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
April 6, 2018
Volume 15, Issue 3
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. INDEPENDENCE: Community Integration
G. INTERNATIONAL: Topics Outside the United States
H. POP CULTURE: News and Topics Vary
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING: Conferences, Calls for Proposals, Papers, and Presentations
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Colorado Considering Legislative Protection for Parents with Disabilities
Parents with disabilities often face legal obstacles about their ability to be parents. More than two thirds of state child welfare laws consider a parent's disability as a reason to take away parental rights. Now, with encouragement from disability rights groups, state law makers across the country are beginning to change or make laws that would protect the rights of parents with disabilities.
Colorado's Family Preservation for Parental Disabilities Act is one such law. The bill's sponsor argues it is critical to keep families together and in the best interests of the children. The bill would not consider disability a reason to limit parents' rights and would require courts to look at the benefits of providing supportive parenting services.
There are 16 states that have already passed similar bills, and ten more states, including Colorado, are considering them.
Full Story: Robyn Powell, For Parents Around the Country, Having a Disability Can Mean Losing Custody of Their Kids, Rewire.News, Mar. 12, 2018, available at
2. Delta Airlines Implements Enhanced Service and Support Animal Policy
After many reported incidents involving service animals, Delta worked with the disability community to change their policy on service animals. Under the new policy, Delta needs proof of health and immunization records for trained service animals and emotional support animals. For emotional support animals, they also require an emotional support animal request form, which must be signed by a doctor. In addition, emotional support animals require proof of an animal training form.
Full Story: Delta Airlines Service and Support Animal Policy Effective March 1, Enhancements Added, Southeast A.D.A. Center, Mar. 1, 2018, available at
1. Statistics Show Job Growth in Disability Population
The National Trends in Disability Employments - Monthly Update (nTIDE) showed that job growth for people with disabilities increased monthly for the past two years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed an 8.5% increase of people working compared to all working-age people with disabilities in the past year. The percentage of people working or actively looking for work increased 6.7% in the past year.
Although this growth is positive, there is still much to do before individuals with disabilities have the same employment level with their peers, says the director of employment and disability research at the Kessler Foundation. Currently, various disability groups are working to improve employment through state law making and collaborative efforts. For example, the Midwest Disability Employment Consortium addresses a variety of employment issues in the disability community.
Full Story: Press Release, National Trends in Disability Employments, nTIDE February 2018 Jobs Report: Americans with Disabilities Close in on Two Years of Job Gains, (Mar. 9, 2018), available at
2. Direct Support Professionals in Pennsylvania Are Deterred by Low Wages
Direct support professionals make independence and community integration possible for many people with disabilities. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, making a livable wage in this field is often very difficult. With an average wage of $11.50 an hour, turnover and vacancies are common. The resulting shortage in direct support professionals ultimately harms people with disabilities.
In response, three Pennsylvania provider associations funded research looking into increasing the wage of direct support professionals to $15 an hour. The research found that increasing wages would save the government money. The increase would cost Pennsylvania approximately $237 million a year. However, this would decrease dependence on welfare and recruitment/retention costs. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently reviewed the findings, and supporters hope it will encourage a change.
Full Story: Tine Hansen-Turton, Scott Spreat, Kristen Farry, & Nick Torres, Direct Support Professionals for Cognitively Impaired Children Need a Living Wage, Inquirer, Mar.12, 2018, available at
3. Alaska Businesses Can No Longer Pay Employees with Disabilities Less
In late February, Alaska got rid of a regulation allowing employers to pay people with disabilities subminimum wage. Alaska follows New Hampshire and Maryland, the first states to repeal such laws. An exception in the Fair Labor Standards Act has allowed employers to pay those with disabilities below minimum wage since 1938. At the time, supporters argued that the exception was necessary to help people with disabilities get jobs.
This decision shows that employees with disabilities are assets to the workplace and should be appropriately paid for their labor. Alaska previously showed a commitment to paying those with disabilities fair wages in 2014 with the Alaska Employment First Act. The act required that Vocational Rehabilitation services help people with disabilities find at least minimum wage jobs.
Full Story: Press Release, State of Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development, Minimum Wage Exemption for Persons with Disabilities Eliminated (Feb.16, 2018), available at
1. Medicaid Funding in Schools
Medicaid is the federal insurance program for people with low income. Schools use it to help pay for programs and services that they legally must provide to children with disabilities. Some examples of what Medicaid funds cover are therapies, assistive technology, and specialized transportation for students with disabilities. Congress wants to cut Medicaid spending and so people are looking closely at how schools use Medicaid money.
People who support reducing the Medicaid funds in schools say that while Medicaid requires children in low income families to receive healthcare, they don't need to receive it in schools. They also cite instances where schools use Medicaid dollars inappropriately. For example, investigators found some districts using Medicaid money to pay the salaries of school officials.
Critics say cutting Medicaid funds would hurt children who need special education services. While schools receive money from other state and federal sources, it is not enough to cover the services schools must provide students with disabilities. If Medicaid funds are taken away, schools will have to use funds from other parts of their budgets to fill the gap.
Full Story: Anna Gorman and Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, How Medicaid Became a Go-To Funder for Schools, Disability Scoop, Mar. 14, 2018, available at
2. Former Student with Autism Sues Orange Coast College
Robert McDougal is suing Orange Coast College (OCC) for failure to accommodate his disability. OCC says in February 2017, McDougal began to repeatedly email his chemistry professor, Amy Hellman, asking to retake an exam using a calculator, because two questions lowered his grade. Hellman denied this request.
Upset by his grade, McDougal dropped the class but then asked to return. Hellman agreed to let him back in the class and do the two questions over. McDougal went back to class, but when he got to the classroom, security escorted him outside. McDougal tried to return to class again, and security knocked him down and used pepper spray to subdue him.
The suit had its pretrial hearing on March 16.
Full Story: Hannah Fry, Ex-Student with Autism Sues O.C. College After He Was Arrested, Pepper-Sprayed During Disturbance, Las Angeles Times, Mar. 9, 2018, available at
1. New Medical School Program Focuses on Developmental Disabilities
The National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine is trying to better prepare doctors to treat patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is currently being piloted in six medical schools and plans to add six more. Each participating medical school receives a $25,000 grant to implement a curriculum emphasizing the unique needs of patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For example, students at the University of Louisville now meet with Special Olympic athletes to discuss their unique needs. The University of Louisville program also offers students the choice of doing a clinical rotation specifically focusing on patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Full Story: Courtney Perkes, Medical Schools Adding Focus on Developmental Disabilities, Disability Scoop, Mar. 12, 2018, available at
2. Disability Advocates Protest Electric Shock Therapy
On February 9, members of the disability rights group ADAPT were camped out in front of the home of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. The group said it would stay there until the FDA bans electric shock devices used on people with disabilities. ADAPT says that the practice is the same as torture. The FDA previously wrote a regulation banning the devices, but the regulation was never completed.
Presently, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JREC) is the only known organization that still uses these devices. JREC is a day and residential school that mostly serves children. At JREC, the electric shock devices are part of Applied Behavioral Analysis, a common therapy for children on the autism spectrum. Many people with autism have spoken out about the harmful effects of this type of therapy.
Full Story: Elizabeth Cassidy, ADAPT Protests Lack of Action From FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Shock Behavioral "Treatment," The Mighty, Mar. 14, 2018, available at
1. Lyft Sued Over Lack of Wheelchair Accessible Cars
Disability Rights Advocates filed suit against Lyft, a ridesharing technology company, in San Francisco for violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act and California Disabled Persons Act. The class-action suit claims that Lyft does not operate enough wheelchair accessible cars. Lyft has a service called Access designed for customers with disabilities. However, the lawsuit alleges that this service is a sham, and calls it an "inadequate substitute for actual accessible transportation."
When requesting a car in Access mode, Lyft only promises access for foldable wheelchairs and service animals. For people who need a ramp or motorized lift, the app sends a text message that links to a website listing phone numbers for other transit companies that may be able to provide accessible transportation.
The suit does not ask for money damages, but instead only for accessibility through Lyft.
Full Story: Megan Rose Dickey, Lyft Faces Discrimination Lawsuit, TechCrunch, Mar. 13, 2018, available at
2. Medicaid Tracking Technology Causes Privacy Concerns
As part of a move to combat Medicaid fraud, Ohio has started an "electronic visit-verification" system. The system uses repurposed, military grade-cell phones equipped with GPS monitoring chips. The Medicaid recipient is supposed to have the technology with them, and turned on, whenever they receive personal care and home health aide services.
Several Ohio Medicaid recipients have expressed privacy concerns about the technology and have refused to use it. However, Ohio Medicaid officials insist that the technology complies with the Federal 21st Century Cares Act, which requires a type of electronic visit verification system be in place by January 2019. Further, Medicaid officials argue that place of service information has always been required when using Medicaid services.
Ohio is the only state in the country that is using GPS to follow this Federal requirement.
Full Story: Rita Price, Medicaid "Electronic Verification" Devices Spark Privacy Concerns, Disability Scoop, Feb. 21, 2018, available at
1. New Documentary Showcases Independence and Down Syndrome
On March 21, 2018, World Down Syndrome Day, three artists with Down syndrome debuted their documentary, Flying Solo. The film follows these friends over four years as they work toward, and learn, independence, while also working on their careers as artists and actors.
Flying Solo is intended to showcase the beauty and strength in disability, and how individuals with disabilities contribute to society. The documentary has open and blunt talks about disability from the artists and their loved ones. Another goal of the film is to bring attention to the lack of access to supported accommodations and hopefully spark a movement towards full inclusion and independence.
Flying Solo is available on Vimeo On Demand and Amazon Prime.
Full Story: Press Release, PR Newswire, Award-Winning Artists with Disability Reveal the Challenges of Independence in New Documentary on World Down Syndrome Day (Mar. 15, 2018), available at
2. A Win for Bus Accessibility in the UK
The transport minister of the UK is dedicated to making sure people who use wheelchairs have access to public transportation. A recent Supreme Court decision told bus drivers to actively make sure accessible spaces are made available to bus riders who use wheelchairs. The case involved a bus driver not letting a man in a wheelchair on the bus. There was no room for him because a mother with a child in a stroller would not move from the accessible space.
The Supreme Court ruled that simply requesting nonwheelchair users to move from accessible spaces might not be enough. Bus drivers may need more power to make unwilling passengers move. While the government works to improve accessibility, bus companies need to work with the disability community to find reasonable solutions.
Full Story: Owen Bowcott, Wheelchair Users in UK to Be Given Enhanced Rights for Bus Travel, The Guardian, Mar. 8, 2018, available at
1. Japanese Woman Fights Back Years After Forced Sterilization
A Japanese woman is suing the Japanese government for forcibly sterilizing her as a teenager because she was intellectually disabled. Sterilization is a medical procedure that makes it so people cannot have babies. The woman claims her human rights were violated. She is seeking payment of 11 million yen, claiming that the government had a responsibility to assist individuals that were forced into surgery. This is the first case of its kind.
Between 1948 and 1996 Japan's laws allowed the government to sterilize people with disabilities without their consent. The government sterilized approximately 25,000 people with disabilities. Complications from the woman's sterilization made her lose her ovaries, and she became infertile, which ruined her plans to marry. Her sister said the family hopes this case will improve the lives of individuals with disabilities in Japan. Laws aimed at equality were introduced in 2016.
Full Story: Chris Baynes, Japanese Woman Forcibly Sterilised as Teenager Suing Government for Breach of Human Rights, Independent, Jan. 31, 2018, available at
2. Concerns Over New Ontario Accessibility Reviewer
Disability advocate groups and individuals in Ontario are concerned with the neutrality of a recently selected government accessibility review leader, David Onley. Onley just spent three years as the special advisor on accessibility. Now, he would be reviewing the policies and efforts that he helped develop. Advocates are worried about Onley's ability to neutrally evaluate his own projects.
Onley and the Ontarian government disagree. He says he has mostly worked with the public for the last three years. He and the government purposely worked "at arms-length," said Onley.
The accessibility review is a product of the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Its goal is to ensure all the people with disabilities in Ontario can learn, work, and play to their full potential by 2025. The government must fully review the act every four years to evaluate its progress. The reviewer must consult individuals with and without disabilities.
Laurie Monsebraaten, Advocates Question Independence of Provincial Accessibility Review, thestar.com, Mar. 8, 2018, available at
3. Sixty-Nine Percent of Disability Benefits Appeals Won in Three Months in England
In the past three months in England, 69% of disability benefit appeals have been ruled in favor of the people requesting benefits. That includes Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). PIP covers additional costs due to disabilities, and ESA covers people with disabilities who are unemployed. Since so many denied benefits are given out after they are appealed, the programs have been considered failures that do not fulfill their purposes.
PIP and ESA have also been costing significant amounts of money. Between 2016 and 2017, England spent 103.1 million Euros on social security and child support tribunals, most of which were for PIP and ESA. Since October 2015, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent 108.1 million Euros on staffing costs for PIP and ESA mandatory reconsiderations and appeals. Spokespeople for the DWP say they are absolutely committed to ensuring individuals with disabilities are getting the services they need.
Jon Vale, Disability Benefit Claimants Now Winning 69% of Cases at Appeal, Care Appointments, Mar. 9, 2018, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. The Good Doctor Gets a Second Season
ABC announced that The Good Doctor will return for a second season. Starring Freddie Highmore, the show is about a talented doctor who has autism and savant syndrome.
The Good Doctor's inclusiveness made it popular, according to the president of ABC Entertainment, Channing Dungey.
Although some people criticize the show for not starring an actor with autism, the autism community welcomes the show.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Autism Drama The Good Doctor Awarded New Season, Disability Scoop, Mar. 8, 2018, available at
2. ReelAbilities Film Festival Focuses on Authentically Represented Disabilities
ReelAbilities' Tenth Annual Film Festival started in New York City on March 8, 2018. The six-day event featured 30 films that accurately depict people with disabilities.
One film, Mad to Be Normal, tells the true story of R.D Laing (played by David Tennant). Laing was a psychiatrist in the 1960s who challenged the way doctors treated people with mental disabilities. He started using group therapy and holistic medicine instead of electroshock therapy and tranquilizers.
The festival will be in many cities throughout Canada, the United States, and South America.
Full Story: Anne Ehart, ReelAbilities Film Festival Shines Light on Life with Disabilities, amNewYork, Mar. 7, 2018, available at
See Also: Peter Bradshaw, Mad to Be Normal Review - Tennant Returns as a Very Different Doctor, The Guardian, Apr. 7, 2017, available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers
Sprout Film Festival
Webinars and Conferences
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 Angel Baker; and Associate Editors Kate Battoe, Christina Kalebic, John Cronin, and Lauren Galloway.
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