five-year $1.5 million grant will establish the KU Transition to Postsecondary Education for Youth with Intellectual Disabilities program. Individuals in the program will work with a number of departments on campus to prepare for career readiness and become more involved in campus life.
Another federal grant was renewed at the University of New Hampshire. The grant will allow the university's Institute on Disability to improve access to disability data and provide a clearer picture of employment of individuals with disabilities. The grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is $4.3 million and should support the institute for another five years. The institute is hoping their data and research will lead to increased employment outcomes by translating the data into new knowledge about policies surrounding the employment of people with disabilities.
Full Story: Mike Krings, KU Lands Grant to Help Young Adults with Disabilities and their Families Attend College. The University of Kansas, Nov. 2, 2015, available at
See Also: UNH Receives Federal Grant to Improve National Disability Employment Data, Fosters.com, Nov. 3, 2015, available at
3. How Effective Are One-to-Ones in School?
A recent study analyzed how one-to-ones spend their time in nearly four dozen autism support classrooms. Their findings showed that the paraprofessionals were conducting instruction or support about 57% of the time. Comparatively, classroom teachers were engaged in this conduct 98% of the time, and even classroom assistants spend approximately 91% of their time instructing or supporting students. The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, and the University of California believe the study is significant because one-to-ones are the fastest growing group of special education employees. The study also found that one-to-ones were more effective when they worked alongside a more involved classroom assistant. The researchers believe the poor involvement by one-to-ones is a result of a lack of training to the one-to-ones themselves, or possibly a lack of training to the teachers on how to supervise them.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Study Questions Effectiveness of One-to-Ones in Special Ed, DisabilityScoop, Sep. 25, 2015, available at
1. Somaliland Mental Healthcare Fails to Meet Human Rights Standards
The Human Rights Watch released a report on Monday October 26, 2015, on the state of people with mental health conditions in Somaliland. The report stated that Somaliland was selected for review because the government specified mental health as one of its health priorities. However, conditions failed to meet adequate healthcare standards. The report points out that there is a concern with the prevalence of shackling and the lack of counseling and trained professionals that exist throughout Somaliland. Shackling is the process of holding a patient in chains. This form of restraint should be used only in extreme cases.
Based on interviews with 115 people -- including 47 people with actual or perceived psychosocial disabilities -- in three of Somaliland's major cities, researchers found that patients across the board experienced a number of abuses. Some of the abuse took the form of involuntary admission into the mental health facilities. Once there, they were often subjected to involuntary medication and overcrowding. Additionally patients, particularly those in Hargeisa Group Hospital, have little access to sunlight and spent a significant amount of time locked in chains.
Full Story: Teresa Krug, Report: Somaliland Mental Health Patients Abused and Neglected, Oct. 26, 2015, available at
2. New Approach to Service Dog Training Could Decrease Cost of Service Dog Ownership
Independence Dogs for Everyone with Differing Abilities is a small service dog training organization with an innovative approach. Maureen Bennett, the director of this organization, breaks the traditional mold by having the dog trained with the person who the dog will be with throughout its life. This process involves training both the service dogs and the future owner of the pet at the same time. Bennett hosts the training sessions in her basement with around four families and dogs present at a time.
The traditional model in service dog training is that puppies spend the first 18 months being raised in a foster home, learning basic obedience and socialization. Next, dogs go into kennels to work with trainers who teach them to perform the tasks a person with a disability might need assistance with. Dogs that learn the skills and who are also are calm and confident graduate to service. Bennett hopes that by keeping the dogs with their future owners from the start they will develop a stronger bond. This model of training also dramatically reduces costs allowing more people access to service dogs. In the traditional model, service dogs live with foster parents and a dog trainer, a process that can be expensive. By removing that step, the cost of owning a service dog is dramatically reduced.
Full Story: Sandra J. Engelland, Service Dog Group Trains People and their Pups Together, DisabilityScoop.com, Nov. 10, 2015, available at
1. Facebook Tool to Help Users Who Are Blind "See" Photos
Facebook has become a big part of daily life for many people around the world. We can keep up with our friends, family, celebrities, and more, just by scrolling through our newsfeed. When much of what is shared are photos or visual content, it can be difficult for people who are blind or visually impaired to get the same experience out of Facebook as the seeing population.
That's where Facebook's accessibility team comes in. They have been developing object recognition technology which will "see" a photo shared by a Facebook user. The tool looks at the photo posted on Facebook and describes to the user what types of images the photo contains. Screen-reader technology is helping to navigate the Internet and read text aloud to users, but it falls short when it comes to visual content. While the user who is blind or visually impaired may be able to hear what comments have been written about a posted photo, they may not really know the content of the photo. Facebook's technology is aiming to fill that gap so that the user may also "see" the photo.
Full Story: Arjun Kharpal, Facebook working on artificial intelligence that can tell what's in photos, CNBC Tech Transformers, Nov. 3, 2015, available at
See also: Megan Rose Dicky, Facebook's Working on a Tool to Help the Blind "See" Images, TechCrunch, Oct. 13, 2015, available at
2. Starbucks Using Video Screens and Baristas Knowing ASL to Accommodate Customers
Many of us have experienced going to a drive-thru and shouting our order at the microphone or struggling to hear what the employee taking our order is saying. A Starbucks in St. Augustine, Florida, which is home to a large Deaf community, has taken steps to accommodate the population there and make the drive-thru a better experience for everyone.
A woman who is deaf captured on video how she orders her coffee at this particular Starbucks. She drives up, and the barista asks what she would like to order. The woman waits a moment without saying anything, and the barista then shows up on the two-way video screen on the drive-thru menu. The barista is fluent in American Sign Language and is able to communicate with the woman effectively to get her coffee order.
This is an example of a popular company taking affirmative steps to be inclusive. Starbuck's goal is to make all customers feel comfortable ordering and to accommodate everyone's needs. In fact, four of the baristas at this Starbucks location know American Sign Language. The video has been shared thousands of times on social media sites and has received an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
Full Story: Dominique Mosbergen, Deaf Woman Captures Remarkable Encounter at Starbucks Drive-Thru, The Huffington Post, Nov. 5, 2015, available at
See also: Stephanie McNeal, This Moment Between a Starbucks Barista and a Deaf Customer Is Going Viral, BuzzFeed News, Nov. 5, 2015, available at
3. The Arc Wants to Hear about Your Online Job Application Experience
Have your organization's members or clients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) recently applied for jobs online? Has your staff assisted individuals with I/DD in applying for jobs online? If so, The Arc wants to hear from you. Please see their recent blog post to get more information about this initiative and access the surveys. The more responses received, the more equipped they will be to determine best next steps in their advocacy in this area. If you have any questions regarding survey accessibility, please contact email@example.com. For all other questions, contact Staff Attorney Shira Wakschlag.
Full Story: Shira Wakschlag, The Arc Wants to Hear about Your Experience Applying for Jobs Online, The Arc, available at
F. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
1. Lawsuits May Spur Localities to Alter Emergency Preparedness Policies
Two large U.S. cities, Los Angeles and New York, have been sued over their alleged failure to account for individuals with disabilities in emergencies in the last five years. Both cases found against the cities, determining that they had violated federal and state laws that protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination. Those cases were Communities Actively Living Independent and Free v. City of Los Angeles (2009), and Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled v. Bloomberg (2011).
Both decisions put localities on notice, demonstrating that emergency planning must account for persons with disabilities. Based on the failures of previous emergency plans, this article suggests that emergency planners should make reasonable accommodations in their plans to avoid illegally discriminating against persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities in the localities are uniquely equipped to consult with planners as they understand their needs better than others may. The study recommends that planners meet with many of those individuals to plan. It also suggests further that emergency planners should consider the full disaster lifecycle so that disabled individuals are included in the planning, emergency response, and recovery phases. The study further proposes that plans consider all types and facets of disability issues including transportation and use of shelters for individuals who are mobility-impaired, and communications to individuals with auditory or visual impairments. Those systems should be tested and working before an emergency.
Full Article: Lainie Rutkow, Holly A. Taylor, and Lance Gable, Emergency Preparedness and Response for Disabled Individuals: Implications of Recent Litigation, The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Spring, 2015, available at
2. FEMA Releases PSA about Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities
In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a PSA to remind people with disabilities to plan for emergency situations. The Administrator for FEMA, Craig Fugate, said in a statement that the disability community "leads the way in preparedness" and that doing so can serve as a model for the rest of the country in preparing for emergency situations.
The PSA itself depicts individuals with disabilities preparing for an emergency. They Focus on four essential points: be informed, make a plan, build a kit, and get involved. The PSA included an audio description service, accurate captioning, and a certified deaf interpreter.
Full Article: FEMA Wants People with Disabilities to Lead the Way on Emergency Preparedness, Before It's News, Oct. 9, 2015, available at
1. New Jacket Design Allows People with Movement Disorders to Dress Independently
After hearing a friend with cerebral palsy mention she had difficulty dressing herself, two UC Davis students came up with the idea of a self-fastening jacket. The students wanted to design a jacket that could be worn by people with movement disorders and allow them to get dressed independently.
The jacket features polyester fabric that is folded, ironed, and seamed with a metal wire that can be adjusted with an electric current. The jacket allows a person with a movement disability to send the current through the jacket, which will then fasten itself. The designers are still working out kinks with the jacket, but hope to one day it will allow people with movement disabilities to take on and off their jackets independently.
Full Story: Allyson Tsuji, Jacket Designed for Movement Disabilities, The California Aggie, Nov. 12, 2015, available at
1. Church of South India to Become More Inclusive for People with Disabilities
The Church of South India (CSI) may mandate that a fixed percentage of the jobs within the organization go to people with disabilities. The idea was discussed at a conclave this week with members and church leaders as a way to make the organization more inclusive to people with disabilities. Church leaders will discuss the idea in the following weeks.
The CSI hopes to promote integrated education facilities, the removal of structural and attitudinal barrios for people with disabilities, and discourse on theological disability theory. Church leaders hope that the widespread hiring of people with disabilities will spread throughout India in the coming years.
Full Story: Church of South India Launches Disability Solidarity Initiative. Anglican Communion News Service. Nov. 5 2015, available at
2. Campaign Emerges in Ireland to Combat Hate Crimes Against People with Disabilities
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has recorded 44 hate crimes against people with disabilities just within the last six months. Crimes include physical assaults against and property stolen from people with disabilities.
In response, the PSNI has started a campaign via Facebook to encourage reporting of hate crimes and to help prevent future attacks. The PSNI are also working with a disability rights charity, Leonard Cheshire Disability, to encourage people with disabilities to self-advocate and report crimes.
Full Story: Laura McDaid, Disability Hate Crime: New PSNI Campaign after 44 Reports in Six Months, BBC, Oct. 19, 2015, available at:
3. UN Examination Questions Sterilization of Women with Disabilities in Australia
The UN is conducting its universal periodic review of Australia and calling into question the sterilization of women with disabilities. Currently, Australia does not have any laws in place to prevent the forced sterilization of women with disabilities. Sterilization falls under the UN definition of torture.
Currently, sterilization is legal in Australia with parental consent. The disability rights organization Women with Disabilities Australia is campaigning to change this. They are also looking to require consent from the women with disabilities themselves before sterilization can occur.
Full Story: Bridie Jabour, UN Examines Australia's Forced Sterilization of Women with Disabilities, The Guardian, Nov. 10, 2015, available at
I. POP CULTURE
1. Sesame Street Introduces Julia, a Child with Autism
The popular children's TV show Sesame Street has recently announced that they will be introducing a new character with autism, Julia. The show is making an effort to destigmatize autism and spread disability awareness to a young audience through the "See Amazing in All Children" initiative. It is the hope of the initiative that the videos will make families touched by autism feel more included and reduce bullying aimed at the group. The President of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Ari Ne'eman, said that this is about sending a message about autism and added that individuals on the spectrum grew up watching Sesame Street just like everyone else.
Michelle Diament, Sesame Street Unveils Character with Autism, Disability Scoop, Oct. 21, 2015 available at
Karen Weintraub, Autism Finds a Friend on Sesame Street, USA Today, Oct. 25, 2015 available at
2. Berkeley Art Exhibit Honors Disability Rights Movement
An exhibit at San Francisco State University by the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability is currently on display. The exhibit commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and includes video interviews with people who participated in the movement. Also on display are photographs, flyers, posters, buttons, and correspondences from the movement.
The exhibit, entitled "Patient No More," will be on display until December 18, and is fully accessible to people with disabilities. The exhibit features text and guides in Braille, audio tours, ASL, and captioning.
Full Story: 'Patient no More' Show in Berkeley Documents a Historic Disability Rights Protest, Berkeleyside, Nov. 9, 2015, available at
J. EVENTS AND FUNDING
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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 Philip Ross, Tesla Goodrich, and Kate Battoe.
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