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 30, 2017
Volume 14, 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. People with Disabilities More Likely to Be Rejected by Airbnb Hosts
The sharing economy, highlighted by technology brands like Uber and Airbnb, may pose a risk of discrimination for people with disabilities. Regarding Airbnb, an online hospitality service that facilitates connections between individual hosts and lodgers, a new study from Rutgers University found that guests with disabilities were rejected at much higher rates than guests without disabilities. Airbnb has skirted compliance with discrimination laws by arguing that they are not responsible for what happens after connecting lodgers with hosts. However, if the hosts are not complying with the ADA, then Airbnb's business is based on illegal behavior, which could bring liability.
Mason Ameri, the postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers who led the study, and Rutgers professor Lisa Schur expressed concerns that these tech companies overtaking traditional industries could override existing antidiscrimination regulations, ultimately leading to more exclusion for people with disabilities. Although an Airbnb spokesperson stressed discrimination violates their policies and said that they will not work with hosts who discriminate, the researchers worry that without a change in how booking is done or an overhaul of antidiscrimination laws, this issue is not likely to go away.
Full Story: Sam Levin, Airbnb Hosts More Likely to Reject Guests with Disabilities, Study Finds, Guardian, Jun. 2, 2017, available at
2. Op-Ed Addresses Wheelchair Use and Accessibility
Luticha Doucette, an African-American woman with incomplete quadriplegia, opines that disability discrimination is a modern-day form of segregation. She writes that although American culture values freedom of movement as one of the highest forms of freedom, people with physical disabilities, especially those who use wheelchairs, are often deprived of this freedom. From bars with only high tables to having to use an out of the way, hidden entrance to get into her office, Ms. Doucette points out a number of ways in which modern public spaces are designed in exclusive ways that limit the freedom of movement for people with disabilities. Because many major buildings were designed at a time when people with disabilities were both highly stigmatized and not visible, architects did not consider how they would access them. Bringing these buildings into ADA compliance is complicated because they would require major changes.
Ms. Doucette also stresses the importance of considering the intersections between disability, race, and poverty, discussing issues such as limited access to jobs and affordable housing, police shootings, low education levels, and poor transportation options, which impact people with disabilities more often than is typically covered in news media. These and other intersectional issues highlight the prevalence of modern day disability discrimination.
Full Story: Luticha Doucette, If You're in a Wheelchair, Segregation Lives, May 17, 2017, N.Y. Times, available at
3. New House Bill Aims to Weaken the ADA
The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, a new bill introduced in the House of Representatives, would weaken the ADA's enforcement mechanisms and likely deter people with disabilities from filing lawsuits. The Act would require any person with a disability, prior to filing a lawsuit for access to public accommodations, to submit written notice to property owners specifying how the ADA was violated. The property owner would then have 60 days to respond and 120 days after that to demonstrate progress on fixing it. Currently, people with disabilities can sue immediately under Title III of the ADA for violations committed by a public accommodation or can file a claim with U.S. Department of Justice, which investigates and ultimately may sue on their behalf.
The Act specifically targets serial plaintiffs, people who the Act's supporters believe are abusing the ADA's current enforcement mechanisms. Although disability rights activists agree this issue exists, they dispute that it is as prevalent as alleged, and further argue that this act does not approach the issue from the right direction. Kim Sauder, a disability scholar, makes the point that there is no agency or independent body monitoring ADA compliance. The ADA relies on people with disabilities to bring claims about accessibility and any enforcement or inspection follows from there. By placing obstacles in the way of that process, while adding no other enforcement means, the Act substantially threatens ADA compliance.
Full Story: Jake Flanagin, Republicans Think Disabled Americans Are Gaming the System, So They Want to Make the ADA Harder to Enforce, Quartz, Jun. 6, 2017, available at
1. Oklahoma Woman Receives $106,000 in Damages for Workplace Discrimination
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought suit against an Oklahoma-based manufacturer of sucker rods and accessories for the oil and gas industry on behalf of Lydia Summers. Summers had been working at Dover Artificial Lift, known as UPCO, as a temporary receptionist for five months when she was offered a full-time, permanent position contingent on her passing a pre-employment medical exam. After the exam UPCO rescinded the offer for employment because the physician, who never examined Ms. Summers, refused to approve her for employment based on the potential side effects of her prescription medications.
Employees are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act with regards to use of prescription medication. An employer is not allowed to discriminate against an employee based on their prescribed medications. Additionally, UPCO cannot avoid liability for their actions because they used a vendor's physician. Therefore, UPCO will pay $106,000 as well as furnish other relief to Ms. Summers. Also, UPCO has consented to train its employees regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and implement policies prohibiting the unlawful use of medical information for screening employees.
Full Story: UPCO Will Pay $106,000 for Disability Discrimination, May 31, 2017, available at
2. Job Creation in Ontario to Connect More Individuals with Disabilities with Jobs
On June 5, members of Provincial Parliament Tracy MacCharles, Deb Matthews, and Dr. Helena Jaczek announced a new strategy, Access Talent, to connect more individuals with disabilities to jobs. The strategy's larger goal is to create jobs and grow the economy.
Access Talent has a four-prong approach to increase employment of individuals with disabilities. The first prong aims to support the development and employment goals of students with disabilities. The second prong is to engage employers through an online platform that will connect businesses, individuals with disabilities, and the public. The third prong will streamline employment and training services so both employers and potential employees' needs are met. The final prong is to raise awareness and change attitudes through public education using the government.
Full Story: Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, Connecting More People with Disabilities to Job Opportunities, Jun. 5, 2017, available at
1. Government Accountability Office Calls for Improvement to Transition Services
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that calls for earlier, more comprehensive transition planning programs to benefit students with autism. Currently, federal law requires transition services to start by age 16, although many schools begin these programs earlier. However, the GAO found that there has been no government research into when it is best to begin transition planning.
Although many schools opt to begin transition planning at 14 or earlier, the report indicated that 32 percent of schools do not start until after the age of 14. This is despite the many benefits the report indicated that are associated with beginning transition services earlier, including allowing students more time to obtain important academic and work experiences. GAO's recommendations were specifically targeted at the Department of Education; however, they have also indicated that the Departments of Labor and Housing and Urban Development should be more involved in the transition process for youth with autism.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Feds Urged to Improve Transition Services, Disability Scoop, May 9, 2017, available at
2. School Nurse Allegedly Used Bleach to Clean Students' Feeding Tubes
Two families sued the Fresno Unified School District over an incident where a nurse allegedly used bleach, instead of water, to clean the feeding tubes of two students with disabilities. The suit alleges that the cleaning supplies were negligently mixed up, leading to physical injuries to the students. The families further allege that school officials did not act quickly to help the students, and withheld information, which delayed medical care.
One of the students has gastroesophageal reflux disease, which makes it nearly impossible for him to vomit. The lawsuit alleges that until a different student began to vomit the school had taken no action and looked as though they were going to cover the incident up. It also alleges that both students suffered severe, and possibly permanent, harm to their esophagus and stomachs, as well as other severe physical and emotional harm.
Full Story: Tad Weber, Fresno Unified Sued Again for School Nurse Allegedly Putting Bleach in Student's Feeding Tube, Fresno Bee, May 16, 2017, available at
1. Colorado Hospital Backlogged with Inmate Competency Evaluations
Disability Law Colorado sued the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) for not providing inmates with mental health competency evaluations in a timely manner. The suit began in 2012 and reopened last year because there was a backlog of 100 inmates waiting for evaluations. According to Chief Medical Officer Patrick Fox of the CHDS, the backlog was created by an increase of court ordered competency evaluations, but a memo from 2015 allowing only one admission to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo per day is also a factor.
The 2012 agreement ruled that in-jail evaluations occur within 30 days after courts ordered them or that individuals be admitted to the state hospital for inpatient evaluations within 28 days. Because of the increase in court ordered competency evaluations and difficulty in completing the evaluations in the time required, the state has requested a moratorium for the requirements of the agreement until December.
Representatives from Disability Law Colorado and the CHDS plan to meet to discuss the state's request.
Full Story: Jennifer Brown, Troubled Colorado State Hospital Can't Keep Up with Inmate Competency Evaluations, The Denver Post, Jun. 22, 2017, available at
2. New Scans Can Detect Autism Earlier
Research suggests that a brain scan done when children are as young as 6 months may be able to predict whether a child will develop autism. Researchers used machine learning, a type of computer science that can make predictions based on data patterns, to look at brain patterns in infants and observe how brains are functioning before symptoms arise.
The study included 59 sleeping babies that spent 15 minutes in an MRI machine. Researchers then observed the babies' brain activity in 230 neural regions and analyzed how the different regions of the brain worked with each other to distinguish patterns. Of the 59 babies, eleven were diagnosed with autism at age two, two years before the typical age of diagnosis. The study correctly identified nine of the eleven babies prior to diagnosis. Researchers hope in the future, the study will help diagnose autism or evaluate a child's risk of developing autism.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Autism Detectable in Infants, Study Suggests, Disability Scoop, Jun. 8, 2017, available at
See Also: Robert Emerson, Chloe Adams, Tomoyuki Nishino, Heather Hazlett, Jason Wolff, Lonnie Zwaige, Functional Neuroimaging of High-Risk 6-Month-Old Infants Predicts a Diagnosis of Autism at 24 Months of Age, Jun. 7, 2017, available at
1. Student Designs Drone that Helps Keep Track of Children Who Wander
Christine Carr, a student and mother of a child with autism, has designed a drone equipped with a video camera to provide an extra set of eyes for parents with children who are prone to wander. A survey by Autism Speaks demonstrated that about half of children with autism wandered or ran away from home at least once after the age of four. The drone, which Carr calls Nonni, uses a programmed set of boundaries around the house or yard and face recognition technology. It remains stationary until the child crossed a boundary, at which point it hovers toward the child and plays a recorded message from the parent.
Although Nonni was Carr's senior thesis project at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, she has a provisional patent on the design and intends to bring the concept to the market.
Full Story: Rebecca Carballo, Mother and Soon-to-Be MIAD Graduate Designs Drone to Track Her Autistic Child, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 12, 2017, available at
2. Technology Offers Hope for Accessible Transportation
Public transportation notoriously causes difficulty and stress for people with disabilities. However, modern technology firms are working to change this. Uber, for example, has introduced the UberWAV app that allows users in New York City to request a wheelchair accessible vehicle, such as a Caravan or a Ford minibus. Their UberASSIST app trains drivers to accommodate assistive technologies, including scooters and wheelchairs.
Another company, Wayfindr, helps people with visual impairments navigate subway stations through use of audio technology. The CEO of Wayfindr, Umesh Pandya, has stressed the goal of inclusiveness and collaboration in developing the app, and thus the company worked to develop an open standard for this type of technology, which they hope would increase the development of other similar products.
Full Story: Cathy Holloway, Existing Transport Is Failing Disabled People, But New Tech May Help, Guardian, Jun. 6, 2017, available at
1. Texas Driving School Offers Program for Teens with Disabilities
Families of individuals with disabilities living in residential centers are fighting over the class-action status of a lawsuit brought by the legal advocacy group Disability Rights Ohio against the state of Ohio. Disability Rights Ohio initiated the suit last year claiming the state's disability system forces people into institutions due to a lack of available support services. The group seeks to enjoin around 27,000 adults with disabilities living in or at risk of living in institutional settings to create a class action lawsuit.
However, some families are pushing back, endorsing the community centers where their loved ones are being cared for. Disability Rights Ohio states that they aim to make Medicaid waivers more accessible for people who desire community-based services as opposed to institutional care, not deny access to those who want such care. Nearly 40 motions have been filed to give the opponents of the class action a say in the case, and now the court must decide how to proceed from here.
Full Story: Rita Price, Families Fight Class-Action Status in Disability Rights Lawsuit, The Columbus Dispatch, Jun. 8, 2017, available at
See Also: DRO and Partners File Class Action Lawsuit on Behalf of Ohioans with Developmental Disabilities, Disability Rights Ohio, Mar. 31, 2017, available at
2. Missouri Bill Threatens Funding to Inhome Services
Proposed legislation in Missouri could result in individuals with disabilities either maintaining their inhome service and nursing home care or facing significant financial burdens. The original budget for 2018 planned to cut care for over 8,000 seniors and people with disabilities. In the final moments of the annual legislative session, bill HCB 3 was passed, authorizing $35.4 million be taken from various reserved funds to avoid the service cuts.
Activists expressed their opposition on June 6 by chanting at the state's capitol and covering the governor's locked door with sticky notes demanding his signature. The bill awaits approval by the governor, whose signature deadline is June 30, 2017.
Full Story: Al Neal, Missouri Disability Rights Activists Demand the State Fund In-home Care, People's World, Jun. 13, 2017, available at
See Also: Summer Ballentine, Katie Kull, and David Lieb, Missouri Lawmakers Back Disabled Aid, Nullify St. Louis Wage, U.S. News, May 12, 2017, available at
1. Australian Advocates Fight Abuse in Group Homes
In Australia, major organizations, 163 community groups, and more than 380 individuals have signed a "civil society statement" addressed to Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull requesting investigation into assaults and neglect of individuals with disabilities. Individuals have been requesting action since November 2015, when a Senate report found violence and abuse of individuals with disabilities living in group homes and made recommendations to remedy the violence.
On May 29, Prime Minister Turnbull told Parliament that the issue of abuse and neglect would be raised during the Council of Australian Governments meeting on June 9. At this meeting, the state ministers discussed investigating assaults and determined the Disability Reform Council would consider the issue of abuse and neglect and report back to the Council at the next meeting.
Full Story: Allison Branley, Abuse of People with Disability Requires Royal Commission, Support Services Argue, Jun. 8, 2017, available at
See Also: COAG Communique, Jun. 9, 2017, available at
2. New Legislation in Jordan to Provide More Freedom
New legislation was endorsed by the Lower House in Jordan last month, providing individuals with disabilities with more rights and further protection than before. Social Development Ministry Spokesperson Fawaz Ratrout believes the new law could help address the various physical needs of individuals with disabilities as well as integrate individuals with disabilities into the society.
The previous legislation considered disability only from a medical standpoint and did not acknowledge physical and behavioral aspects to disability. The new legislation includes a broader definition of disability that acknowledges the physical barriers that make everyday life more challenging for individuals with disabilities. The new law also expands the legal rights of individuals with disabilities by including informed consent, which allows citizens to exercise their legal right to make decisions for themselves after receiving enough information to understand the potential consequences. The law not only expands the rights of individuals with disabilities but enforces harsher punishments on persons who abuse or prevent individuals with disabilities from enjoying their rights. The new legislation aims to provide a new era of antidiscrimination for individuals with disabilities living in Jordan.
Full Story: Laila Azzeh, New Law on Disability Opens 'New Era' for Country, Jun. 9, 2017, available at
I. POP CULTURE
1. Executive Producer of "Speechless" Encourages Hiring Actors with Disabilities
Scott Silveri, who created "Speechless," urged Hollywood to hire more actors with disabilities. He said that part of a producer's job is "to represent society as a whole and you can't do that without representing disabilities."
"Speechless" is a sit-com on ABC about a teenager with cerebral palsy, played by Micah Fowler who has cerebral palsy, and his family. The Television Academy, the organization behind the Emmy Awards, listed "Speechless" as one of six shows recognized in the Tenth Annual Television Academy Honors, which praises shows that affect social changes.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, "Speechless" Creator Urges Casting of Actors with Disabilities, Disability Scoop, Jun. 13, 2017, available at
See Also: Juli Schafer, Speechless Is Giving People Something to Talk About, The Television Academy, Apr. 11, 2017, available at
2. "Design for Disability" Raises Awareness about Accessible Clothing
Derek Lam and six student designers -- Emily Ridings, Claudia Poh, Johnathan Lee, Dominique Kelly, Indigo Choi, and Kristi Siedow-Thompson -- from Parsons School of Design, Pratt's School of Design and Fashion Institute of Technology worked with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation to create a six-part series featuring accessible clothing called "Design for Disability." The series is intended to raise awareness of how clothing design can help people with disabilities.
Each episode highlights the work of one of the designers and how they collaborated with models with disabilities to fashion clothes around their specific needs. For example, Choi worked with Cory Hill, who uses forearm crutches to ambulate. The cuffs of his crutches chafe his forearms, so Choi created shirts with very soft sleeves and jackets with zippers on the sleeves so they can be opened when Hill walks.
The project's essence was summed up powerfully by model Andrea Dalzell, who uses a wheelchair: "Hopefully, ten years from now, I can literally walk into a store and just pick up an item like I'm wearing now."
Full Story: Karin Willison, "Design for Disability" Web Series to Promote Inclusive Fashion, The Mighty, May 30, 2017, available at
See Also: Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Design for Disability, YouTube, Jun. 15, 2017, available at
J. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers and Proposals
Webinars and Conferences
Disability Rights Advocacy Online: Voice, Empowerment and Global Connectivity by Filippo Trevisan. Analyses how social media has strengthened disability rights advocacy in America and the United Kingdom.
The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter is supported by the following sources:
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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 Kate Battoe, Christina Kalebic, John Cronin, and Laura O'Brien .
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