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
December 11, 2019
Volume 16, 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. 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. Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Against Family Dollar Resolved
Family Dollar agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit. The case was brought by a job applicant who suffered from left-sided paralysis and wore a brace on his left arm. The applicant was offered the position but was never told his start date. In the meantime, Family Dollar hired other, nondisabled individuals at the same store.
Family Dollar refused to employ an applicant who suffered from a disability. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says this violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC is responsible for enforcing laws that prohibit disability discrimination. So the EEOC sued Family Dollar and obtained monetary and injunctive relief.
Full Story: Family Dollar to Resolve EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Nov. 6, 2019, available at
2. Guidewire Software Sued for Failure to Provide Accommodations to a Qualified Applicant
Guidewire Software, Inc., violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it failed to provide accommodations for the interview of a qualified applicant with a hearing impairment. The qualified applicant submitted her resume and received an interview with the company. The applicant requested a face-to-face meeting instead of interviewing over the phone because her disability limited her ability to clearly hear over the phone. The company suggested to use different technology and sign language as a backup. The applicant did not use sign language and emailed them back to see if there was another accommodation. The company did not get back to her and in the meantime screened other applicants who did not request accommodations and offered the position to one of those individuals.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Guidewire for failing to provide accommodations. The lack of accommodations caused undue hardship for the applicant and a loss of opportunity because of her request. EEOC added that Congress created the ADA to prevent this sort of discrimination against qualified applicants with disabilities.
Full Story: Guidewire Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Oct. 24, 2019, available at
1. A Large Issue in Disability Employment Is Wages
A worker in Minnesota is currently making $2.45 an hour because of the 1938 Fair Labor Standard Act. The Act allows sheltered workshops to pay based on productivity or ability. Therefore, employees can be paid a low wage. The worker is autistic, uses hearing aids, and has hemi-hypertrophy. He is employed in a sheltered workshop where he has folded balloons, assembled medical supplies, and delivered newspapers.
There are approximately 321,000 workers in sheltered workshops. The sheltered workshops hire those with a disability. The positions often do not teach skills for better positions, so the workers are often stuck in these positions. However, the workshops are thriving. Ten of the largest sheltered workshops make an annual revenue of $523 million combined. States are phasing out these sheltered workshops, starting with Vermont and Maine.
The poverty rate for those with disabilities is at 25.7%. Shutting down the workshops will not fix this issue. However, presidential candidates for the 2020 election have proposed ideas, such as an increase in Social Security and free vocational training.
Article: Caleb Brennan, Disabled Workers Are Done Putting Up with Three Cents an Hour, Vice, Oct. 21, 2019, available at
2. U.K. Company Hiring Mainly People with Autism
Rajesh Anandan and Art Shectman created a software company called Ultranauts. The company hires and retains people where most of the employees are neurodiverse. Those who are neurodiverse include people with autism, dyslexia, and other neurological conditions. The company's goal is to show how neurodiversity can be a huge benefit to businesses.
The company is seeking to change how those with disabilities are seen by employers. This is important given that only 16% of adults with autism are employed full-time. One contribution to their poor employment numbers is interview questions. A study has found many autistic people find the questions either too difficult to answer or too difficult to comprehend. However, Ulltranauts does not use an interview process. Instead, they use a competency test. They also allow for working from home and flexible schedules.
Article: Robbie Wojciechowski, Where 75% of Workers Are on the Autistic Spectrum, BBC, Oct. 20, 2019, available at
1. More Money for Special Education
A bill introduced in the House of Representatives would help schools with special education expenses. It is called the IDEA High Cost Pool Funding Act. Under the bill, the federal government would help make up for its failure to fully fund special education services.
The federal government was supposed to cover 40 percent of the special education services, but has only covered 15 percent. Currently, budgets do not go far enough to help students with disabilities. Without this money, there have not been enough resources for all children to "excel and live meaningful lives."
Citation: Shaun Heasley, Lawmakers Propose Extra Funds to Cover High Special Ed Costs, Disability Scoop, Oct. 22, 2019, available at
2. Test Scores for Students with Disabilities Improve
Test scores for students with learning disabilities improve after they are classified into special education, especially for those who entered special education before middle school. This was observed from a report based on 44,000 New York City students over seven years.
Students were looked at before and after they began special education services, which had improved scores in both English and math. There were gains for those who were entered early into special education, especially for girls and Asian students. This allowed them to be educated in the least restrictive environment.
Citation: Corey Mitchell, Does Special Education Work for Students with Learning Disabilities? Education Week, Nov. 6, 2019, available at http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2019/11/does_special_education_work_learning_disabilities.html.
1. A Dramatic Change in Montana Medicaid's Requirement
Montana passed a law to change its Medicaid access. The law would require proof of a certain number of hours worked each month in addition the current requirement to not earn more than $17,000 a year. This work requirement has to be approved by the federal government and would start in January 2020.
The problem with the new law is for those who work "rural seasonal jobs." There are attempts in the new law to exclude workers in seasonal jobs, but it is still in progress. Those who do not meet the exception will have to report how they meet up with the hours condition. This makes the future of seasonal workers in Montana uncertain.
When Arkansas added work and reporting requirements to their law, many people lost Medicaid. In Montana 12,000 people or more are expected to lose Medicaid, even though most people on Medicaid are working.
Full story: Corin Cates-Carney and Kaiser Health News, Rural Seasonal Workers Worry About Montana Medicaid's Work Requirements, U.S.News, Nov. 7, 2019, available at
2. Is the U.K. National Health Service in Danger?
The United Kingdom (U.K.) National Health Service (NHS) is likely to gain more attention in the upcoming election because of the U.S.-U.K. trade deal, as"big pharma" would be introduced into the U.K. NHS. This would be problematic for the U.K., as the U.K. healthcare system would look more like the current U.S. healthcare system.
In the U.S., healthcare is expensive for ordinary people to afford, despite the Affordable Care Act and Senator Elizabeth Warren's proposed Medicaid For All bill. Many people have health insurance, but it does not cover the costs of healthcare. Many people do not have coverage of health insurance. Other people have varying levels of coverage. Those with "good coverage" may still have to ration medicine because of the cost. Others do not visit a healthcare professional until symptoms can no longer be ignored because the high cost of visits that are not fully covered by insurance.
Full story: Mary O'Hara, The NHS Is a Precious Thing. Try Being Ill in the US If You Don't Believe This, The Guardian, Nov. 5, 2019, available at
1. New Developments in Assistive Technology
Assistive technology allows for increased communication, mobility, independence, and inclusion for those with disabilities. These can take the form of eye-tracking communication devices, hard-of-hearing or hearing-loss devices, technology for the visually impaired, and robots.
Eye-tracking communication devices include Dynavox and Intelligaze. Dynavox makes devices that allow users to select pictures or a series of pictures and convert them to speech. Recently, Dynavox has incorporating eye tracking technology. The technology allows users, without control of their hands, to select pictures on the speech generating device by looking at them. Intelligaze enables people to use computers and Windows with their eyes.
Hard of hearing or hearing-loss devices include Leap Motion, Cochlear, and Live Listen. Leap Motion allows for translation of American Sign Language, Cochlear works when a person needs more than a hearing aid to communicate by going around the damaged part of the ear. Live Listen allows an iPhone to amplify sounds through the AirPods.
Technology for the visually impaired include an app with a VR headset, and Guidesense Radar. The VR headset through the app allows for everything in a room to be made into a sound, which gets higher as the item is approached. The Guidesense Radar allow for a monitor to be worn around the chest that vibrates or gives audio warnings of objects.
Robots can also help those with a variety of disabilities. In Japan, robots will be used in the upcoming Olympics to support those with wheelchairs to carry items. This will show how they could help more people in everyday life.
Citation: Matthew Flynn, New Developments in Assistive Technology That Are Providing Independence to People with Disabilities, Boss Magazine, available at
2. YouTube Creating Insight
Social media platforms are redefining our view of disability by promoting education and awareness. YouTube creators with disabilities have found community, acceptance, and support. Creators channels and videos can improve public perception of disability through insight into daily lives of those with individuals. Some creators have drawn a lot of viewers.
Ruby Ardolf is a creator and has Stromme syndrome. Her channel is about her daily life. She has over 100,000 subscribers. The channel has raised awareness, relatability, and acceptance.
Amythest Schaber is a creator who has autism. Her channel is informational and has aspects of her daily life. She has more than 48,000 subscribers. The channel raised awareness about autism.
Citation: Jessica Chiu, On YouTube, People with Disabilities Create Content to Show and Normalize Their Experiences, New Hampshire Union Leader, Oct. 21, 2019, available at
1. TerrainHopper Allows Greater Access to the Outdoors
Todd Lemay was born with osteogenesis imperfeta, which often causes broken bones. As a result, Lemay uses a wheelchair. Lemay searched for an all-terrain wheelchair, and he came across TerrainHopper. TerrainHopper was made by a U.K. company and was not available in the United States. However, the company allowed him to oversee licensing, manufacturing, and distribution rights of TerrainHopper in the U.S.
Lemay opened his shop in Arizona in 2017. Since opening his shop, he has sold numerous TerrainHoppers. He has also been featured in the Phoenix Business Journal because of his success. While a wheelchair can only navigate truly flat surfaces, the TerrainHopper can scale hiking trails, cross terrain, and other surfaces. It allows the user to become more independent. The wheelchair has allowed those with disabilities to hike, to enjoy the outdoors, and to essentially live the life of a nondisabled person.
Article: Jane Lee, ASU Alum Paving Pathways for People with Disabilities, Arizona State University, Oct. 31, 2019, available at
2. Golfing Is Not Just for Those without Disabilities
Andrew Asmuth created a company called Adaptive Golf Program of Durango. Asmuth's company teaches people with a disability to golf, including those with trouble standing. The company also uses the SoloRider, which is a golf cart with a swivel chair that helps a golfer that has difficulty standing.
Asmuth's company also hosts golf tournaments. Asmuth stated that golf allows enjoyment, socialization, and support. The company has allowed people like Brendan Pederson, a Navy veteran, to play the game he loves. Pederson began losing control of his motor abilities and feared he could never play golf again. But the Adaptive Golf Program has made a seemingly impossible task possible. It is a part of a continuing trend of destroying barriers for those with disabilities and allowing them to live a much more independent life.
Article: Bret Hauff, Adaptive Golf Program Offers People with Disabilities Chance to Play, Socialize, The Durango Herald, Oct. 15, 2019, available at
1. Disability and Intimacy, A Call for Reform of Sex Education
There is little information in the U.K. on living with a disability and sex, even though one in five persons in the U.K. have a disability. Many people with disabilities could not find information on sex and intimacy and may have missed what little there is in school because of surgeries or other hospital visits. They are forced to figure out things for themselves and possibly with flexible partners who are willing to explore sex with them. Some people with disabilities are not understood by their partners when they are in pain and cannot perform without or with less pain.
The public needs to give importance to how living with a disability affects the sexual health of people with disabilities. There is a need to create better resources and change, which can improve the sex lives of those living with disability and how they are understood by their partners.
Full story: Annabel Sowemimo, Sex and Scoliosis: A Conversation on Disability and Intimacy Is Long Overdue, Independent, Sept. 15, 2019, available at
2. Japan Welcomes Parliament Members with Disabilities
Japan's upper house welcomes two lawmakers with severe disabilities. The lawmakers are paralyzed and rely on caregivers for their physical needs. Both ran with the small leftist opposition party that advocates for a society that does not discriminate.
The upper house had to carry out changes to the building to allow for their access. They required seats to be removed and an allowance for their caregivers to be present during sessions. Their election has been seen as a major step for inclusive representation for disabled people in Japan.
Full story: Japan's First Severely Disabled Lawmakers Join Parliament, BBC News, Aug. 1, 2019, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. The Fear of "Coming Out"
People have worked for years to get rid of the shame that people feel when they come out as a member of the LGBT+ community. But, what about "coming out" as a member of the community with a disability? In the Netflix comedy series "Special" Actor Ryan O'Connell shows how he became comfortable enough to share his disability that he had been hiding.
The series is based on his 2015 memoir. It highlights the struggle and fears O'Connell, and many like him, feel because of a disability. We live in a world where people are shamed for their disability. They are underrepresented in all industries, and it is causing the stigma to continue against people with disabilities.
Only 2% of actors in TV series have a disability. Further, 95% of characters that have a disability portrayed in a show are played by able-bodied actors. Netflix has tried to break this pattern with shows like "Special" and "Atypical." But more needs to be done. O'Connell notes that cable stations are more hesitant than streaming services to introduce shows that represent people with disabilities. They are not sure society is ready for it.
Full Story: Patrick Ryan, Netflix's "Special" Hopes to Break New Ground for Disability Representation on TV, USA Today, Apr. 11, 2019, available at
2. Mighty Sculptures by a Hugely Creative Individual
Kambel Smith makes art and happens to be a person with autism. He started as a painter but moved on to sculptures. As he grew up, his father had set up shows in several places with no interest. Then his art was shown in the Outsider Art Fair, and it gained in popularity.
He has had his art shown at two shows, and many people and collectors have purchased his sculptures. His sculptures are very large. Just one of his sculptures was 16 feet wide and ten feet deep. Therefore, the shows could only house a few of his creations, but they were impressive.
Full Story: Stephanie Farr, Artist with Autism Commands Up to $25K for Sculptures, disabilityscoop, Nov. 19, 2019, available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers
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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 Jacqueline Chilbert; and Associate Editors Eronmwon Joyce Irogue, Renee Nouri, Emily Kosciewicz, and Jake Gellerstein.
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