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
September 10, 2018
Volume 15, Issue 8
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. Florida Court Maintains that the ADA Covers Business Website Accessibility for Disabled Customers
A Federal appeals court in Florida ruled that Dunkin Donuts can be sued for having a website that is inaccessible to customers who are blind. Dennis Haynes sued under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A growing number of lawsuits are being filed over website accessibility.
The first court ruled against him, but on appeal the panel of judges disagreed. The appeals court reasoned that all the things that Dunkin Donuts sells or the services it provides must be accessible under Title III because the stores are places of public accommodation. It said that even services that cannot be touched, like the website, must be accessible because the purpose is to bring customers to the stores.
Full Story: Judy Greenwald, Court Rules Against Dunkin Donuts Over Blind Customer's Access to Website Publication, Business Insurance, Jul. 31, 2018, available at
2. Disabled Parking Badges to Be Given to People with Hidden Disabilities
The United Kingdom now gives disability badges to people with hidden disabilities. Hidden disabilities include conditions like mental illness, autism, and dementia. The disability badges allow for more accessible parking around key destinations. Officials hope the changes will provide equal access for a greater number of people with disabilities.
The U.K. government opened the topic up for public comment and received over 6,000 responses. The process made new criteria for badge eligibility. Proponents are happy that the government is recognizing different kinds of disabilities and the challenges that many people face. In the past, badges were only available to people with physical disabilities, so only those people could access accessible public services.
Full Story: Erin Migdol, "Blue Badges" for Disabled Parking to Be Given to People with "Hidden Disabilities," The Mighty, Aug. 7, 2018, available at
1. Study Finds Bias Against People with Disabilities in Employment
Minnesota-based manufacturer MDI and the University of St. Thomas recently released the findings of a new study. The study focused on bias aimed at people with disabilities looking for jobs. To conduct the study, researchers read existing findings on the subject. They also spoke to job coaches, human resources staff, and people with disabilities among others.
The study confirmed that those with disabilities struggle to overcome biases in the job search. Researchers found that exposure played a big role in fighting that bias. Those who were familiar with disability proved to be more open minded in hiring. Researchers also observed widespread ignorance. The study showed that people tended to clump those with disabilities together when hiring. This mindset made it hard to see the unique skills and talents a person can bring to the workplace.
As part of its work, the team released recommendations. They did so with the intention of increasing awareness. Some of the suggestions included youth mentorship and reverse job fairs.
Full Story: Amanda Ostuni, New Study Identifies Hiring Bias Against Individuals with Disabilities, Minn Post, Aug. 6, 2018, available at
2. UPS Found to Be in Violation of the ADA
A judge recently ruled to stop UPS from paying less to employees with disabilities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against UPS in August of 2017. The suit concerned a UPS policy that allowed those moved to desk jobs because of disability to be paid ten percent less than those reassigned for other reasons. The policy stemmed from an agreement with the union.
The judge ruled that the policy violated Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She further concluded that the ADA trumped the union contract. Therefore, she ordered that the policy be removed. EEOC staff indicated that this ruling will benefit thousands of UPS workers across the country.
Full Story: Press Release, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Court Grants Judgment and Injunction in Favor of EEOC in Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuit, Jul. 30, 2018, available at
1. Students with Disabilities Sue ACT
A group of students with disabilities and their parents filed suit against ACT, Inc. The suit claims that the test maker illegally disclosed students' disabilities. ACT was reported to have shared details of test takers' disabilities with entities like colleges. The suit pointed to the background profiles students are asked to fill out prior to the college entrance exam. The requested information includes questions about disability. The suit claims that ACT wrongfully used this information when sharing test results with interested parties. According to the suit, such a practice opens students up to discrimination in education and the workforce.
One of the students bringing suit, Halie Bloom, shared her story. Bloom included details about her disability as part of her ACT registration. Her test reports were later sent to her colleges of choice. However, the reports included a notation that she has a learning disability. The suit takes issue with this type of disclosure. The class action suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Full Story: Catherine Gewertz, Students with Disabilities Sue ACT Over Release of Personal Information, Education Week, Aug. 7, 2018, available at
2. Texas Struggles to Provide Necessary Special Education Services
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has spent years illegally neglecting students with disabilities. The state is now being forced to fix its mistakes. The push comes thanks to an investigation by the Houston Chronicle. The Chronicle revealed an illegal benchmark, or de facto cap, that the TEA put in place more than a decade ago. Per the cap, only 8.5% of Texas students could receive special education services, regardless of need.
Lawmakers responded by removing the cap last year, but the work is far from done. Officials expect that without the cap, the state will need to provide services for an additional 189,000 students. Such an increase comes with a hefty price tag. Experts estimate that the extra services, personnel, and space will cost Texas billions. This is a burden that promises to affect budgets at all levels from the state down to the district.
Full Story: Alejandra Matos, State May Need Billions to Bring IDEA Services Up to Standards, Disability Scoop, Aug. 14, 2018, available at
1. Judge: No Medicating Migrant Children Without Consent
Lawyers stated that migrant children held at a government building in Texas were given strong psychotropic drugs. The children were told that they needed to take the medication or they would have to stay there longer. A federal judge has ruled that the government is violating a court decree from the 1980's by forcing these drugs on children without consent.
The judge ordered that the government must get parental consent, a court order, or determine that a child poses a direct threat and the need for drugs is due to an emergency before giving them these drugs. The judge also ordered that licensed professionals oversee these treatments at the facility. The judge will appoint someone to monitor the situation.
Full Story: Richard Gonzales, Federal Judge Orders Government to Seek Consent Before Medicating Migrant Children, NPR, Jun. 30, 2018, available at
2. President Trump Delays Personal Care Attendant Requirement
Congress passed a law requiring personal care attendants to electronically sign in when they begin their shift with the people that they support. The requirement was supposed to go into effect in January of 2019. However, President Trump signed a federal law that delayed the start of the requirements. Trump's delay will push the law back until 2020.
Many disability rights advocacy groups oppose the sign-in requirement. The law would allow data tracking. The government and companies who provide the technology would have access to location and schedule information of people with disabilities. One group said that it makes people receiving services seem like prisoners.
Full Story: Elizabeth Cassidy, President Trump Signs Law Delaying Electronic Visit Verification of Personal Care Attendants, The Mighty, Aug. 5, 2018, available at
1. Google Glass Helps Kids with Autism Develop Social Skills
Sometimes children with autism are shy in social situations. Scientists at Stanford University were able to create a smartphone app that works with Google Glass glasses to help the children with autism to understand other peoples' facial expressions. This information helped the children with autism to understand social situations better.
The study is in its early stages, and Stanford is working on more research. They want to find reliable and home-based solutions to the problems that people with autism face. After children used the technology, their scores on autism diagnostic tests showed that the app and Google Glass helped them experience fewer "symptoms" of autism.
Full Story: Erin Digitale, Google Glass Helps Kids with Autism Read Facial Expressions, Stanford University Medicine News Center, Aug. 2, 2018, available at
2. Microsoft to Launch Accessible Game Controller
Microsoft knows that there are almost two billion video gamers in world, and they are ready to make it easier for gamers with disabilities to play. Today, some gamers cannot hold a game controller or have difficulties pushing more than one button on the controller at a time. Game controllers are complex and have many buttons on different sides, but not everyone can hold them. Some people with disabilities have built their own controllers, but this is extremely difficult and complex to do.
Microsoft will soon sell a controller that offers touch controls, as well as connectors for each button on a standard controller. This way, a user could plug in switches that they could not normally use on a standard controller. If a user cannot push a button with their hand, they could use an elbow or a foot. This controller will launch in the fall and will work on Xbox systems and Windows 10 computers.
Full Story: Ian Sherr, Microsoft's New Xbox Adaptive Controller Puts Disabled Players Back in the Game, Cnet.com, available at
1. Advocacy Group for Veterans Sues Government Over Airlines
The Paralyzed Veterans of America filed suit against the U.S. Transportation Department over airline accessibility laws. Currently, most airlines have single-aisle planes, which do not have wheelchair-accessible lavatories. Current accessible lavatory regulations only affect planes with more than one aisle. Most domestic flights use planes with one aisle.
Lavatory access rules came about in 1990. In 2016, Congress directed the Transportation Department to release updated rules to cover more planes. The lawsuit alleges that the department is pushing off revising the guidelines and allowing airline bathrooms to remain inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Advocates Push for Greater Airline Accessibility, Disability Scoop, Aug. 14, 2018, available at
2. Ohio Agency Confronts High Turnover of Direct Support Professionals
Ohio is one of the states facing a shortage of Direct Support Professionals (DSP). DSPs assist people with disabilities in living independent lives. One agency that hires DSPs is taking a leap of faith by raising wages. The agency hopes that higher pay will attract and retain DSPs.
DSP wages are often connected to Medicaid funding, and one agency leader criticized that wages for these important workers have stagnated. A prior article from the same newspaper highlighted the low wages and noted that the turnover rate for DSPs was close to 50%. Local and state leaders are happy to see an agency step up to make a change, and they hope other agencies raise wages, too.
Full Story: Rita Price, Direct-Care Agency Bumps Pay to Attract New Workers, Reduce Turnover, Columbus Dispatch, Jun. 15, 2018, available at
1. India's Laws to Protect People with Mental Disabilities Are not Working
Over 200 residents died at the Asha Kiran facility over the past six years. The conditions prompted the local government to question the leaders of the government-funded facility for people with mental and intellectual disabilities in India. Most of the residents have been abandoned, and India has laws to help them.
Yet the facility is overfilled, understaffed, and not equipped to handle the demands of providing consistent care for residents. Leaders blame the government for staffing issues, and 100 new people join the 50-bed facility each year. While the government has passed laws to raise standards, there is still work to be done.
Full Story: Shantha Barriga and Jayshree Bajoria, Why Are India's Laws to Protect the Rights and Dignity of the Mentally Ill Not Working?, Human Rights Watch, Aug. 10, 2018, available at
2. Change in Universal Symbol for Disability Being Debated
A debate is rising to update the symbol used to identify accessible services and features in the United Kingdom. According to a new study, 93% of people with disabilities do not use a wheelchair. One group has proposed a set of 19 new icons that people could choose to use to depict disability.
The International Symbol of Access, that shows a person sitting in a wheelchair, was created in 1968. Advocates for changing the symbol believe by updating the symbol, more people with disabilities will be recognized and accepted by the general public.
Full Story: Jesus Diaz, Fast Company, Does the Universal Symbol for Disability Need to Be Rethought? Aug. 10, 2018, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. Study Shows Poor Year for Inclusion in Hollywood
Research shows that only 2.5% of characters in major Hollywood films had disabilities in 2017, which was down from 2.7% in 2016. The study counted characters based on gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability.
The University of Southern California performed the study. They found that many films had no speaking characters with a disability. Only two movies had people with disabilities with their actual representation in society. Most of the characters with disabilities were white males. The lead researcher noted that Hollywood lacks in all areas of diversity.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Inclusion Lacking in Top Hollywood Films, Disability Scoop, Jul. 31, 2018, available at
2. Book Analyzes Psychological Wounds of the Civil War
A new book explores U.S. Civil War veterans' reaction to the traumas of war. The authors studied archival materials about many white and African-American veterans who served in the Union Army.
This book comes at a time when many people are thinking about the mental health of veterans. One page discusses how doctors of the time period tried to diagnose soldiers with nervous disorders, but that society ignored them. The authors hope that these historical analyses will help to form current treatment of mental health in veterans today.
Full Story: Martin Walls, In Their New Book, Larry Logue and Peter Blanck Analyze Military Veterans' Psychological Wounds Through a Civil War Lens, Syracuse University News, Jul. 13, 2018, available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers
The Ability Hacks by Greg Shaw, Peter Lee, and the Microsoft Corporation tells "the story of realizing the transformative power of technology for people with disabilities, not just for traditional consumer and industrial markets. It's the story of doing something truly great -- improving outcomes for everyone, discovering a design ethos and blazing a new trail for accessibility."
Syracuse University College of Law: Faculty Positions Available
Syracuse University College of Law invites applicants for two tenure-track positions beginning fall 2019. While the curricular needs are flexible, the College seeks applicants for one position who are interested in health and disability law. The second position includes a preference for candidates able to teach a combination of cyber law and private practice of global security law, constitutional law, administrative law, and regulatory law. The College of Law is particularly interested in applicants with an interest in interdisciplinary scholarship and who bring diversity to the faculty. Please follow the link below for further information.
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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