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
June 14, 2016
Volume 13, Issue 5
The Disability Law & Policy Newsletter is a monthly publication that aims to inform disability advocates, scholars, and service providers of the most current issues in disability law, policy, research, best practices, and breaking news.
Below is a topical overview of the items presented in this issue.
A. CIVIL RIGHTS: 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. Settlement to End Discrimination Against Blind Uber Riders Who Use Guide Dogs
On April 30, 2016, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of California announced a settlement with Uber Technologies to ensure that people who use guide dogs have full and equal access to vehicles in the Uber network. Denying equal access to guide-dog users to Uber services is a violation of federal and state disability rights laws. According to an NFB press release, this is the first nationwide class-action settlement of its kind against an app-based transportation company. In the past blind people who use guide dogs have reported that Uber drivers have repeatedly denied access to rides when the Uber drivers realized the blind rider had a guide dog. There have also been reports of drivers telling blind customers to put their guide dog in the trunk or charging cancellation fees even when the riders were denied a ride.
Under this settlement, Uber has agreed to take affirmative steps to tell drivers about their obligations to transport riders who have disabilities and use guide dogs, and will require new drivers to expressly confirm that they understand their obligations under the law. Uber will remove a driver from the platform if Uber finds that the driver knowingly denied a person with a disability a ride because the person was traveling with a service animal. If a driver has multiple complaints against them they will be automatically removed from the platform regardless of their intent. Additionally, Uber has agreed to improve its response system for complaints related to discrimination against guide-dog users, and will track data on all allegations of such discrimination. Further, NFB and its California affiliate will deploy testers over a multiyear period to evaluate Uber's compliance with the settlement.
Full Story: Mary Beth Quirk, Uber, Blind Passengers Reach Settlement in Lawsuit over Service Animals, consumerist.com, May 2, 2016, available at
2. Voting Barriers Reported in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require state and local governments to ensure that people with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote. The ADA's provisions apply to all aspects of voting, including voter registration, site selection, and the casting of ballots. Further the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires jurisdictions responsible for conducting federal elections to provide at least one accessible voting system for persons with disabilities at each polling place in federal elections. The accessible voting system must provide the same opportunity for access and participation that other voters receive, including privacy and independence.
Despite these protections in the law, dozens of polling locations in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia are at risk of being inaccessible to voters with disabilities. Physical barriers for people who use wheelchairs and/or have limited mobility include heavy doors, steep wheelchair ramps, inoperative doorbells, and narrow entryways. A study of Virginia polling locations by the Disability Law Center of Virginia reported almost 40 of the 200 polling sites reviewed during the 2016 primaries had access barriers for people with disabilities. The Maryland State Board of Elections reported at least eight polling sites with accessibility problems as of February 2016. The Office of District of Columbia Auditor report indicated that 37 of 140 polling precincts in the 2014 elections had access problems. The D.C. Board of Elections issued a December 2015 memo that acknowledged a series of challenges the agency encountered in providing full access to people with disabilities indicating that a lack of cooperation from managers of certain facilities has had a direct impact on accessibility and that a lack of alternative polling place options for relocation requires the Board of Elections to continue using these inaccessible facilities.
Full Story: Scott MacFarlane, Rick Yarborough, Jeff Piper, and Ashley Brown, Dozens of DMV-Polling Places May Be Inaccessible to Voters with Disabilities on Election Day, NBC 4 Washington, May 17, 2016, available at
1. The Department of Labor Promotes Workplace Inclusiveness
The US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has signed an alliance agreement with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities to increase workplace inclusiveness of employees with disabilities. ODEP Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Sheehy says that "expanding the availability of resources and information on fostering an inclusive workforce is critical to increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities."
With the alliance, they will be able to work together to create new policies and strategies to advance the careers of people with disabilities in the workplace. People with disabilities are often overlooked, but the goal is to educate employers on how they can make the most of the talents of their employees with disabilities.
Full Story: US Department of Labor Signs Alliance Agreement to Increase Inclusion of Workers with Disabilities, United States Department of Labor, May 18, 2016, available at
2. Car Wash in Florida that Employs Adults with Autism Is Expanding to Second Location
Individuals with autism are challenged to find employment that is suited to their skill set. In Florida, Rising Tide Car Wash aimed to use the unique skills that individuals with autism have and create a successful business. The business model of Rising Tide focuses on empowering individuals with autism, and the employees manage all aspects of the business. The job duties are suited to workers with autism because the employees have a high attention to detail and work efficiently, which provides a quality service to every customer.
Rising Tide has found great success in its first location, which opened in 2013, and the owner, John D'Eri, is opening a second car wash in Margate, Florida. He expects that the workforce for the second location will need to be larger, increasing from 40 to 60 individuals. D'Eri pays his employees Florida's minimum wage, $8.05 per hour, and employees can work their way up to higher wages based on promotions.
Full Story: Paul Owers, Business Built Around Workers with Disabilities Expanding, Disability Scoop, May 24, 2016, available at
1. Senator Chuck Schumer Calls for Full Funding of IDEA
On May 12, 2016, in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asked his colleagues to increase funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). When Congress originally passed IDEA in 1975 mandating special education services in public schools, the federal government committed to paying 40 percent of the costs, leaving states and local officials to fund the remainder. However, in his letter, Senator Schumer pointed out that in fiscal year 2016 the federal government planned to cover only 16 percent of the costs of special education for children ages 3 to 21. Senator Schumer indicated that this was $17.85 billion short of the original commitment, and called on his colleagues to close this funding gap.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Senator Calls for Full Funding of IDEA, disability scoop.com, May 23, 2016, available at
2. Nearly Half of Complaints to U.S. Department of Education Are Disability Related
The U.S. Department of Education received a record number of civil rights complaints last year, and nearly half (46%) alleged some form of disability discrimination--over 4,800 disability related complaints in total. Complaints related to inappropriate restraint and seclusion as well as web accessibility for students with disabilities have been on the rise. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reported that 4,655 complaints were successfully resolved and that the U.S. Department of Education issued five guidance documents in 2015 addressing disability rights issues in schools. While the caseload carried by the OCR has nearly doubled in the last decade, staffing levels have declined to a record low.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Complaints to Education Department Largely Disability-Related, disabilityscoop.com, May 5, 2016, available at
1. EEOC Rule Clarifies Wellness Programs
For the past 18 months, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) has studied corporate wellness programs, and on May 17, 2016, issued its final rule that governs these wellness programs. Disability rights advocates are concerned that employees will feel financially pressured to participate in health assessments or biometric screenings. Under the final rule, which goes into effect January 1, 2017, employers with wellness programs can offer employees and their spouse's financial incentives up to 30 percent of the total cost of employee-only health coverage. While spouses may receive incentives for completing health assessments or biometric screenings, those incentives cannot be linked to providing information about their family medical history or completing genetic tests. Likewise, no incentives can be offered to the children of employees if tied to health assessments, biometric screenings, family medical history, or genetic testing.
This rule helps prevent employee discrimination based on disability or genetic information and also imposes limitations on the type of information that employers can collect from workers. Under the rule it is reasonable for employees to answer questions about their health conditions, or to take a biometric screening to alert them to a potential health risk. Collecting and using aggregate health information to design programs that target prevalent employee conditions is also reasonable under the rule. However, shifting healthcare costs from an employer to an employee based on the employee's health data is not permitted under the rule.
Full Story: Carol Patton, EEOC Rule Clarifies Wellness Programs, hreonline.com, May 26, 2016, available at
2. Couple Creates Flash Cards to Help Deaf Patients
According to a statement from the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), health-care is "routinely inaccessible" to deaf people because of communication and linguistic barriers. In fact, most healthcare services do not provide adequate communication access to American Sign Language (ASL) or any other sign language through qualified interpreters. Further, not every deaf person has the same communication style and/or language--some use ASL, some can read lips, some can read and write English. Miscommunications in medical situations can lead to misdiagnoses and medical errors. Often in-person interpreting services can take hours to acquire, even while there are internet technologies that allow patients and interpreters to communicate visually in real time using tablets or phones.
Based on his own personal experiences in a hospital as a nurse, Eddie Welsh and his wife, Laura Paynter Welsh, have created a system of flash cards tailored to specific medical scenarios collected on a key-ring or into a single laminated booklet. Each card shows common words and phrases depicted by images of their sign-language equivalents and are grouped into categories such as "anatomy," "signs & symptoms," and "treatment." The Welshes produce the cards through their company, called "D.E.A.F. ecc.," which stands for "Deaf Emergency Access Form-Emergency Card Cards." The Welshes do not intend for the cards to replace live interpreters--and stress that they are a stopgap measure only to help the staff begin assessment and treatment while everyone is waiting on the interpreter to arrive. Executive Director of nonprofit Deaf Access Services, a New York advocacy group, has been supportive of the product, and the booklets have already been used at the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, NY.
Full Story: Ronnie Polaneczky, Couple Creates Guide to Help Deaf Patients in Emergencies, philly.com, May 17, 2016, available at
1. Making Playtime Accessible with "Adaptoys"
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, a non-profit organization, is committed to helping improve the quality of life for people with paralysis. The Foundation has announced the creation of Adaptoys, so that individuals with paralysis can find playtime with their younger family members less frustrating and be able to participate fully.
The Foundation partnered with the digital advertising agency 360i and technology company Axios to create Adaptoys. The groups have currently developed two different Adaptoys, a remote control race car and a pitcher. The race car is controlled by the user with a headset for left and right motion, and includes a straw, through which the user can inhale or exhale to control forward and backward movement. The pitcher is a voice controlled pitching machine, which will toss a ball when the user says the command. The pitcher can throw a ball in a variety of ways, including tosses, pop-ups, and ground balls.
These partners are currently pushing a crowd-funding campaign, so that some families across the country might be able to receive an Adaptoy at no cost. The campaign will also help for research and development costs, so that new Adaptoys can be made in the future.
Full Story: "Adaptoys" Changes the Game for People Living with Paralysis, PR Newswire, May 2, 2016, available at
See also: Adaptoy Overview, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, available at
2. Technology to Help Children with Autism Recognize Emotions and Social Cues
Stanford student Catalin Voss has created a software program called Autism Glass, which works together with Google Glass to help children with autism learn to recognize social cues in real time conversations. Children with autism often have difficulty recognizing emotions or making eye contact during conversations. Voss won the 2016 Lemelson - MIT Student Prize given to students who create technology-based health care solutions.
Autism Glass is used with Google Glass and a smartphone and can provide feedback to the user in real time. It also can record video from interactions so that parents or caregivers can later watch the video and teach the child further. The technology has proven successful in its trials so far, and Voss hopes to develop it further. His goals include making Autism Glass compatible with different types of wearable technology, not just Google Glass and developing the software so that it is more "nuanced," that is, so that it can learn a person's facial expressions or be able to keep track of a multiperson conversation. Voss also hopes that users would eventually not need to use the software because they have sufficiently learned from it.
Full Story: Prachi Patel, Autism Glass Takes Top Student Health Tech Prize, Scientific American, April 12, 2016, available at
F. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
1. Richmond, California to Receive Grant to Train Communities for Emergencies
Just in time to prep for the upcoming hurricane season in June, Cities of Service will be distributing $175,000 to five cities in the Bay Area of California. This new program called the "Bay Area Impact Volunteering Program" is intended to help strengthen resiliency in the face of disaster. The program for which Richmond is receiving grant money focuses on disaster preparedness for persons with disabilities and others that require accommodations.
Richmond will receive funds for their program, the "Richmond, PWD AFN Outreach Program," which visits and trains people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs (PWD AFN) for emergency situations. The grant will help Richmond to expand the capacity of community emergency response teams to support PWD and AFN groups that have historically suffered disproportionately from disasters. Volunteers from the PWD AFN Outreach Program will work one-on-one with affected communities and persons to "create emergency plans, build trust, and create formal support networks."
Full Article: Cities of Service Invests in the Power of Citizen Engagement to Create More Resilient Cities in the Bay Area, PRNewswire-USNewswire, May 26, 2016, available at
1. Student with Autism Self-Advocates for Inclusion, Writes Own IEP
For Holt Priest, a student with Autism from Chesterfield, Montana, starting high school did not come easy. He spent much of his freshman year in isolation and attended segregated classes for students with disabilities. However, after extensive communication therapy and self-advocacy, Priest was allowed to write his own Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which allowed him to attend an integrated biology course, and enroll in the school choir. By his senior year, Priest was playing on the school's football team, and was even voted Mr. Spirit by his classmates during Homecoming week. After graduation, Priest plans to look for a job with help from St. Louis ARC, which provides career services for adults with intellectual disabilities.
Full Story: Elisa Crouch, Craig Bragg, Once Isolated, Graduate with Autism Finishes on Top, Disability Scoop, May 17, 2016, available at
2. Man with Autism Starts Own Business with Snow Cone Food Truck
Blake Pyron, a man with Down syndrome from Sanger, Texas, recently opened his own snow cone business. The twenty-year-old was motivated to start his own food business after working at a barbeque restaurant during high school and enjoying his experience. Pyron and his family consulted with Tim's Place, a restaurant owned by a man with Down syndrome in Albuquerque, for business tips and ideas. That helped them come up with a structure where Pyron is president of the company and his parents are co-owners. Pyron is now Sanger's youngest business owner, and the opening in May was a huge success, garnering business and 3,200 Facebook likes.
Full Story: Najeed Rajwani, 20-Year-Old Sanger Man with Down Syndrome Opens Snow Cone Business for Mother's Day, The Dallas Morning News, May 9, 2016, available at
See Also: Lauren Zakalik, Teen with Down Syndrome Becomes Business Owner, USA Today, Jan. 20, 2016, available at
1. Disability Rights International Investigates Abuse and Neglect Cases in Mexico
Advocacy group Disability Rights International (DRI) is moving forward with a lawsuit against the Mexican government for failing to shut down facilities that perpetuate abuse and neglect of children with disabilities. The lawsuit comes a year after DRI's investigation of facilities for children with disabilities led the Mexican Government to ban the use of restraints and cages for children with disabilities.
However, a recent visit to the same facilities revealed that not much has changed in the past year, and children were still restrained, some kept in cages for up to 23 hours per day. In response to this recent visit, DRI just announced it is suing the Mexican government for human rights violations in the Inter American Commission on Human Rights.
Full Story: David Muir Reports: Lawsuit to Be Filed Against Mexico for Human Rights Abuses Against Disabled, May 10, 2016, available at
2. International Sports Competition Includes Athletes with Disabilities
Rome, Italy, recently hosted a soccer competition that included athletes with and without disabilities playing alongside each other. One hundred players participated in the soccer competition, which launched the Special Olympics European Football Week in Italy. The full week will take place in various locations in the five participating countries: Italy, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, and France. The goal of the week is to have inclusive sporting events that lead to a more inclusive society.
Full Story: Ann Schneible, No Special Treatment for These Athletes, But a Chance to Play, Catholic News Agency, May 24, 2016, available at
I. POP CULTURE
1. New Film Sparks Controversy for Disability Rights Advocates
Disability rights and antieuthanasia campaigners protested the premiere of a film depicting a man with a disability contemplating his own euthanasia.
The film is an adaptation of a novel - a love story between a wealthy young man with quadriplegia and his female caretaker. The man is played by Sam Claflin (best known for his role as Finnick Odair in "The Hunger Games"), and his caretaker, Lou, is played by Emilia Clarke (best known for her role as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO series "Game of Thrones").
Full Article: Ben Quinn, The Guardian, Disability Rights Campaigners Protest at Premiere of "Me Before You," May 25, 2016, available at
J. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Calls for Papers and Proposals
Webinars and Conferences
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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 Shannon McGlew, Kelly Bunch, Catherine Ostrowski Martin, Amanda Zannoni, and Kathleen Battoe.
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