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 27, 2009
Volume 6, Issue 4
The Disability Law & Policy Newsletter is a bi-weekly 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: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Sections
504 & 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and state civil rights law
B. EDUCATION: Special education & youth transition to successful postsecondary outcomes
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Assistive, information, and communication technologies
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS: Social Security Income / Social Security Disability Income / Medicaid & Medicare
E. WORKFORCE: Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA), & Vocational Rehabilitation
F. INDEPENDENCE: News for and about the Independent Living Movement
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS: Disaster mitigation and preparedness news
H. INTERNATIONAL: News for and about disability topics outside the U.S.
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. NCD Releases Annual Report to President and Congress
The National Council on Disability submitted its annual report to Congress assessing the progress of the nation's disability policy. The report recognized advances made in some areas, but noted lingering barriers to full societal participation, including housing, health care, employment, and the persistent institutional bias in Medicaid. The report issues seventeen recommendations to address the more immediate concerns of the community of people with disabilities, and provides principles to guide the review and modernization of government programs. The report also notes during times of economic recession, government plans have historically left out the community of people with disabilities, but the current transitioning environment offers a unique opportunity for including disability interests.
National Council on Disability Calls for New Federal Approach, Fox Business, March 31, 2009, available at
National Council on Disability, National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, March 31, 2009, available at
2. Lawmakers Introduce Community Choice Act
On March 24th, advocates and lawmakers rallied in Washington, D.C., to recognize the introduction of the Community Choice Act in both the House and the Senate. The Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), purports to allow individuals the choice whether to receive services in an institution or at home. The Act further purports to reform the Medicaid system to comply better with the Olmstead mandate and to assist states with improving their long-term service delivery. Proponents of the bill contend allowing consumers the choice of receiving care at home will reduce costs and protect civil rights and will be more consistent with the desires of many people with disabilities. Supporters are enthusiastic about President Obama's involvement in and support of the bill.
The Community Choice Act: Our Time Has Come, Talk Radio News Service, March 24, 2009, available at
Act Full text:
Community Choice Act of 2009, S. 683, 111th Cong. (2009), available online at
3. Texas Plan Addresses Failures of Institutions for People with Mental Disabilities
The Texas Senate approved a plan designed to improve conditions in the state's residential institutions for people with mental disabilities after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) criticized the institutions for failing to protect residents of the facilities. The DOJ reported residents suffered injury and preventable death resulting from insufficient supervision, neglect, possible abuse, and "lapses in care." The new plan establishes an ombudsman office charged with auditing the facilities, and creates specific measures to provide for video surveillance and heightened standards for staff. The facilities currently referred to as "schools" will be renamed "state developmental centers." Critics of the plan argue the bill "fails to address chronic problems" within the school system, especially those related to staffing.
Corrie MacLaggan, State Schools Move Step Closer to Reform, Austin American-Statesman, March 10, 2009, available at
1. Massachusetts Superintendent Allows Home Visits
In the months of December and January, Dedham Massachusetts Superintendent June Doe, Dedham School District, allegedly allowed a special education teacher to leave the school building every morning to see a student at the student's house. This left between eight to thirteen special education students in the care of unqualified educators for several hours of each school day. The Faculty Council of Dedham Middle School is demanding Doe explain what happened to the parents of the affected students and offer compensatory services. The Council plans to meet to discuss possible legal actions, such as a class-action complaint to the Federal Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.
Michele Morgan Bolton, Special Task Fuels Firestorm at School; Home Assignment Left Classroom Void, Boston Globe, March 29, 2009, available at
2. Autistic Boy Arrested Following Outburst at School
On March 9th, Dylan Gaspard, a 12 year-old boy with autism and enrolled in the special-needs program at Sumner County Schools in Tennessee, experienced an asthma attack while running around the gym, and after using his inhaler he was told to continue running. Dylan responded by running out of the school, biting a teacher and scratching two others when they tried to restrain him to bring him back to the school. Dylan was arrested on two counts of assault and placed in a juvenile detention center.
Dylan's story is part of a larger issue in Tennessee addressing the question of proper handling of students with disabilities during behavioral outbursts. While the police station and school argue when students cannot be controlled by teachers they have to react by taking the child into custody, advocacy groups say that behavioral intervention programs designed by a behavioral analysis should be in place in case of these situations.
Christina E. Sanchez, Autistic Boy's Arrest at School Fuels Debate on Discipline for Disabled, The Tennessean, March 29, 2009, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. University of Wisconsin-Madison Makes Technology Strides for Disability Community
The University of Wisconsin at Madison's Trace Research and Development Center has developed technology to aid individuals with disabilities since 1971. The Center was started by Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden, a current professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, while he was a student at the University. The Center made it a priority to develop technology to aid individuals with disabilities to perform the same tasks as individuals without disabilities.
When the Center first opened, its focus was on developing Augmentative Communication for individuals with nonverbal and severe disabilities. Over the years, the Center has expanded its research and development to computer access. Currently, the Center is focusing its efforts on Internet access.
The Center has had a major influence on worldwide technology such as accessible ATMs, electronic voting systems, automated postal centers and EZ Access Ticket kiosks for Amtrak stations. In addition, all of the major operating systems for computers have accessibility features that were developed at the Trace Center.
For more information on the Trace Center, visit
UW Trace Center's Technology has Worldwide Impact: Center Seeks to Make Technology Accessible, Channel 3000, March 31, 2009, available at
2. Technology Allows Individuals to Make Music with Eye Movement
James Brosnan, an individual with cerebral palsy, can use his laptop to make music with the use of a new program, called My Tobii. The program works alongside another software program called Grid 2 and utilizes a sensor that follows eye-movement allowing a user to pick out pre-recorded music sequences. The program was designed originally as a marketing device allowing advertisers to track their audience's eye movements on screen. Now, the program enables individuals with diverse disabilities, including cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease and locked-in syndrome, to utilize an accessible and efficient method of communication. The designers of My Tobbi believe the program will be used widely in the disability community.
Sibhán Long, Music at the Blink of an Eye, Irish Times, March 25, 2009, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Rallies Push for Closing of State Schools after Discovery of Fight Clubs
In Texas, the Corpus Christi State School, one of a collection of residential facilities run by the state for people with mental and/or physical disabilities, was accused of abuse after police received videos recorded on cell phones showing employees forcing residents with mental disabilities to fight each other. State lawmakers have since proposed measures to increase security and oversight of the facilities, but advocate groups such as the American Association of People with Disabilities want to see the school shut down.
Advocates have organized rallies around the state pushing for the closure of the warehouse-style housing at state schools, and urging the state to move these residents to community settings. Some legislators are hesitant about closing the schools because they don't want to upset residents' parents or take jobs away from the schools' local communities. Corpus Christi police have arrested four state school workers, issued six arrest warrants in the staging of the fights, and will continue to investigate. The FBI is also investigating whether civil rights violations have occurred.
Elaine Marsilio, Disability Groups: Close State Schools, Caller Times, March 20, 2009, available at
Corrie MacLaggan, Mother Sues Over State School 'Fight Club,' American Statesman, March 27, 2009, available at
2. High Number of Overweight and Obese EMS Recruits Raises Health Concerns
Over seventy-five percent of recruits for EMS services in Massachusetts are overweight or obese, and concerning researchers that this could pose significant health concerns for both the candidates and the public. A team from Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Harvard University and the Cambridge Health Alliance reviewed the medical examinations of 370 EMS recruits in Massachusetts between October 2004 and June 2007 and found 43.8 percent of the candidates were overweight, 33 percent were obese and 22 percent were of normal weight.
Cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal injury are leading causes of disability and death in emergency responders, the researchers stated, and excess body fat puts the recruits at a higher risk for these health problems. Additionally, any health condition that could incapacitate an emergency responder, such as a heart attack, compromises the safety of the responders' coworkers and the people he or she is trying to help.
Most New EMS Recruits Overweight or Obese: Massachusetts Finding has Troubling Implications for Public Safety, Experts Say, US News HealthDay, March 20, 2009, available at
3. Internet-based Health Promotion Program Seeking Volunteers with Disabilities
The Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD) at Baylor College of Medicine is launching a new health promotion program called Garden of Wellness on the Internet, and is seeking women with disabilities to participate in the study. The program will provide information on how to improve physical activity and nutrition, manage stress, use health care services effectively and deal with issues related to aging and disabilities. Eligible volunteers for the study must be women at least 45 years old who have access to a computer and Internet for two to four hours per week. They must also have a physical health condition that has limited their daily activities in some way for at least one year. Potential volunteers should call 713-523-0909 or 800-442-7693, or email email@example.com.
Volunteers Needed for Internet-Based Intervention Program Baylor College of Medicine, March 27, 2009, available at
1. National Council on Disability Recommends 10 Measures
A report from the National Council on Disability (NCD) concludes that efforts to hire people with disabilities in Federal jobs have not produced desired goals. In the 2009 report, NCD offers ten recommendations to reverse this trend and improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the Federal Government. For example, one recommendation is for the Office of Personnel Management, suggesting they conduct a study of best practices in the Federal Government and develop a model program for hiring, retaining, and advancing people with disabilities. A second recommendation is for Congress to grant the Department of Defense Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) the authority to include accommodations such as job structuring, telecommuting, and job-sharing to assist people with disabilities. A third recommendation is for job seekers to investigate employment opportunities in agencies with critical hiring needs and which have shown a commitment to hiring people with disabilities. These recommendations, along with the other seven, may reduce current barriers to employment and improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
National Council on Disability, Federal Employment of People with Disabilities, March 31, 2009, available at
2. Web Site Helps Employers Interview Job Applicants with Disabilities
The Law, Health Policy & Disabilities Center at the University of Iowa College of Law has developed training that can help employers interview individuals with disabilities. In addition, people with disabilities can also use this training to learn how to present themselves effectively to potential employers during the interview process. This web-based training includes a mix of mock interviews in video, FAQs, best practices, and instruction about how the Americans with Disabilities Act affects the job interview.
Applicants often fear they may be discriminated against if they disclose a disability during an interview, and well-intentioned employers are often unsure about questions they can and cannot ask. A nondiscriminatory interview is based on three general points: 1) Have a detailed job description that includes job duties and essential skills. 2) Ask questions that relate only to the essential functions of the job. 3) Ask reasonable followup questions based on feedback from the applicant.
The training is located at
3. Forums to Help Artist with Disabilities Obtain Employment
"Building Bridges" is a series of employment forums for artists with disabilities and potential employers. The goal of the forums is to foster better employment outcomes for people with disabilities in the arts. For this to occur, counselors need to realize the fine arts present viable careers for people with disabilities and art employers need to learn how to employ and accommodate people with disabilities.
The Building Bridges series includes workshops in Hamilton, Peapack, and Collingswood, New Jersey, between April and June 2009. Workshop topics include maneuvering the social security system, accommodating workers with disabilities, and successful use of technology in job searching. The Cultural Access Network of New Jersey, VSA Arts of New Jersey, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts sponsor the forums.
Peggy McGlone, Employment Help for Artists with Disabilities, The Star-Ledger, March 23, 2009, available at
1. Controversy Over Seeing-Eye Horse in Fort Worth, Texas
Controversy is brewing in Fort Worth, Texas, over a woman's "seeing-eye horse." Tabitha Darling has trained her horse, Trixie, to carry her six miles through downtown Forth Worth, and she rides the horse into local stores. Ms. Darling is legally blind and has a bone condition that can make walking painful. However, some people within the disability community do not approve of Ms. Darling's use of a horse to get around; saying riding a horse around a grocery store is going too far and abusing the system.
The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for stores to refuse entry to a service animal. However, much debate surrounds defining a "service animal." Some people opposed to the "seeing-eye horse" suggest that licensing service animals could eliminate "abuse" of the service animal system.
David Schechter, Does a 'Seeing Eye Horse' Go Too Far? Texas Cable News, March 20, 2009, available at
David Schechter, Seeing Eye Horse Stirs Controversy, WFAA, March 24, 2009, available at
2. Accessibility Design Awards in Hawaii Call for 2009 Nominations
The Disability and Communication Access Board (DCAB) is calling for nominations for its 2009 Accessible Design Awards. These awards aim to honor buildings, facilities, sites, and design features promoting full integration, independence, and equal access and that improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in Hawaii. Nominations will be accepted by individuals, companies, businesses or agencies from the private or the public sector and will be judged in three categories: public design (non-residential), private design (non-residential), and residential design (public or private). Interested people who want to submit nominations should go to "Call for Nominations" on the DCAB web site http://www.hawaii.gov/health/dcab to fill out the nomination form. Nominations must be received no later than Friday, May 15, 2009.
Francine Wai, 2009 Accessibility Design Awards Call for Nominations, Hawaii Reporter, March 30, 2009, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. Possible Effects of FEMA Split from Homeland Security
Representative James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced a bill last month that would separate the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from the Department of Homeland Security. In defense of his bill, Oberstar claims FEMA's effectiveness has deteriorated since it merged with the Department of Homeland Security. However, Congressional lawmakers and disaster experts believe separating FEMA from Homeland Security would reduce the resources FEMA needs to continue making improvements. Opponents also argue that emergency preparedness and response systems need to interoperate and not be isolated from Homeland Security to ensure effective deployment of resources and manpower.
Deborah Barfield Berry, Homeland Security, FEMA may be Split Up, Carion-Ledger Washington Bureau, March 18, 2009, available at
Jena Baker McNeill, Restructuring FEMA: Stand-Alone FEMA Would Not Make Cents, 2316 Web Memo, The Heritage Foundation, February 27, 2009, available at
2. Lessons Learned During Ice Storm
In January, Arkansas's ice storms caused power outages creating a life or death situation for persons who depend on oxygen and other electrical equipment. At 5:30 A.M. on January 27, Glenda Parker, the health district manager at the country health department, began receiving phone calls from individuals with medical concerns. Ms. Parker found many individuals' number one concern was their need to plug in oxygen concentrators because they depend on this kind of equipment and cannot afford a generator. Another concern was the length of power outages. Carol Hart, a member of the Disability Emergency Planning committee, concluded that people with disabilities need to prepare for at least seventy-two hours of a power outage when making emergency response plans.
Trish Hollenbeck, Ice Storm Brings to Light Emergency Preparedness for Those with Disabilities, Northwest Arkansas Times, March 9, 2009, available at
3. Advocates Assist Individuals with Disabilities During Red River Flooding
As the Red River continued to flood in South Dakota this spring, there was a behind-the-scenes effort to assist individuals with disabilities who reside in threatened areas. Many advocates for individuals with disabilities began contacting persons with mobility impairments to ensure their preparation in the event of an evacuation. Advocates asked individuals with disabilities to compile lists with their doctor's telephone numbers and prescription information, and to contact friends and relatives to ensure someone can check on them in the event of emergency.
Joe Kimball, Red River Flooding: Efforts Underway to Help Disabled Living in Threatened Areas, Minnesota Post, March 26, 2009, available at http://www.minnpost.com/stories/2009/03/26/7637/
1. Individuals with Disabilities Receive Employment Assistance in Canada
The Canadian government is helping people with disabilities find employment by supporting two employment programs at the local level. Accredited Supportive Living Services Limited (ASLS) will receive over $300,000 through the Opportunities Fund, a fund set up to help Canada become the most educated, skilled, and flexible work force around the globe. Specifically, the $300,000 will go toward programs helping 54 individuals with disabilities maintain and keep employment or to go back to school.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Government of Canada Helps People with Disabilities Prepare for Jobs in Alberta, Marketwire.com, April 7, 2009, available at
2. Increase in Forced Marriages among Individuals with Learning Disabilities
The Forced Marriage Unit in the United Kingdom has noticed an increase in the number of forced marriages involving people with learning disabilities. Some disability charities warn that parents are using forced marriage as a way to ensure their adult child with disabilities will be looked after. However, there have been occasional cases where a non-British citizen will marry a citizen with learning disabilities simply to obtain a British passport. Most cases involve Asian families from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh where arranged marriages are still the norm, and prospective spouses often do not know of the disability until the wedding day. Because of this increase in forced marriages involving people with learning disabilities, Sara Russell, head of the Forced Marriage Unit, believes the Unit should make victims with learning disabilities a priority.
Poonam Taneja, More with Learning Disabilities Forced to Wed, BBC News, April 6, 2009, available at
Note: In the UK, the term "learning disability" generally refers to persons who have developmental or intellectual impairments.
3. The Learning Disability Coalition Seeks More Funding
The Learning Disability Coalition (LDC) in the United Kingdom expects the number of adults in the UK with learning disabilities will increase by up to 5 percent within the next 5 years and services for this community are already underfunded. Due to the international recession, Dame Jo Williams, chairwoman of the LDC, anticipates an uphill battle as she goes before the Treasury this week seeking an additional £200m (200 million pounds) annually. However, Dame Jo Williams believes this is a life or death situation for the 800,000 individuals with learning disabilities in the UK because only 137,000 receive social care, according to LDC estimates.
John Carvel, Down’s Syndrome Adults Face Cut in Services, Guardian, April 6, 2009, available at
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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 William N. Myhill, M.Ed., J.D., Managing Editor Deepti Samant, M.S. (Rehab), M.S. (ECE); and Associate Editors Janelle Frias, B.A., Lauren Chanatry, B.A., Shawna Castells, B.S., Aaron Gottlieb, B.A., Carly Pavlick, Amanda Bernasconi, and Nicole Loring.
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