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
May 13, 2009
Volume 6, Issue 5
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. Publishers under Fire for Removing Text-to-Speech Capabilities on Kindle 2
Nine disability-rights groups wrote to publishers who sell Kindle ebooks, urging them not to disable the text-to-speech software allowing the books to be read aloud. Recently, Amazon announced the newest version of its electronic book service, the Kindle 2, featured text-to-speech software, but subsequently disabled the feature under pressure from the Author's Guild, which claimed the ability to have books read aloud violates copyright law. Publisher Random House instructed text-to-speech capabilities be disabled on devices reading electronic books.
Tim Jones, Disability Access Activists Gather to Protest Kindle DRM, Electronic Frontier Foundation, April 8, 2009, available at
2. DOJ Sues Baltimore for Discriminatory Zoning Laws
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit in the Baltimore U.S. District Court alleging the city's zoning regulations discriminate against individuals with disabilities. The current zoning code requires substance abuse treatment facilities to undergo a "conditional ordinance" zoning process, involving approval from both the City Council and the local neighborhood association. DOJ attorneys allege the City uses this zoning process to deny permits to treatment facilities or subject them to unnecessary time and expense because of unfounded stereotypes concerning individuals in substance abuse treatment programs.
PR Newswire/ US Newswire, Justice Department Files Lawsuit Alleging Disability Discrimination by the City of Baltimore, Maryland, April 24, 2009, available at
3. Failing to Disclose Disability Leads Court to Bar Unemployment Benefits
The New York State Appellate Division ruled Mawuli Anuma's non-disclosure of her depression to her employer rendered her ineligible for unemployment benefits. Mental Health groups arguing for Ms. Anumah claimed her failure is directly related to her mental illness. The court, however, ruled Ms. Anumah's failure to disclose constituted misconduct and deprived her employer of the opportunity to help her; consequently disqualifying her from receiving unemployment benefits.
Joel Stashenko, Woman Who Failed to Disclose Depression Cannot Collect Unemployment Benefits, Appeals Court Rules, New York Law Journal, March 27, 2009, available at
1. College Life Poses a Unique Challenge for Students Diagnosed with ADHD
A recent New York Times article discussed the difficulty some high school students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have transitioning to college. The article discusses how the change of environment yields the loss of personal support systems leaving these students at greater risk for lower GPAs as well as psychological challenges. Before attending college, students with ADHD should look into the support services the educational system provides. In addition, medication adjustments and advanced planning for refills can prepare students for the structure of college life. Also, doctors found that the college environment facilitates the diagnosis of students who previously dealt with ADHD symptoms but were never diagnosed.
Tara Parker-Pope, Stepping Up to the Challenge, N.Y. Times, April 14, 2009, at ED12, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. New Technology Uses Brain Activity to Post on Twitter
Adam Wilson, a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, developed a new form of communication that appears promising for individuals with "locked-in syndrome," a disability characterized by full paralysis despite uninhibited brain activity. The unnamed technology utilizes a red cap fitted with electrodes that monitor brain activity. The red cap is then hooked up to a computer that flashes letters on a screen allowing users to "type" by focusing on the desired letters. Thus far, the technology has been used only for the social networking site, Twitter, and it has not been tested by individuals with disabilities. Preclinical trials concerning the technology will commence in New York and Germany after Wilson's upcoming May graduation.
Richard Allen Greene, Brain-Twitter Project Offers Hope to Paralyzed Patients, CNN, April 23, 2009, available at
2. FCC Updates Address Accessible Technologies
Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken a number of actions to make technology more accessible for people with disabilities. Since December 31, 2008, people with hearing and speech disabilities using video relay service and Internet protocol relay have been able to acquire ten-digit geographic telephone numbers that allow access to enhanced 911 services and facilitate placing and receiving Internet-based Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) calls. Additionally, the FCC made a video in American Sign Language to explain the new ten-digit numbering requirements and emergency call handling protocols for Internet-based TRS.
Secondly, the FCC has announced a technical working group to help address problems with Digital TV closed captioning and video description. Third, the Consumer & Governmental affairs Bureau (CGB) announced information dealing with informal consumer complaints processed by the FCC's Disability Rights Office in the fourth quarter of 2008. Overall, 30 complaints raised Section 255 issues, 80 raised closed captioning issues, 4 raised issues regarding the accessibility of video programming providing emergency information, and 2 raised hearing aid compatibility issues.
Full Story: Disability Rights Office Headlines, FCC, May 12, 2009, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Nine New X Chromosome Genes Related to Learning Disabilities in Males
A group of over 70 researchers around the world discovered nine new genes on the X chromosome led to learning disabilities when removed. The study sequenced 720 of the 800 known genes on the X chromosome in 208 families and is the largest sequencing study of complex disease ever reported. The study suggests disruption of the newly found genes can damage the nervous system, increasing the chances for learning disabilities. Researchers involved in the study hope the new genes can be included in diagnostics to families with learning disabilities and will allow scientists to improve genetic counseling.
Science Daily, Learning Disabilities in Males: Nine New X Chromosome Genes Linked to Learning Disabilities, April 20, 2009, available at
2. Educational Program Raises Awareness of Stroke Warning Signs
According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is "the leading cause of chronic adult disability in the United States," with 70 percent of stroke survivors experiencing paralysis, vision problems, and speech or language problems. Furthermore, one in twenty people who experience a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) experience a stroke within the two days, making TIA an important warning sign of an impending stroke. TIA has symptoms similar to a stroke, such as numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, and trouble seeing in one or both eyes; however, because TIA symptoms pass quickly and are less severe than stroke symptoms, many people fail to report the symptoms to their health practitioner. Therefore, the National Stroke Association and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., recently launched Talk About TIA!, an educational program explaining the link between TIA and strokes and providing advice on "how to reduce the risk of a stroke following a TIA."
Full Story: New Program Educates About Serious Warning Sign for Stroke, PRNewswire, April 17, 2009, available at
3. Minority Populations Experience More Health Issues
Despite government attempts to curb disparities between races, Recent statistics show African-Americans still experience more disabilities than Caucasians. Furthermore, African-Americans are 1.6 times more likely to have diabetes, have higher death rates for coronary heart disease, coronary artery disease and stroke, are three times more likely to have lupus, and are 38 percent less likely to receive joint replacements to alleviate chronic joint pain. Some experts contend the higher rates of disability among African-Americans are linked to the chronic joint pain African-Americans often experience, which makes exercise impossible. The lack of exercise fosters an inability to control weight gain exacerbating existing conditions.
Health Disparities Among Minority Populations Getting Worse, Urban Mecca, April 7, 2009, available at
1. Transportation Security Administration Violates the Rehabilitation Act
On April 6, 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) violated the Rehabilitation Act when it discriminated against an employee by moving him from a teaching position to a screening position. The transfer required the employee, an individual with a degenerative disability requiring him to use a cane when walking and standing, to take on a job requiring up to 8 hours of standing. The EEOC found TSA removing the employee from the teaching position was clearly an arbitrary decision, since the employee successfully completed all the job duties and received an "exceeds" rating in his annual performance review. The employee received back pay and 150,000 for compensatory damages and attorney fees.
PR Newswire, AFGE Wins Unprecedented Damages Award in EEO Case, April 17, 2009, available at
2. High School Seniors with Disabilities Assisted in Obtaining Jobs
Beginning in August 2009, up to 12 high school seniors with disabilities from the Dalton School District in Georgia will participate in a new internship program called Project SEARCH. A program sponsored by Cross Plains Community Partner and the local Department of Human Resources Vocational Rehabilitation Office, Project SEARCH will combine Dalton Public Schools, Whitfield County Schools, and Hamilton Health Care System to allow students to rotate through various paid jobs during the school year. The Program's primary purpose is to help students with disabilities obtain jobs, while enabling businesses to fill positions with productive workers.
Rachel Brown, High School Seniors with Disabilities Get Helping Hand in Job Market, Daily Citizen, April 16, 2009, available at
1. Tennis Program Helps Children with Autism Develop Social and Behavioral Skills
In Weymouth, Massachusetts, the Weymouth Club recently began a program called Aceing Autism to teach children with autism how to play tennis, to manage their behavioral issues, and to socialize with other kids. Aceing Autism teaches tennis skills by having the players hit a low-pressure ball that feels like a foam toy with a small racket on a 30-foot playing surface with a lower net. The smaller rackets allow children to hit the ball easier, and the smaller court is less intimidating for kids with no tennis experience. In addition to learning how to play tennis, the children in Aceing Autism also develop self confidence and social skills, such as taking turns, by playing with other children.
Ed Baker, Autistic Children Served by Tennis Program, Weymouth News and Patriot Ledger, April 6, 2009, available at
2. Federal Stimulus Money Improves Internet Access for Californians with Disabilities
In 2005, the California Public Utilities Commission required telecommunications companies to invest $60 million toward the expansion of high-speed Internet access in underserved areas. The commission created the Technology Fund to oversee the project and now hopes to collect up to $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars to close the digital divide. The Technology Fund currently generates investments in broadband totaling $240 million and is working on bringing high-speed Internet to households in rural areas, poor urban neighborhoods, and people with disabilities. Almost half of the California population either has no access to broadband service or faces barriers to accessing the Internet, such as language, poverty or disabilities. The recent federal stimulus package will provide money to the University of California, California State University, YMCAs, and public schools to map a broadband infrastructure in the state and educate people with disabilities about broadband access.
Lisa Vorderbrueggan, Federal Stimulus Dollars Could Speed Internet Access for the Underserved, Contra Costa Times, April 18, 2009, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. FEMA Sends Community Relations Team to Minnesota
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent Community Relations (CR) specialists to Minnesota's Clay, Norman, Traverse and Wilkins counties to answer questions about disaster assistance. The CR team is one of several initiatives FEMA has used to inform individuals about their eligibility for the Individual Assistance program for damage from the flooding that began on March 16, 2009. The CR team has sought out all locations where people affected by the disaster might be found in order to provide information and referrals for individuals with special needs, including individuals with disabilities.
FEMA Community Relations Teams Reach Out, Federal Emergency Management Agency, April 17, 2009, available at
1. Experts Meet to Discuss Millennium Development Goals
In April, the UN and the World Health Organization held an expert group meeting to discuss mainstreaming disability in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The international community agreed to eight MGDs in 2000 as a framework for economic development. The group reviewed existing policies and current mechanisms in place for mainstreaming disability in the MDGs, and offered recommendations for the future. Specifically, the group discussed a need for full and effective inclusion of people with disabilities and provided recommendations on issues such as points of entry.
United Nations Enable, Expert Group Meeting on Mainstreaming Disability in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Policies, Processes, and Mechanisms: Development for All, April 2009, available at
2. Ensuring Inclusive Education Is a Necessity During All Phases of a Disaster
Natural disasters and warfare make access to inclusive education more difficult and this situation is often not addressed until the recovery phase of a disaster. To keep inclusive education at the forefront of every phase of a disaster, the Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies (INEE) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Inclusive Education Unit are working together to rebuild initiatives for ensuring the right to education for people with disabilities. Part of this initiative is to put together toolkits and practice guides for ensuring education in emergencies.
Reliefweb, INEE Good Practice Guide: Inclusive Education of Children at Risk--Rebuilding for Inclusiveness, April 15, 2009, available at
3. Traveler with Disabilities Receives £1500 in Settlement
Security guards at the Belfast International Airport asked Mr. Hamilton, a man with mobility and hearing impairments, to remove his splints before passing through the x-ray machine. Mr. Hamilton relies on his splints to assist with his balance and removing them made walking, even if just through the x-ray machine, difficult. Furthermore, Mr. Hamilton felt humiliated because he had to take off his splints in full view of the public. Mr. Hamilton received £1500 (1500 pounds, about $2,300) and an apology from the security company in his settlement.
BBC News, Airport Security 'Humiliated' Man, April 29, 2009, available at
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Note to readers: News article links may require free registration for access, or may be active for a limited time before the respective news services archive them. Archived items may also be available for a fee. Products mentioned in this newsletter are for information only and do not constitute an endorsement.
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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