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 3, 2018
Volume 15, 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. 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. Architectural Barriers Act Reaches 50-Year Milestone
In 1968, Congress took its first steps to make sure there was access to federal buildings for people with disabilities. The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) stated that any buildings that were built or altered with federal dollars must be accessible. The ABA allowed buildings that predate it to remain as they were. This was the first disability law in the United States. It paved the way for the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act that would further expand disability rights.
Things that make buildings more accessible are ramps, accessible parking, elevators, and other features. Post offices, national parks, and Veterans Affairs facilities fall under the ABA. The ABA even covers nongovernmental facilities, such as certain schools, transit systems, and public housing that received federal funding. Happy Fiftieth Anniversary to the U.S.'s first disability law!
Full Story: Press Release, Access Board Celebrates 50 Years of the Architectural Barriers Act, United States Access Board, Sept. 11, 2018, available at
2. Disability Rights Groups Oppose Kavanaugh
Some disability organizations do not want Brett Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court Justice of the United States. They fear that Kavanaugh would weaken laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD) is one group that spoke out against Kavanaugh.
The AUCD noted Kavanaugh's judgment in the Doe v. District of Columbia case. Kavanaugh changed previous decisions that gave people with intellectual disabilities the right to have a say in their own elective surgeries. The AUCD stated Kavanaugh did not consider whether a patient with an intellectual disability could be able to have a say on their elective surgery. In a press release, Judge Kavanaugh stated that the patients were by definition incompetent so their say was not relevant to the decision.
Full Story: Trump SCOTUS Pick Brett Kavanaugh Draws Opposition From Disability Groups, Ability Magazine, accessed Sept. 21, 2018, available at
1. Safeway Sued for Discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed suit against Safeway, Inc. The EEOC brought suit on behalf of Joel Sibert. Sibert is deaf. He applied for a job at a Safeway. Sibert was later called to set up an interview. However, once Sibert told personnel that he would need an interpreter for the interview, he never heard back about the job. Sibert gave resources for interpreter services and called the store multiple times, but no one ever called him back.
The EEOC said that denying someone a job due to disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC also stated that removing hiring barriers remains a top priority. The suit requests that Safeway pay Sibert damages. It also asks that Safeway put measures in place to stop future discrimination. This may include something like staff training.
Full Story: Press Release, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Safeway Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination, Sept. 12, 2018, available at
2. Alabama Governor Announced Job Fair
In a recent press release, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced her Governor's Job Fair for People with Disabilities. The second annual event will be held on October 25, 2018. The fair will coincide with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
In the press release, Governor Ivey celebrated the success of the previous year's fair. She also reaffirmed her commitment to creating jobs for all in her state including those with disabilities. Jobseekers and employers can register for the free event at http://www.labor.alabama.gov/jobfair. It will be held at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.
Full Story: Press Release, Office of the Governor State of Alabama, Second Annual Governor's Job Fair for People with Disabilities to Be Held October 25, Sept. 13, 2018, available at
3. Lawsuits Soar Over Inaccessible Websites in 2018
Case law has held that places of public accommodation need to accommodate website users. Lawsuits nationwide about websites violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have increased since last year. A survey of employers found that many of them have active plans for improving accessibility.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) was supposed to create guidelines for websites. The DOJ has not done so because the current administration has paused these efforts. People are concerned that not providing public website accessibility may also lead to employment discrimination issues. Experts suggest that taking some steps to make websites accessible will help increase accessibility and prevent negative outcomes in court.
Full Story: Carol Patton, Lawsuits Soar Over Inaccessible Websites, Human Resource Executive, Aug. 14, 2018, available at
1. Students Call for a National Disability History Museum
High school students in Massachusetts were advocating for a national disability history museum. Juniors at Gann Academy spent their American history class studying disability. Most of them had never studied the subject before. Many kids are never taught about disability history in their K-12 classes.
The Gann students aim to change that. They are hoping a national disability history museum would help fill the gap in American education. The museum would compel teachers to prioritize disability in the classroom. As part of their advocacy, the students wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times arguing that the story of disability history needs to be told.
In addition, as part of their history class they put together their own museum exhibit. The display focuses on disability history. They named the display "Division, Unity, Hardship, and Progress: A Disability History of the United States." The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Massachusetts welcomed the exhibit. It will be available for viewing until November 2018. More information about the exhibit can be found here: https://www.charlesrivermuseum.org/disability/.
Full Story: Elianna Gerut, Sarah Levin, Daniel Rabinovitz, Gabe Rosen, and Ben Schwartz, It's Time for a National Museum of Disability, The New York Times, Sept. 5, 2018, available at
2. New York Advocates Want Schools to Be Fully Accessible
Advocates are calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to reaffirm his commitment to students with disabilities. As many as 80 percent of schools in the city remain inaccessible to students with physical disabilities. This dismal reality leaves students with disabilities with few options. Many of them must look outside their districts. Advocates refuse to accept such a reality.
On September 12, 2018, dozens of advocates and advocacy organizations sent the mayor a letter. In it, they urged him to allocate $850 million to school accessibility efforts over five years. The mayor already pledged $150 million in the 2019 budget to that end. However, advocates argue more must be done. The letter cited the promise of inclusion written into law in this country. It noted that the city has yet to fulfill that promise. Advocates estimate that the extra money could make one third of city schools accessible over the next five years.
Full Story: Alex Zimmerman, Eighty Percent of NYC Schools Aren't Fully Accessible to Students with Physical Disabilities. Activists Say $850 Million Could Make a Dent, Chalkbeat.com, Sept. 12, 2018, available at
1. Couple Who Studies Dyslexia Continues Study Since 1983
Sally and Bennet Shaywitz are both physicians. Mr. and Mrs. Shaywitz run a research center at Yale University. They have been running a study on dyslexia for 35 years. They began the Connecticut Longitudinal Study in 1983 by following almost 500 children with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a language-based disability that makes reading challenging for people who have it. Today, these children are in their 40's, and still contribute to what the researchers have discovered about dyslexia.
Mr. and Mrs. Shaywitz have no intent on finishing the study as long as they have questions and the study can help people. They were among the first researchers to observe how dyslexia effects a person's brain, and they are also credited with showing how common dyslexia is in society. They are credited with helping dyslexia be less invisible. Through research and advocacy, they have welcomed and supported people who have dyslexia in sharing their stories to inspire others.
Full Story: Katie Hafner, The Couple Who Helped Decode Dyslexia, The New York Times, Sept. 21, 2018, available at
2. CDC: One in Four Adults Has a Disability
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has conducted a study of 61 million U.S. adults. They have found that more Americans have disabilities than they previously thought. Researchers used a national database and looked at six ways that disability effects life. Mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, independent living, and self-care were the factors. One out of seven adults have mobility disabilities. That number increases to two out of five adults as people age. Cognitive disabilities are the most common in younger adults.
The study also found that gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic, and geographic factors are all relatable as well. Women, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives are more likely to have disabilities. The study also found that the percentage of adults with disabilities increased as income decreased. Adults living in the South Census Region are also more likely to have them.
Full Story: Ashley Welch, 1 in 4 U.S. Adults Has a Disability, CDC says, cbsnews.com, Aug. 16, 2018, available at
1. Interactive Robots Help Children with Autism
As little as 30 minutes a day with a "social robot" improves eye contact and social behaviors for children on the autism spectrum ages six to twelve. The robot is placed in the home, and the children interact with both the robot and a caregiver on tasks such as emotional storytelling.
The robot is effective because children may interact with it socially without the difficulties they generally associate with social interaction. Children practice skills in a comfortable environment first. Then they can use the skills even when the robot is not around. The study showed use of social robot technology can be successful outside of a clinical setting.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, "Social Robots" Show Promise as Autism Intervention, Disability Scoop, Aug. 31, 2018, available at
2. These New Pants Could Help People with Disabilities to Walk
Many people who have disabilities from spinal cord injuries struggle with walking. These new pants, called "the Right Trousers," could allow some to walk without other assistive technology. The robotic trousers were created by university researchers.
The Right Trousers create movement by combining fake muscles in the pants to assist the wearer. They work with the person's muscles to allow the person to stand up from a chair. The pants' muscles are softer than most braces, which allows movement to be safer and easier that using other alternative mobility aids. Other designs are still being considered, and the pants are at least five years away from production.
Full Story: Ioannis Dimitrios Zoulias, These Robotic Pants Could Help Some Disabled People Walk Again, Smithsonian.com, Sept. 14, 2018, available at
1. Study: Young Adults with Autism Who Live with Parents May Receive Fewer Services
A recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders took a look at how adults who were diagnosed with autism as children use social services that are available to them. Caregivers provided the data.
The study found that people with autism who live with their parents use fewer services than people with autism who live independently or in groups. Researchers noted that people with autism living at home may not know how to access services and also do not know how to report that they need more services to begin with. Respondents mentioned that daytime activity and employment services would help.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Living with Mom and Dad May Impede Access to Autism Services, Disability Scoop, Sept. 12, 2018, available at
2. Homeowners' Association Tries to Ban School Buses for Residents with Disabilities
The roads at Golf Course Estates are private, and the Homeowners' Association is concerned about bus traffic for a number of reasons. While delivery and waste vehicles are allowed in the condo complex, school buses are not. Children walk to stops on public roads nearby.
Not all students can ride the main buses, as some students with disabilities use door-to-door service as an educational accommodation. Two parents filed a lawsuit under fair housing law last May so that their child who has autism could use these services. Having a private bus allows for their daughter to travel to and from school safely. The association seeks to move forward with litigation.
Full Story: Hillary Borrud, Lawsuit: Oregon Sen. Jackie Winters, HOA Denied Bus Service to Child with Disabilities, The Oregonian, Aug. 15, 2018, available at
1. Airports Council International World Launches an Updated Disabilities Handbook
The Airports Council International World (ACI) has put out a new edition of its Airports & Persons with Disabilities Handbook. The handbook has new policies designed to help travelers with disabilities. These policies will affect travel technology and facilities. This is the fifth edition of the handbook.
While some American international airports are members of ACI, all airports in America are bound by federal standards of accessibility. However, International watchdog agencies are still concerned as accessibility remains a concern for travelers outside of America.
Full Story: Handbook to Enhance Air Travel Experience of Passengers with Disabilities, International Airport Review, Sept. 13, 2018, available at
2. UN Encourages Somalia's Speedy Ratification of Disability Rights Treaty
The top United Nations (UN) official for Somalia is calling on the nation to quickly ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty. The treaty promotes the rights of people with disabilities. It requires countries to agree to change their laws so that they do not discriminate. The treaty also requires countries to invest in health and education resources for people with disabilities.
Experts are unsure how many people with disabilities are in Somalia. They estimate that the number is as high as 15% of the population. The UN Assistance Mission in Somalia claims there are many underserved Somalis with disabilities. The UN noted that the government needs to increase funding for adults with disabilities and students with disabilities. UN officials met with education officials to learn more about Somali efforts to improve the situation for students with disabilities.
Full Story: UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), UN Envoy Encourages Somalia's Speedy Ratification of Treaty on Persons with Disabilities, reliefweb.int, Sept. 11, 2018, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. Netflix Hires Multiple Actors with Autism for New Season of Series
Netflix released the second season of Atypical, a show about a teen with autism. Five new characters with autism were introduced, and they are all played by actors with autism.
Although the main character is a person with autism, the actor does not have autism. However, producers are excited to include members of the autistic community in the series, including these new actors and consultants who have autism to help the lead actor play the part realistically.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Actors with Autism Join Netflix Series "Atypical," Disability Scoop, Sept. 11, 2018, available at
2. Thirty Cases Filed by Patrons Against Disney Should Go to Trial
Patrons with autism brought 30 different lawsuits against Disney due to wait times at attractions at Disney World. In 2013, reporters exposed that some patrons hired people with disabilities to go to the park with them in order to skip lines. Today, an online system is available to register and wait in line for shorter periods of time.
The cases question whether Disney provides the same experience for all of its visitors. For some patrons with disabilities, waiting in long lines can cause problems with consequences different than what other patrons who do not have disabilities experience.
Full Story: Gabrielle Russon, Disney autism court cases can move forward, appeals court rules, Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 20, 2018, available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Calls for Papers
Literatures of Madness Disability Studies and Mental Health Edited by Elizabeth J. Donaldson "brings together scholars working in disability studies, mad studies, feminist theory, Indigenous studies, postcolonial theory, Jewish literature, queer studies, American studies, trauma studies, and comics to create an intersectional community of scholarship in literary disability studies of mental health":
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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; Lead Editor Eddie Zaremba; and Associate Editors Lauren Galloway, Christopher Clark, Jason Harris, and Sarah Knickerbocker.
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