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 17, 2009
Volume 6, Issue 10
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. GINA Goes Into Effect for the Nation's Employers and Health Insurers
The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) went into effect on Saturday, November 21, 2009. This historic law, with few exceptions, prohibits employers and health insurers from asking persons to give family medical histories affecting the terms or conditions of their employment. More specifically, GINA prohibits employers from requiring genetic tests or considering an applicant's or employee's genetic background in hiring, promotion, or firing. In addition, the Act prohibits health insurers and group plans from requiring genetic testing in either denying coverage or setting premiums and deductibles.
Full Story: Steven Greenhouse, Law Seeks to Ban Misuse of Genetic Testing, N.Y. Times, Nov. 15, 2009, available at
GINA Fact Sheet:
Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act,
2. Colorado Attorney Sued for Disability Discrimination
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint in federal court alleging that a Colorado Springs attorney violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Allegedly, the attorney, Patric LeHouillier, denied a woman and her husband access to his law office because they required the use of a service dog. The animal was an Australian Shepherd dog trained to provide assistance to the woman who was blind. If the allegations are true, Mr. LeHouillier has violated ADA Title III, which requires private businesses that provide services to the public to make exceptions to rules excluding pets or animals for persons with disabilities using a service animal.
Full Story: U.S. Department of Justice, Justice Department Sues Colorado Attorney for Disability Discrimination, Reuters, Nov. 3, 2009, available at
3. Arbonne International Settles Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
Arbonne International LLC--a skin care products company with a distribution center in Indiana--recently settled a disability discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Arbonne was accused of violating the ADA after it refused to hire an employee, Lisa Wilson, who was deaf. As a result of the settlement, Arbonne will pay $30,000 to Ms. Wilson. The consent decree also requires Arbonne to develop, post, and distribute a policy of non-discrimination, provide relevant employee training, and periodically report to the EEOC.
Full Story: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Press Release: Arbonne International to Pay $30,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit, Nov. 9, 2009, available at
1. Parents Fight for Their Son with Diabetes to Receive Daily Exercise
Is a school breaking the free appropriate public education mandate under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by denying a student with diabetes permission to receive physical education class daily, instead of twice per week? This unresolved issue is heading to a hearing in the Downingtown Area School District, where a child with diabetes is seeking physical education every morning to help combat his sugar spike after breakfast. According to his parents, he needs this exercise to keep his academic performance sharp and his health in check. Kelly Durr, an attorney with the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania stated, "[i]f his parents can show that without exercise he could not receive the same education as his peers, they've got a pretty good case [under 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973]." Dr. Gary Scheiner, a certified diabetes educator who works with the parents, believes the student will benefit from physical activity after meals because it will help fight the impending lethargy and will improve his work performance.
Full Story: Dan Hardy, Diabetic Boy's Parents Fight School over Exercise, Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 19, 2009, available at
2. Massachusetts Survey Reveals Bullying Against Children with Autism
A new survey revealed that nine out of ten students with autism are victims of bullying at school, with a majority being hit, kicked, or chased. Massachusetts Advocates for Children surveyed approximately 400 parents from across the state. Almost nine out of ten children with autism are bullied at school, either verbally or physically. In two out of three cases, the bullying lasted for several months. Many parents complained that the schools have not been responsive to reports of bullying. A bill currently in the Massachusetts legislature would require Individualized Education Plan (IEP) teams to address bullying in their child's IEP.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Nine in Ten Kids with Autism Bullied at School, Disability Scoop, Nov. 13, 2009, available at
3. University Receives Grant to Increase Number of Special Education Teachers
William & Mary School of Education recently received a grant to increase the number of teachers pursuing special education. The Preparing Inclusive Educators (PIE) project will both train and recruit students to receive a masters degree in special education. PIE will receive $100,000 per year and could be continued for five years with annual reapplication. Furthermore, the project will serve local schools and special educators by identifying local education needs and ensuring that special education teachers are fully licensed according to the No Child Left Behind Act.
Full Story: Erin Zagursky, School of Education Receives Grant to Recruit Special Educators, William & Mary Events & News, Nov. 19, 2009, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. YouTube Expands its Accessibility for Persons with Hearing Disabilities
Google, the owner of the video-viewing website YouTube, has announced that it is experimenting with a new technology that will automatically add captions to the videos. Not only will the technology allow persons with hearing disabilities to enjoy many more YouTube videos, but when used in combination with Google's translation service, it will have similar advantages for persons who speak a language other than that of the video. Also, the technology will make captioned videos more easily searchable by their text.
The technology was developed primarily by a Google engineer, Ken Harrenstein, who is deaf. "This is something that I have dreamed of for many years," he said through an interpreter. Currently, Google is experimenting with the technology only on educational video channels. If viewers respond well to it, Google hopes to expand the technology gradually to other channels.
Full Story: Miguel Helft, Google to Add Captions, Improving YouTube Videos, N.Y. Times Nov. 20, 2009, available at
2. Trends in Assistive Technology Use Help Students
In November 2009, the Nation Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) held its annual conference, which focused in part on innovations in the field of assistive technology (AT). There are many key trends emerging in AT development including convergence, customization, research- or evidence-based design, portability, and interoperability. With convergence, many systems of AT can be compiled into one system performing various tasks. The iPhone is cited as a possible example of such a device. Customization allows for universally accessible AT in that the same software or device can be used differently according to specific needs. The five areas of innovation aim to make AT more useful for those with and without disabilities and facilitate use of the same technology both in and out of the classroom. As technology rapidly develops, various companies are backing the effort to keep these trends in mind to best benefit the future of AT and its users.
Full Story: Meris Stansbury, Five Key Trends in Assistive Technology, eSchool News, Dec. 3, 2009, available at
*Free registration required for full access to the article.
3. Professor Develops Self-Guiding Wheelchair
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded a five-year grant to John Spletzer, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at Lehigh University, to develop a self-navigating wheelchair. Spletzer explained that the technology is based on extremely precise lasers and detailed maps of obstacles such as street curbs, poles, and other vehicles.
Spletzer's team of engineers had already invented a system that allows wheelchair users to drive cars and other vehicles. Also, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Lockheed Martin, the team has developed a robotic, self-navigating car. The hardware used in that device will be borrowed to develop the wheelchair technology. Although the robotic car cost about $250,000 to create, Spletzer believes the robotic wheelchair will be much more affordable.
Full Story: PhysOrg, This Smart Wheelchair Has Laser Vision, Nov. 10, 2009, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Elderly Now Experiencing More Disability Than Parents or Grandparents
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, the elderly in the United States have more disabilities than the generations before them. The increase in disability rose in ages 60 to 69, and it reaches across demographic and socioeconomic boundaries. Non-whites and people with obesity have the highest disability rates. Surprisingly, people over age 80 had a lower rate because of modern medicine and better nutrition than past generations. This study has major implications for employees as well: Nine out of ten employees have at least one chronic health issue.
Full Story: Joanne Wojcik, Wellness Rewards Will Lower Health Care Costs, Business Insurance, Nov. 22, 2009, available at
2. People with Disabilities Experience Low Health Literacy
Low health literacy is a disparity between a patient's ability to understand medical information and a medical provider's ability to explain this information clearly. According to the Institute of Medicine, 90 million Americans have low health literacy, but the percentage is higher among people with any type of disability and who are English language learners (ELLs). In two separate studies from researchers at the University of Missouri, people with disabilities and ELLs felt their medical providers often did not listen to them, explain options, or treat them with respect. Few doctors have multi-language backgrounds, which makes access to healthcare for ELLs more difficult.
Full Story: Health Literacy Lower for the Disabled, United Press International, Nov. 3, 2009, available at
See Also: Christian Basi, Health Information Not Communicated Well to Minority Populations, MU Researcher Finds, News Bureau University of Missouri, Oct. 29, 2009, available at
3. Australian Government Study to Investigate Lifetime Care for People with Disabilities
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is conducting a disability study to find ways to fund healthcare for people with severe disabilities that need daily assisted care. The Government will particularly look at a social insurance model where the entire population pays taxes to support health care for people with severe disabilities and those involved in accidents. The proposed model will cover all persons with severe disabilities, regardless of how their disability came to be. "Under existing arrangements, state government schemes provide benefits for people hurt in workplace or motor vehicle accidents although the generosity of the benefits and coverage varies around the country." The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten, believes the current system is inadequate and is pushing the social insurance model to be implemented by Parliament.
Full Story: Mark Davis, Insurance Scheme May Allow Lifetime Care for Disabled, Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 24, 2009, available at
1. Goodwill Industries: Disability Should Not Affect Employability
Goodwill Industries, a company that provides many programs for individuals with disabilities, outlined many reasons to hire individuals with disabilities. Leslie Battiste, a successful graduate of Goodwill programs who became a journalist, emphasizes that employers should not be quick to judge individuals. A person with a disability is a person and should not be defined by his or her disability. A thirty-year study conducted by DuPont found that workers with disabilities have above-average performance, dependability, attendance and safety records. Battiste further notes that over half of accommodations cost nothing and 75% of accommodations cost under $500. Finally, she points out that the employment of persons with disabilities does not affect a company's insurance rates--technological advances have made accommodations in the workplace easier to implement.
Full Story: Leslie Battiste, Don't Let a Disability Affect Employability, Tallahassee Democrat, Nov. 16, 2009, available at
See Also: TCC Alumni Hall of Fame--Leslie Battiste: Class of 1973, available at
2. Non-Profit Training Organization in Ohio Getting Squeezed by Economy
Lott Industries trains individuals with developmental disabilities to perform assembly line work and related tasks. The company has about 1,200 employees, but has recently felt the sting of the current economic struggles as many major contracts have been lost. Lott has been forced to slash wages and sick pay but so far has not terminated any of its employees. The company has held contracts from Ford and GM and frequently achieved high marks for quality and punctuality. As a result of the turmoil with the domestic automobile market, Lott struggles financially but continues to search out contracts.
Full Story: Clare Ansberry, Haven for Disabled Workers Feels Job Market's Sting, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 28, 2009, available at
1. Debate for Long-Term Care Program Begins
As part of health care legislation, democrats are urging the inclusion of long-term care insurance to help individuals avoid having to live in nursing homes. The program is formally known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act). Under the proposed program, individuals would pay a monthly premium and if they acquire a disability will be awarded about fifty dollars per day to pay for a home care attendant instead of having to pay for a nursing home, which can cost upwards of $70,000 a year. There is still some debate on whether or not the program is sustainable in the long run, but the issue of an alternative to nursing homes is an important healthcare issue.
Full Story: Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Senate Weighs Long-Term Care Program for Elderly and Disabled, Associated Press, Nov. 18, 2009, available at
2. Alleged Violations at Las Vegas Assisted-Living Facility
Employees at Chancellor Gardens of the Lakes, a Las Vegas assisted-living facility, are under investigation after a report found that dozens of residents were neglected and in some cases deprived of medication by unqualified attendants. The lack of medication has caused the hospitalization of at least three individuals. The state has already banned the facility from accepting new patients, and suspension or revocation of the site's license is a possibility.
Full Story: Marshall Allen, Treatment of Elderly Could Be Criminal, Las Vegas Sun, Nov. 25, 2009, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. FCC Panelists Desire National Broadband to Assist with Emergency Services
Panelists at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) field hearing advocated for national broadband access to assist persons with hearing, visual, and other disabilities in seeking emergency services. National broadband access would enhance Internet-based emergency 911 (E911) services. Specifically, increased broadband would increase accessibility to E911 services by offering the possibility of text-based communication as well as video connections in the case of emergencies. Persons with disabilities would "be able [to] text, send video, images, [and] photos to the emergency center," according to Patrick Halley, the government affairs director of the National Emergency Number Association.
Full Story: Christina Kirchner, Field Hearing: People with Disabilities Need Minor Modifications for Broadband to Work, BroadbandBreakfast.com, Nov. 9, 2009, available at
2. Police in Ogle County, Illinois, Announce Emergency Alert Program
Acting on a new state law, the Ogle County Sheriff's Department and Rochelle Police Department in Illinois have implemented a new program for persons with disabilities. The Illinois legislature passed the Premise Alert Program (Public Act 96-07888) in August, which requires public agencies with emergency dispatch systems to compile and maintain a database of subscribers who have physical and/or mental disabilities.
Residents of Ogle County now can register the address and other useful information about persons with such disabilities. During an emergency, the information is provided to emergency response personnel, such as ambulance crews, police officers, and fire fighters. The provided information remains on file for two years, and if it is not updated in that time, it is removed from the system. Ogle County Sheriff Gregory Beitel and Rochelle Police Chief Eric Higby announced last week that registration forms are now available at Ogle County police departments. Moreover, forms will soon be available at senior service organizations and city halls.
Full Story: Police Announce New Premise Alert Program, Ogle County News, Nov. 20, 2009, Oglecountynews.com, available at
1. Paralympics Considers Whether to Reinstate Elite Athletes with Intellectual Disabilities
This weekend, the International Paralympic Committee will decide whether to reinstate elite athletes with intellectual disabilities in the Paralympic Games. They were banned from both the 2004 and 2008 games because of poor oversight regarding the accuracy of their disability claims. In prior games, members of the Spanish basketball team lied about having intellectual disabilities, in order to qualify for the games.
For the upcoming meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, inclusion advocates have proposed a new compliance mechanism. The U.S. Paralympics Committee opposes reinstatement, arguing that their interests are best served by sole inclusion of these athletes in the Special Olympics.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Paralympics to Vote on Inclusion of Athletes with Intellectual Disabilities, Disability Scoop, Nov. 20, 2009, available at
2. UK Cuts Funding to Courses Typically Taken by Persons with Disabilities
Lord Mandelson, the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Business, Innovation, and Skills, announced that his department is cutting funding for qualification-free adult education courses usually taken by people with intellectual disabilities (known as "learning disabilities" in the UK). The £150-million cut, which will deny 370,000 people access to the courses, will be used to fund technical skills training instead. The Department maintains that the reason for the cut is that the government is prioritizing technical jobs to help the country's economy emerge from the present recession.
According to a spokesperson for the department, in order to compensate for the funding cut, the department will encourage colleges to prioritize courses for persons with intellectual disabilities. Opponents argued "that the most severe cuts will fall on the most disadvantaged. . . ."
Full Story: Polly Curtis, Mandelson 'Slashes' Adult Education Spending, Guardian News, Nov. 19, 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 Jeffrey Davenport, B.A., Kenneth Hunt, B.A., Dara Lenoff, B.S., Eric Moll, B.A./B.S, and Paris Peckerman.
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