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
October 26, 2016
Volume 13, Issue 9
The Disability Law & Policy Newsletter is a monthly publication that aims to inform disability advocates, scholars, and service providers of the most current issues in disability law, policy, research, best practices, and breaking news.
Below is a topical overview of the items presented in this issue.
A. CIVIL RIGHTS: 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
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Settlement Increases Access to Closed Captioned Hulu Content
On September 6, 2016, the National Association of the Deaf and Hulu, LLC, entered into a settlement agreement for Hulu to provide closed captions on 100 percent of its full-length English and Spanish content. This agreement will be implemented by September 2017. Hulu is a streaming television service that offers TV shows, movies, and premium original content to subscribers.
The agreement will provide captioning access to movies and television streamed online for consumers, including consumers in the United States who are deaf and hard of hearing. Through this settlement agreement, Hulu will ensure that subscribers who are deaf and hard of hearing receive equal and meaningful access to all content offered through the streaming service. Further, all content on Hulu shown in languages other than English or Spanish will be available with captions on request.
Full Story: The National Association of the Deaf and Hulu Reach Agreement, DREDF.org, Sept. 6, 2016, available at
2. EEOC Sues Work Services, Inc., for Disability Discrimination of Workers
On October 3, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced they filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Work Services, Inc., an employment agency that operated a bunkhouse and provided workers to a meat processing plant in Newberry, South Carolina. This lawsuit brought by the EEOC comes after a lawsuit filed by the Department of Labor that alleged that Work Services failed to pay the men federal minimum wages and overtime. According to the EEOC lawsuit, Work Services had discriminated against six former employees with intellectual and development disabilities for years by providing them little or no compensation for their work. Further, Work Services forced the men to "live in substandard conditions, restricted their freedom of movement, and deprived them of basic opportunities to engage with the world beyond the bunkhouse grounds."
This lawsuit is connected to the Henry's Turkey case of worker exploitation in Atalissa, Iowa, which was resolved in 2013. Men with intellectual disabilities endured similar mistreatment, being forced to live in a bunkhouse while working at a turkey- processing plant. All of the men in Newberry and Atalissa initially worked for the same company, Henry's Turkey Service, which recruited clients from state institutions in Texas, trained them, and sent them out to processing plants across the country. The EEOC claims the combination of misconduct and disregard of rights for these workers, which also included name-calling related to their disabilities, created a hostile work environment for these workers.
Full Story: Dan Barry, Bias Suit Filed on Behalf of Disabled Men in South Carolina Meat Plant, New York Times, Sept. 30, 2016, available at
3. Access Living of Chicago Sues Uber for Lack of Accessible Rides
On October 13, 2016, Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago and the law firm of Much Shelist filed a lawsuit against Uber for failing to provide enough vehicles that are accessible for people who use wheelchairs. Access Living claimed that out of the nearly two million rides provided by Uber in Chicago from September 2011 through June 2015, the company only provided 14 rides to people who use motorized wheelchairs. A lawyer for the firm of Much Shelist explained that some of the benefits of Uber compared to cabs are the ease of use and cost to average consumers, but that whole classes of people are being left out.
Access Living previously supported a proposed city ordinance intended to impose stricter rules on ride-share services that would have required that five percent of Uber's fleet be wheelchair accessible, and that the service be comparable to other Uber services in time and cost. However, the ordinance that was passed in the City Council this past June did not include equivalent services for people with disabilities.
Full Story: Mary Wsniewski, Disability Rights Group Sues Uber Citing Wheelchair Access, Chicago Tribune/TNS, Oct. 14, 2016, available at
1. Federal Funds Awarded for Improving Job Opportunities for People with Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has set aside over $24 million to help people with disabilities get job training and find work opportunities. The money will also go to organizations to develop/establish models, technical assistance, and best practices for employers and employees to follow. This money is part of DOL's Disability Employment Initiative (DEI), which started in 2010. Since that time, the DEI has awarded over $123 million to projects in 28 states in furtherance of these employment goals.
To learn about what impact DEI has had so far, see the DEI Evaluation - Interim Synthesis Report for Year 4, available here:
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Over $24 Million Tagged for Disability Employment, Disability Scoop, Sept. 20, 2016, available at
2. October Is National Disability Employment Awareness Month
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) traces its roots back to 1945, when Congress set the first week in October aside for disability employment awareness. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced in May that the theme of the 2016 NDEAM would be #InclusionWorks. Jennifer Sheehy, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of DOL, said, "Our nation's most successful companies proudly make inclusion a core value. They know that inclusion works."
President Barack Obama published a Proclamation at the start of NDEAM acknowledging the achievements for disability rights since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act but noting there is still work to be done. People with disabilities only represent a fraction of the labor participation rate compared to people without disabilities, and that unemployment rates of people with disabilities are higher than of people without disabilities. President Obama said of this year's NDEAM theme, "When we diversify our workforce we create opportunities for growth and improvement ... let us continue striving to forge a future where workplaces are more inclusive and where employees are more accepted for who they are."
Full story: Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation - National Disability Employment Awareness Month, 2016, The White House, Sept. 30, 2016, available at
See also: News Release: National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2016 Theme Announced, United States Department of Labor, May 12, 2016, available at
1. DOE Awards $39 Million Toward Transition Services for Students with Disabilities
The Department of Education (DOE) awarded $39 million to California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont to go toward transition programs that would better prepare students with disabilities for post-secondary education and competitive employment. The transition programs will provide demonstration projects with work-based learning experiences. States will work with vocational rehabilitation programs, local schools, and other partners on projects in integrated environments with people with and without disabilities. The success of these programs will be measured by how many students with disabilities are able to obtain paid, competitive employment or post-secondary education/training placements after the program.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Education Department Aims to Improve Transition Outcomes, disabilityscoop.com, Oct. 10, 2016, available at
2. Texas Must Prove Low Benchmark Policy Does Not Deny Students Services
On October 3, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education instructed Texas state officials that they must eliminate their special education enrollment target unless they can prove that it has not kept students with disabilities from receiving services. Texas state officials have a benchmark called Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS) Manual Indicator 10 that penalizes school districts that give special education services to more than 8.5 percent of students. The Texas Educational Agency (TEA) set and implemented this benchmark without consulting the Texas Legislature, State Board of Education, federal government or any research. Sue Swenson, DOE assistant secretary for special education wrote in a letter to the TEA that "[i]t appears the state's approach to monitoring local educational agency compliance under the PBMAS may be resulting in districts' failure to identify and evaluate all students suspected of having a disability and who need special education."
The DOE gave Texas state officials one month to provide evidence to show that PBMAS has not kept any students from receiving special education services. Prior to the 8.5 percent benchmark, approximately 12 percent of students in Texas received some kind of special educational services in 2004. This is just below the national long-term average of 13 percent. An investigation by the Houston Chronicle revealed that this decline has saved the TEA billions of dollars but has also denied services to children with disabilities. If Texas was providing services at the same rate as the rest of the country, approximately 25,000 more students would be receiving services.
Full Story: Brian M. Rosenthal, Feds Order Texas to End Special Ed Benchmark unless States Can Prove No Kid Has Been Denied Services, Houston, Chronicle, Oct. 3, 2016, available at
See also: Report: Benchmark Led to Special Education Services Denials in Texas, Fox News, Sept. 12, 2016, available at
1. Researchers Improved Health Care for Kansans with Disabilities
The Institute of Health and Disability Policy Studies at the University of Kansas will use a $1.5 million federal grant to work with partners from nonprofit organizations and government agencies to improve physical activity, nutrition, and oral care for Kansans with disabilities. This grant is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and requires recipients to focus attention on increasing physical activity. Researchers at the Institute of Health and Disability Policy Studies have found that Kansans with disabilities are five times more likely to report that they had a heart attack than Kansans without disabilities, and 75 percent are overweight. Thirty-six percent of Kansans with disabilities reported having no dental care in the past year versus 23 percent of Kansans without disabilities. Director of the Institute of Health and Disability Policy Studies, Jean Hall, said that the Institute will work with partners such as Oral Health Kansas, disability caregivers, and health care providers to make dental care, health foods, and workout facilities more accessible to Kansans with disabilities.
Full Story: Andy Marso, KU Researchers Aim to Improve Health of Kansans with Disabilities, KCUR.org, Sept. 19, 2016, available at
1. Technology Bill of Rights for Americans with Disabilities
The National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency, has asked Congress to promulgate a Technology Bill of Rights for Americans with disabilities. NCD established this request in its state of the union on disability policy for 2016, "National Disability Policy: A Progress Report." Clyde Terry, NCD Chair, said that, "In today's world, technological equality for persons with disabilities is a social justice issue." Access to information and technology is a critical aspect of today's society.
Read the NCD's full report here:
Full Story: National Council on Disability Calls for a "Technology Bill or Rights" for 57 Million Americans, National Council on Disability, Oct. 7, 2016, available at
2. FCC Released Biennial Report on Communications Technology Accessibility
The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) of the Federal Communications Commission released its report on the state of accessibility of communications technology under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) on October 7, 2016. The CVAA's goal is to ensure that accessibility laws keep up with the times and constantly changing technology to ensure access for people with disabilities. CBG submitted the report to both houses of Congress. The report discusses, among other things, accessibility of telecommunications services, advanced communications services, and mobile phone Internet browsers.
Read CGB's full report here:
Full Story: Joshua Guyun et al., FCC Releases Third Biennial Report to Congress on Communications Accessibility for People with Disabilities, CommLaw Monitor, Oct. 11, 2016, available at
F. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
1. Interactive Map Details Health Service Areas in Advance of Hurricane Matthew
Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid group, has released an article in which communities in the path of Hurricane Matthew were evaluated based on the availability of resources. The article has an interactive map that allows users to see census data about communities in the path of the storm. It focused on four particular factors that can influence a community's vulnerability during a large storm like Matthew: mobility, poverty, health, and language. A map of Florida details mobility of communities in the path of the storm, and a map of South Carolina details disability in its coastal communities. Blue lines on all of the maps represent health services accessible by residents.
These interactive maps created by Direct Relief are an example of a tool that could be used by individuals with disabilities in preparing for an emergency like Hurricane Matthew. Many states, like Florida, have included disability emergency preparedness in their public statements about the hurricane's effect on their communities. While this is an improvement on the attention that disability issues were given during Hurricane Katrina, there is still much that can be done.
Full Article: Tony Morain, Hurricane Matthew: Who's at Risk? Direct Relief, Oct. 7, 2016, available at
1. New Technology Allows People with Muscular Dystrophy to Drive their Own Cars
Shaan Lail, a teenager from Vancouver living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, is one of the first people with a mobility disability to try out the new Joysteer driving system in Canada. The system enables people with mobility disabilities to steer, use the indicator, turn on headlights, and complete all the functions of driving by using a joystick with various buttons attached. Lail is excited to be able to drive himself around without the help of an aide.
Disability advocates hope that the system will enable more people with disabilities to drive to work and school and maintain a more independent lifestyle. Joysteer is currently manufacturing more systems that are made to order. However, the cost of installation is currently $70,000, putting it out of reach for many people with disabilities.
Full Story: Student with Disability Able to Drive, ABC 13 Eyewitness News, Oct. 10, 2016, available at:
1. Canadian Disability Act in the Works
Carla Qualtrough, the Canadian Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, recently announced that a Canadian Disability Rights Act is in the works. She expects the act will be ratified within the next year and a half, and will be comparable to the Americans with Disabilities Act in content.
Currently there are no Canadian federally regulated standards for ensuring access for people with disabilities to buildings or employment. Qualtrough hopes the new act will function to protect the rights of the over four million Canadians who have disabilities.
Full Story: Mia Robinson, Persons with Disabilities Act on the Horizon for Canada, Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 5, 2016, available at
2. UN Condemns Australia for Wrongly Imprisoning Man with Intellectual Disabilities
The Australian government has recently come under fire for wrongfully imprisoning a man with intellectual disabilities. The man, Marlon Noble, was charged with sexual abuse of two minors when he was nineteen years old, but he was never convicted. The court refused to allow him to enter a plea because it did not believe he had capacity.
The United Nations has charged the Australian government for violating the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities by depriving Noble of his liberty for the past ten years, and Noble has since been released. UN advocates are now working to get his record expunged.
Full Story: UN Condemns Australia for Jailing Impaired Man, 9News, Sept. 24, 2016, available at
I. POP CULTURE
1. Actor from "Stranger Things" Talks about Cleidocranial Dysplasia
Gaten Matarazzo plays Dustin Henderson on the Netflix show, "Stranger Things." Those who have seen the show know that he references his disability, cleidocranial dysplasia, in character while being teased by the school bullies. Cleidocranial dysplasia affects the development of the bones and teeth. Individuals with this disability are often born without collarbones, and it can affect the appearance of the teeth.
Matarazzo appeared on a British talk show in late September and spoke about his disability. He said, "I just want to raise awareness for it, and let people know that it's not something that you should be afraid of showing."
Full Story: Elyse Wanshel, Dustin From 'Stranger Things' Speaks Out about His Disability, The Huffington Post, Sept. 29, 2016, available at
See also: Cleidocranial Dysplasia, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 18, 2016, available at
J. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers and Proposals
Webinars and Conferences
The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter is supported by the following sources:
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Note to readers: News article links may require free registration for access, or may be active for a limited time before the respective news services archive them. Archived items may also be available for a fee. Products mentioned in this newsletter are for information only and do not constitute an endorsement.
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.
To subscribe to this free e-newsletter, go to http://disability.law.uiowa.edu/lhpdc/publications/news.html for directions for the "Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter."
The e-Newsletter is archived at http://disability.law.uiowa.edu/lhpdc/publications/news.html
Re-distribution / forwarding of this e-Newsletter to your networks is encouraged.