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
August 1, 2018
Volume 15, Issue 7
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. Aldi Sued for Steep Slopes
According to a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, slopes at Aldi grocery stores are too steep for people who use wheelchairs. The lawsuit claims it is difficult to use the parking lot with the slopes that exist. Inspectors confirm that the slopes do not meet the American's with Disabilities Act's (ADA) standards. The slope standards are hard to meet in parking lots because they are designed for water drainage. Still, the suit demands that Aldi renovates its properties to comply with the ADA.
Full Story: Jenna Wise, Lawsuit Claims Aldi Violated Americans with Disabilities Act, post-gazette.com, Jun. 26, 2018, available at
2. Ban on Straws Affects People with Disabilities
One hot day at the zoo, a boy was unable to quench his thirst because the snack bar had a no straw policy. His motor-planning delays stopped him from drinking beverages without one. Many American businesses are now banning plastic straws for environmental reasons. But many people with disabilities rely on straws to drink.
Alternatives for plastic straws can cause problems for people with disabilities. Paper straws are a biodegradable option. But some people with limited oral motor abilities cannot use them because the straws fall apart quickly. Metal straws can pose safety risks because they conduct cold and heat. Reusable straws can be difficult to clean.
Before the invention of plastic straws, people with disabilities "aspirated liquid in their lungs, developed pneumonia, and died." Therefore, a complete ban of plastic straws leaves no room for spontaneity. If you need a straw to drink and leave it at home, you cannot have a drink after work with your coworkers when invited. With the ban on straws, people with disabilities must plan to bring their own straws wherever they go or face severe consequences.
Full Story: Maria Godoy, Why People with Disabilities Want Bans on Plastic Straws to Be More Flexible, National Public Radio, Jul. 11, 2018, available at
1. Publisher Focuses on Diversity; Author Loses Post After Offering Critique
Publisher Penguin Random House U.K. said that its goal is to reflect the U.K.'s society better through the books it publishes. Publishing books from authors with diverse backgrounds will help. The publisher mentioned that ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility, and disability are areas of focus. At least one author disagreed with this use of affirmative action.
Lionel Shriver is an author who has published through this company. She received this message about diversity and responded in a public opinion column. Because of her comments, Shriver lost her position as a judge for a writing contest through another organization. Shriver is an American expatriate living and working in London. She claimed that the publisher lost sight of its values, and that "checking off boxes" should not be more important than publishing good books. She claims that this form of affirmative action has not worked well in America.
Full Story: Michael Schaub, Lionel Shriver Sees Fallout From her Dismissive Comments About Diversity in Publishing, LA Times, Jun. 13, 2018, available at
2. Company to Pay $82,500 to Settle Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
Jones Lang Lasalle Americas is a commercial real estate company. It recently settled a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The suit claimed that the company wrongfully took back an applicant's job offer. The company took back the offer after the applicant shared that she had a disability. The EEOC claimed that such conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The company agreed to pay $82,500 to the applicant. They also will provide antidiscrimination training to employees. EEOC representatives emphasized the importance of safe disclosure of disabilities. They stated that disclosure should lead to discussing accommodations, not taking back an offer of employment.
Full Story: Press Release, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Jones Lang LaSalle Americas to Pay $82,500 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit (Jul. 3, 2018), available at
1. The Final Chapter in Landmark Decision
Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District was a case that lasted seven years. Endrew is a student with autism. His parents placed him in a private school because his public school was not providing him with appropriate education. In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the school district did not provide Endrew with appropriate education. This February, a U.S. District judge ruled that the school district must pay Endrew's parents $1.32 million for tuition and legal fees.
Disability groups have created resources to help school districts and parents understand the Endrew decision. The Department of Education published a Questions and Answers document about it, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities released a toolkit for parents to advocate for their children's education.
Full Story: Ann Schimke, School District Pays $1.3 Million to Settle Landmark Special Ed Case, Disability Scoop, Jun. 25, 2018, available at
See Also: Ann Schimke, Judge: Douglas County Schools Must Pay Private School Tuition for Student at Center of Special Education Lawsuit, Chalkbeat, Feb. 13, 2018, available at
2. Schools Must Prepare Students with Disabilities to Work in the Community
Many students with disabilities leave school with no skills needed to work in the community. This is because many school districts do not teach these skills. Instead, teachers focus on skills like cleaning, doing laundry, and shredding. Some districts have students with disabilities work alongside adults with disabilities in sheltered workshops. Sheltered workshops are companies that employ people with disabilities to do repetitive tasks and usually pay them below minimum wage. By having students with disabilities train in sheltered workshops, districts are setting them up to work there when they finish high school.
In recent years, lawmakers have passed laws to stop this kind of training. Instead, they want school districts to prepare students with disabilities to enter the workforce alongside their peers without disabilities. Schools can have students with disabilities meet with vocational counselors who can help them figure out their strengths and interests and teach them how to get jobs in the community. Districts can place students with disabilities in "trial work experiences" where they learn jobs skills in an integrated setting and have the proper supports to succeed.
Full Story: Eve Hill, Regina Kline, and Curtis Richards, Preparing Transition-Age Youth with Disabilities for Work: What School Leaders Need to Know About the New Legal Landscape, Institute for Educational Leadership, Feb. 9, 2018, available at
3. Colleges' Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities Increase
In 2004, there were only 25 colleges that offered programs for students with intellectual disabilities (ID). Now, there are 270. Students go to classes, work with peer mentors to understand the material, and do internships. They socialize and experience all aspects of college life. Some colleges that offer such programs are West Chester University, the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and the College of New Jersey.
The number of programs grew because of a 2008 law that allowed students with ID to get federal financial aid. Also, studies show that people with ID who go to college have a higher employment rate than those who do not.
Full Story: Susan Snyder, More Colleges Enrolling Students with Intellectual Disabilities, Disability Scoop, Jun. 27, 2018, available at
1. Medicare Changes Hope to Modernize Home Health Care
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has suggested changes to its payment system. The changes improve access to remote patient care services and update the payment model. Home health agencies will be able to report the cost of remote patient care as allowable costs.
A new patient-driven model would make home health payments better. The old system had a 60-day payment period and used the number of therapy visits to calculate payments. The new system would only use a 30-day period and no longer count therapy visits. The changes will save Medicare providers millions of dollars and hours when they go into effect in 2019-2020.
Full Story: Press Release, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS Takes Action to Modernize Medicare Home Health (Jun. 2, 2018), available at
2. Rural Hospitals Closing Because of Lack of Medicaid
Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act. Its goal is to have more low-income people and families be eligible for Medicaid, so they can have healthcare. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that states could decide not to expand Medicaid.
In states that adopted Medicaid expansion, 1.7 million people in rural communities were eligible for Medicaid who had not been before. Also, the rate of people who were uninsured decreased by 44 percent.
Since 2010, 84 rural hospitals have closed and most of them were in states that did not adopt Medicaid expansion. Medicaid offsets costs for which hospitals are otherwise not paid. Without the expansion, medical providers have difficulty remaining open.
Full Story: Alisha Shurr, Report Finds 90 Percent of Rural Hospital Closures Happen in States That Did Not Expand Medicaid, semotimes.com, Jun. 13, 2018, available at
See Also: Medicaid Expansion, healthinsurance.org, 2018, available at
3. U.S. District Court Blocks Kentucky's Medicaid Work Requirement
A federal court ruled that Kentucky could not make people work to be eligible for Medicaid. The Kentucky laws made recipients work, volunteer, or train for a job to receive Medicaid coverage. The Trump Administration said that Kentucky could add the requirements before it passed these laws.
Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky said that if the state loses in the courts, he will stop the state's Medicaid expansion program. Medicaid expansion is a part of the Affordable Care Act passed under former President Barack Obama. It allows more people to be eligible for Medicaid.
Full Story: Abby Goodnight, Judge Strikes Down Kentucky's Medicaid Work Rules, nytimes.com, Jun. 29, 2018, available at
1. Travel Conditions for People with Disabilities
While some airlines have mandatory training on how to assist people with disabilities, the advances in technology have made it easier for people with disabilities to travel. Apps like Be My Eyes and Aira can help people with visual disabilities navigate through airports independently. Wheelchair ramps and lifts allow people with mobility disabilities to board buses and trains.
Transportation systems could still use some improvements. Ground travel is travel by trains, subways, and busses. Although ground travel and airports must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), airplanes do not. They are governed by the Air Carrier Access Act. This does not have as many accessibility standards as the ADA. For example, people who use wheelchairs must leave them at the entrance to the plane, transfer to the airline's wheelchair and then to a seat on the plane. Travel on buses and trains can be challenging as some drivers do not know how to operate the lifts and some ramps have a steep incline, which is dangerous and violates the ADA.
Full Story: Joshua Brockman, For Disabled Travelers, Technology Helps Smooth the Way. But Not All of It., nytimes.com, Jun. 25, 2018, available at
2. People with Visual Disabilities Could Benefit From Augmented Reality
A study showed that new 3D technology may help people with visual disabilities locate objects and improve mobility. Researchers asked people with visual disabilities to perform activities, such as finding objects, navigating through a room, and recognizing gestures. Then the researchers ask them to do similar tasks while wearing a HoloLens. The HoloLens is a device that senses objects and displays a high-contrast 3D image in front of the user's eyes. Different colors indicate how near or far objects are from the person.
The people were able to improve how they located objects and moved throughout an area. However, they did not recognize gestures better while wearing a HoloLens. This could be a result of the technology's lag time in sensing objects and displaying images of the environment. The researchers hope to improve this flaw as technology develops.
Full Story: Max Kinateder, Justin Gualtieri, Matt J. Dunn, Wojciech Jarosz, Xing-Dong Yang, and Emily A. Cooper, Using an Augmented Reality Device as a Distance-based Vision Aid--Promise and Limitations, Optometry and Vision Science (2018), available at
1. Airline Policy Limits Service Dog Breeds and Number Allowed
Delta Airlines has a new service animal policy that began in July. "Pit bull type dogs" that are registered service or support animals are not allowed on planes. The policy also limits passengers to one service or support animal. Delta did not specify how it would define a "pit bull type dog." "Pit bull" is a subjective term.
Delta and other airlines could make flying harder for people with service or support dogs that resemble "pit bulls" even though laws protect these people most of the time. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that a service dog can be of any breed. However, airlines are not governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Instead, they follow the Air Carrier Access Act, which allows airlines to limit breeds that might threaten other passengers.
Full Story: Elyse Wanshel, Delta Bans "Pit Bull Type Dogs" as Service Animals on Flights, Huffington Post, Jun. 18, 2018, available at
2. Government Spends More on Community Living, Less on Institutions
The U.S. spent $167 billion in federal and state Medicaid funds for long-term supports in 2016. This was $8 billion more than 2015. The government spent 57 percent of these funds on community-based services.
The rise in community-based services made funding to institutions go down by two percent. Each state used their money differently. In Michigan and Oregon, all of the money for people with developmental disabilities went to community-based options. The report also notes that informal supports, like family, are important to people with developmental disabilities.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Nation Spending More on Community Living, Disability Scoop, Jun. 14, 2018, available at
1. Report Finds Iranians with Disabilities Face Discrimination
Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights in Iran found that people with disabilities are treated badly and are not able to access buildings and services in Iran. Stairs at hospitals prevent people with physical disabilities from getting in. Also, many people with visual disabilities have trouble finding their way around and hospital staff do not help them. Thus, many do not get healthcare. When people with disabilities try to get help, social workers often do not give them the proper assistance. For example, they may not provide interpreters for people who are deaf or hearing impaired.
There are about 12 million people with disabilities in Iran. This is based on the number of people with disabilities in the world compared with the total population of Iran. This is only a rough guess because the government does not collect data on people with disabilities. The report calls for changes to the laws regarding disability services, and a specific timeline for when the government enforces the changes.
Full Story: Iran: People with Disabilities Face Discrimination and Abuse, Human Rights Watch, Jun. 26, 2018, available at
2. Disability Discrimination a Discussion Topic at Balkan Summit
There was a Balkan Summit in London last month. The summit included six Western Balkan States' leaders and members of the European Union (EU) that are close to those states. Advocates asked the summit to discuss bad treatment of minorities in recent years. While the treatment of migrants has been a major focus of advocacy, people with disabilities in Croatia and Serbia are treated badly. In Serbia and Croatia, advocates report that persons with disabilities are being trapped in institutions. Children placed in the institutions are being denied access to education, even though Serbia promised to educate them.
Full Story: Tudor Gardo's, Balkan Summit Must Be More Than Hot Air, Human Rights Watch, Jul. 10, 2018, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. New Disney Movie Has Seizure Warning
The Disney blockbuster sequel Incredibles 2 came out last month, and moviegoers found out that the new villain could also hurt them. The villain uses flashing lights as a weapon in the movie. People with epilepsy who watch the movie could experience seizure triggers because of the bright, flashing lights.
The Epilepsy Foundation learned about the issue quickly and asked Disney to respond. When Disney learned that people with epilepsy and other photosensitive disabilities were at risk, they asked theaters to post a warning. The Epilepsy Foundation stated that only three percent of people with epilepsy could be affected by strobelike lights.
Full Story: Lisa Gutierrez, Epilepsy Advocates Object to Scene in "Incredibles 2." Now Disney Adds Health Warning, Kansas City Star, Jun. 18, 2018, available at
2. Activists Advocate for Actors with Disabilities
Two movies came out last month that have people without disabilities playing characters with disabilities. In Skyscraper, Dwayne Johnson plays a veteran with a disability. And in Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot, Joaquin Phoenix plays John Callahan, an artist with a disability. Some celebrate the exposure of people with disabilities. However, other advocates argue more effort needs to be made to cast actors with disabilities in these roles.
People with disabilities rarely appear on TV or on the big screen. When people with disabilities do appear, those roles are often played by actors without disabilities. A 2016 survey of 31 TV shows revealed only four actors with disabilities. Those actors represented less than two percent of all actors seen on screen. And of the 59 actors who have earned award nominations for playing disabled characters, only two shared their character's disability.
Advocates argue that these statistics must improve to achieve authentic portrayals of disability on screen. They say that change starts by hiring more actors with disabilities. Advocacy organizations hope to inspire change with resources like the Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit. The toolkit can be found here: https://www.respectability.org/hollywood-inclusion/.
Full Story: Jenna Marotta, As Dwayne Johnson and Joaquin Phoenix Play Disabled Roles, An Overlooked Community Debates Representation, IndieWire, Jul.13, 2018, available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers
Disability Rights Advocacy Online: Voice, Empowerment and Global Connectivity by Filippo Trevisan "asks whether the digitalisation of disability rights advocacy can help re-configure political participation into a more inclusive experience for ... Internet users [with disabilities], enhancing their stakes in democratic citizenship."
Myth of Catastrophy by Vance Jasen Garrison "present[s] an opinion as to why there is such a large amount of stigma associated with the condition known as cerebral palsy. This stigma affects all facets of one's life such as social, emotional, mental, as well as physical handicaps."
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, Lauren Galloway, Eddie Zaremba, Bruce Sexton, and Christopher Clark.
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