The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter
An electronic publication of
The Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the University of Iowa College of Law
The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
July 12, 2016
Volume 13, Issue 6
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. Study Finds ADA Violations in Correctional Facilities Across the Country
Using its status as a protection agency to research and document the conditions of inmates with disabilities, Disability Rights Washingtonreleased a report finding that inmates with disabilities are routinely denied accommodations in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). DRW conducted this investigation as part of the Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities Prison Project. The Department of Justice estimates that approximately 3 in 10 prisoners have at least one disability. The study examined 21 states and found deficiencies in each state, including inmates having to crawl on the floor because they did not have access to a wheelchair, inmates denied adaptive utensils preventing them from eating, inmates denied access to an accessible shower or toilet, and inmates who are blind denied access to canes or mobility training. DRW is calling on the federal government to increase funding for oversight, training, and reforms to address these ADA violations.
Full Story: Danielle Leigh, Study Finds Disabled Inmates Living in "Unacceptable" Conditions, www.king5.com/news, Jun. 22, 2016, available at
2. City of Oakdale Enters into Settlement to Create Policies and Training for Police Staff on How to Interact with Individuals Who Are Deaf
The City of Oakdale, Minnesota, has paid $30,000 after the Minnesota Department of Human Rights found that the Oakdale Police Department failed to provide effective communication and meaningful access to police services to a citizen who is deaf. Police were called to the home of Alan Read, a citizen who is deaf, of Oakdale, on a domestic dispute. During an after-arrest interview, Read asked for an American Sign Language interpreter or a family member to communicate with Oakdale officers. However, during the incident and subsequent arrest, police used written notes to communicate and gave Read a copy of the Miranda warning in writing. Police contacted an interpreter but failed to use that service, nor did they ask Read's sister about her willingness or ability to interpret. Read spent 48 hours in jail without access to an interpreter, and police repeatedly denied his request for his sister to serve as his interpreter. Police reports indicated Read had difficulty with understanding written language and officers were aware of his struggles with written communication. Further, Oakdale Police did not have a policy and its officers did not have training on how to interact with suspects who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The settlement agreement between the City of Oakdale and the Department of Human Rights describes how the police will update its policies, procedures, and services; designate a deaf and hard-of-hearing coordinator; and provide training to its staff to ensure that individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing have full and equal enjoyment of public services.
Full Story: Access Press Staff, Claim Upheld in Oakdale, accesspress.org, Jun. 10, 2016, available at
1. National Organization on Disability Releases 2016 Employer Seal
The National Organization on Disability (NOD) published its new Leading Disability Employer Seal to recognize employers and organizations that continue to improve on workforce inclusion for employees with disabilities. NOD recognized 27 employers for the year 2016 to receive the award. The Seal is new this year, but will become an annual award in the future.
The goal of the Seal is to recognize employers who make hiring employees with disabilities a priority and to help these employers stand out and attract new employees with disabilities. The award is based on data that is submitted by employers to NOD through its free Disability Employment Tracker tool. The Tracker is an online tool that employers can use to evaluate their inclusion practices in areas including climate and culture, identifying and sourcing talent, onboarding, performance management, and tracking and measurement.
To be considered for the 2017 Seal, employers must sign up for the Tracker tool and submit the required information during the qualification period. However, employers can use the tool at any time to rate their performance in the practice areas.
Full Story: National Organization on Disability Announces 2016 "Leading Disability Employer Seal" Winners, National Organization on Disability, Jun. 9, 2016, available at
See also: National Organization on Disability Seeks to Recognize Leading Disability Employers with a New Seal of Approval, Off The Block News, Jan. 20, 2016, available at
2. NY Company a Finalist in Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired Competition
Satauna Howery runs her own voiceover business, Satauna's Voiceovers, from her basement sound studio in Clifton Park, New York. She has done voiceovers for companies like Delta Airlines and Facebook and many commercials and training videos. Clients send her scripts via email, which are then translated to her through her Braille display.
Howery entered her business plan to the first Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired business pitch competition. There were 20 other applicants, and Howery was selected as one of three finalists. She received $5,000 in award money and is planning to use the money to hire part-time staff who are also blind.
The Hadley Institute hopes to make the competition into an annual event.
Full Story: Lindsay Ellis, Clifton Park voiceover business earns honor for blind entrepreneur Satauna Howery, timesunion, Jun. 9, 2016, available at
1. Supreme Court Asks Obama Administration for Opinion on FAPE
The Supreme Court of the United States asked the Obama administration to offer an opinion on a case known as Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District that was brought by the parents of a Colorado child with autism who removed their son from the Douglas County School District. The parents enrolled their child in a private school and sought reimbursement from the public school district, arguing that their son had not been provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE), as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, a hearing officer and the U.S. District of Colorado Court found that the school had provided FAPE because the boy received some educational benefit. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this decision, and the family appealed to the Supreme Court.
Some courts have found that if an individual's education plan provides a child with more than a trivial educational benefit, then they have fulfilled their requirements under IDEA in providing FAPE, while other courts have found that the Act requires a heightened educational benefit. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it could resolve this conflict among the courts and provide guidance for parents and educators about rights and obligations under IDEA.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Supreme Court Considers Whether to Address FAPE, Disabilityscoop.com, Jun. 14, 2016 available at
2. Department of Education Report Shows Continued Disparities for Students with Disabilities
Every two years, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights collects information including student enrollment and educational programs and services including data on race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency, and disability. On June 7, 2016, reports released by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights revealed that high school students with disabilities were 1.3 times more likely to be considered "chronically absent," which is defined as missing more than 15 days of school per year. The reports also found that elementary students with disabilities were 1.5 times more likely to be into this category. Suspension rates among students with disabilities are at 11 percent, compared to only 5 percent for students without disabilities. The report also found that out of the 100,000 students who were subjected to restraint and seclusion disciplinary practices, 67,000 were students with disabilities. Additionally, the report revealed that students with disabilities are less likely to participate in higher course work such as calculus or physics, and 1 in 5 high school students with disabilities were held back or retained. The figures come from data on more than 50 million students representing nearly every one of the nation's public schools during the 2013-2014 school year.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, National Data Shows Kids with Disabilities Face Deep Disparities, disabilityscoop.com, Jun. 7, 2016, available at
1. People with Disabilities on Waitlists with Indefinite Wait Times for Medicaid Funded Services
In Pennsylvania, 14,000 people with intellectual disabilities are on a waiting list to receive Medicaid funding, called a Medical Assistance Home and Community-based Waiver, to pay for intensive services, including intensive therapy, training on how to interact with others, and other life skills. Prior to age 21, children and young adults are covered under Medicaid, which would provide these services, but after age 21 that entitlement ends, causing many people with disabilities to lose these vital services.
Pennsylvania's Medicaid program uses a combination of state and federal dollars to pay for care in people's homes or a small group setting rather than in institutions. It costs the state approximately $47,000 on average to care for a person in their home, and about to $145,000 to care for an individual in a community based program. Currently three separate lists make up the total waiting list, including 1) a planning list for those who will need services in several years; 2) a critical list for those who will need services in more than six months but less than two years; and 3) the emergency list for people who need services within six months, or in some cases immediately. Approximately 5,000 people are on the emergency list in Pennsylvania.
As of now, the only way a spot opens up on the waiting list is if someone currently receiving services dies or moves out of state. When the waiting list campaign started in 1999, there were over 30,000 people on the waiting list. That number has been reduced only after years of advocacy efforts, including those by the Arc of Greater Pittsburgh, who started the Pennsylvania waiting list campaign to push for additional funding.
Full Story: Kate Giammarise, Families Face Indefinite Wait for Services, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Jun. 24, 2016, available at
2. Children and Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities More Likely to Be Prescribed Antipsychotics
According to findings published in the June 2016 issue of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, nearly 1 out of 10 youths who are prescribed antipsychotics are diagnosed with a developmental disability. Nearly one and six people with autism or an intellectual disability have been prescribed antipsychotics. These findings are based on an analysis of 39 existing studies looking at over 350,000 young people.
The lead researcher, Christoph Corell of Hofstra University, warned that clinicians should perform very careful risk-benefit evaluation before and after starting youth with autism spectrum or intellectual disabilities on an antipsychotic, because the side effects of antipsychotics can be problematic, especially in children and adolescents.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, More with Developmental Disabilities Medicated, Study Finds, disabilityscoop.com, Jun. 17, 2016, available at
1. Apple Introducing New Apple Watch Accessibility Features
Apple Watch will soon be able to track the activity levels of individuals who use wheelchairs. The software update, watchOS 3.0, coming later this year, will have wheelchair specific settings. This will make Apple Watch the first fitness tracker that is accessible to users of wheelchairs.
The update will offer workouts designed for people who use wheelchairs and reminders that it is "time to roll" when the individual has not moved for a certain amount of time. Apple collaborated with physical fitness groups of individuals with disabilities to come up with the update. It required new scientific studies of the effects of different floor surfaces, among many other factors, to calculate how many calories a person who uses a wheelchair burns.
Full Story: Karin Willison, Apple Watch to Offer First Wheelchair Fitness Tracking Feature, The Mighty, Jun. 14, 2016, available at
2. Voice Access; Google's New Accessibility Feature
Voice Access allows cell phone users who have severe motor disabilities to completely control their phones with their voice. The new program will be released on the Android N software update that will be coming later this year.
Google already has some voice control features available. For example, you can say "OK Google" to your Android device and ask it to navigate to your destination using Google Maps. Voice Access is activated in a similar way. The user asks Google to "turn on Voice Access," which sets the device to be always "listening." Then each icon on the phone is overlaid with a number. The user then says the number corresponding with the feature they wish to use.
The numbers are just a backup though. Google has been prioritizing accessibility for a number of years. App developers for Android devices who follow Google's best accessibility practices should already have plain English commands in place for Voice Access. Google expects that Voice Access will be popular not just with the disability community but with all Android users.
Full Story: John Brownlee, Google's Latest Accessibility Feature Is So Good, Everyone Will Use It, Co.Design, May 20, 2016, available at
F. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
1. Senior Safety Summit Held in McLean Highlights New 911 System
A "next gen" 911 system in Fairfax County, Virginia, will provide "pinpoint location accuracy and have the ability to send and receive photos and videos and even transmit vital signs to first responders." It also includes a text message feature.
A topic entitled "Disaster Preparedness - Is 72 Hours (of supplies) Enough?" was paid particular attention at the summit. Sandi Fox from Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management discussed items that should be included in a useful emergency preparedness kit. Kits were provided to the attendees of the summit. "Seventy-two hours is just the bare minimum," she said, speaking about the time that attendees should be prepared for during an emergency.
Full Article: Andrea Worker, Senior Safety Summit Held in McLean, McLean Connection, Jun. 30, 2016, available at
http://www.mcleanconnection.com/news/2016/jun/21/senior-safety-summit-held-mclean/ - h128145-p9
1. Woman with Developmental Disabilities Finds Independence Working with Animals
Jenny Peterson from Winona, Minnesota, a woman with developmental disabilities, was having trouble finding a job after she was fired from a veterinary clinic after her boss told her she was "too slow." However, she didn't let this setback keep her from pursuing a job or her dream of owning horses.
With the help of local rehabilitation and job counseling services, Peterson got a job at a local senior living center. She also got a part-time job at Walmart, and as a result is now financially independent. She lives in her own house and is able to keep and care for two horses. She hopes one day to become a certified riding instructor and is currently saving up for classes.
Full Story: Marcia Ratliff, More than a Job Series: Winona Woman Uses Newfound Confidence from ORC to Find Work, Winona Daily News, Jun. 24, 2016, available at
1. Irish Government Announces New Funding for Transitioning Adults with Disabilities
Irish Minister of State for disabilities, Finian McGrath, recently announced a new funding scheme for adults with disabilities who are making the difficult transition from school to the working world. Ireland has been facing a funding crisis for adults with serious disabilities who are graduating from high school and who have no built-in supports.
The new 31 million euros in funding is pledged to help all "18 year old school leavers with disabilities" so that they will have access to supports and services that meet their needs at this transitional period. Funding also will be allocated to emergency cases, such as people with serious disabilities whose parents pass away or who are facing serious financial difficulty. The Irish government has stated that it wants to empower people with disabilities to live more independent lives and have greater independence in both the services they choose and their ability to tailor their own supports.
Full Story: Fiach Kelly, Extra 31m Disability Funds "Entirely New," Minister Says, Irish Times, Jun. 9, 2016, available at
I. POP CULTURE
1. Artists with Developmental Disabilities Explore the Meaning of Femininity.
A nonprofit studio and gallery space based in Brooklyn, New York, works with adult artists with developmental disabilities to bolster life skills through art. The League Artists Natural Design Gallery (LAND) was co-founded by artist and curator Matthew Bede Murphy in 2003.
LAND has a waiting list and works with 16 artists at a given time. The gallery is open to artists with developmental disabilities and is funded through Medicare. Accepted artists must be devoted, "serious about their craft, ready to participate in a high-paced, energetic art environment," and have that drive "all day, every day." LAND staff members review potential artists' portfolios and consider whether artists are able to handle the pressure and excitement of working in a space that receives visitors and public attention.
In their new exhibition "Designing Women," the artists of LAND explore their dynamic perspectives on being and observing women. The participating artists of LAND Gallery "pay tribute to the goddesses of history, pop culture, and everyday life with artworks as innovative and expressive as they come." The "Designing Women" exhibition will be open until August 2, 2016, at LAND Gallery.
Full Article: Priscilla Frank, Artists with Developmental Disabilities Explore the Meaning of Femininity, The Huffington Post, Jun. 23, 2016, available at
J. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call 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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