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
March 10, 2010
Volume 7, Issue 2
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. Federal Hate Crime Law Now Covers People with Disabilities
President Obama expanded the federal hate crime statute in October 2009 to include crimes based on a person's disability. The murder of Jennifer Daugherty, 30, who was killed in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, may be the first case to use the expanded federal hate crime legislation involving a disabled person. Ms. Daugherty, who was diagnosed with a mental disability, had the mental faculties of a 12 to 14 year old. The U.S. Justice Department released a special report, which found that people with disabilities within the age groups of 12-19 and 35-49 are more than twice as likely to be victims of violence as compared to non-disabled individuals. Further, people with mental disabilities are more often victims of violence than people with other disabilities. Curtis Decker, executive director of the Disability Rights Network in Washington, D.C., believes a major reason for including disability in the expansion of Federal Hate Crime legislation is to enable monitoring by federal authorities of crimes against people with disabilities.
Full story: Joe Smydo, Federal Hate Crime Law Now Protects Those with Disabilities, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 13, 2010, available at
Michael R. Rand & Erika Harrell, Crime Against People with Disabilities, 2007, U.S. Department of Justice, October 2009, available at
2. California Business Reaches Disability Discrimination Settlement with EEOC
A solar power company based in California, Akeena Solar, reached an agreement on February 10 to pay $30,000 as compensatory damages to a former employee, Gladys Tellez, as part of a disability settlement. Ms. Tellez was hired as a payroll technician in November 2006. She was fired the next day after her supervisor found out that her left arm was paralyzed. The EEOC filed suit alleging violations of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) after their investigation indicated that Ms. Tellez was fully capable and qualified to perform the essential functions of her position despite her disability. In addition to damages, the settlement stipulates that Akeena Solar will be required to take multiple steps to prevent future discrimination. These include instituting yearly training on preventing disability discrimination to all employees and all hires, posting a notice in its workplace regarding its commitment and responsibility to follow federal disability law, and reporting any disability discrimination complaints to the EEOC directly.
Full story: Akeena Solar Settles Disability Discrimination Suit, U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, February 10, 2010, available at
1. Parents Fear School for Students with Severe Disabilities Might Close
Many parents fear the Park School in Evanston, Illinois, which serves children with severe disabilities, will close because of a new five-year disability inclusion plan, adopted by Evanston/Skokie School District 65 during the 2009-2010 academic school year. Inclusion integrates students with disabilities into general education classrooms to the maximum extent appropriate. The goal of the new policy is to push services into the classroom instead of pulling students out of the classroom to receive services. The School Board's President Keith Terry points to recent data that suggests that students with disabilities' educational outcomes are greatly enhanced by inclusion.
However, parents fear that decreasing enrollment numbers will become drastic enough to result in total closure. Parents point out that only one new preschool student has been enrolled in the Park School since September, even though many students frequently come from outside the district. The school houses a number of specialists, including teachers and a registered nurse. It also offers vocational skills workshops. Further, Park School offers something that many special education schools do not have--a state of the art sensory room, complete with interactive lights and soft music.
Full story: Peter Cameron, Parents Fear Evanston School for Severely Disabled Students in Danger, Chicago Tribune, February 17, 2010, available at
2. Law Student Who Is Blind Allowed to Use Accommodations for State Bar Examination
The company that administers the California bar exam has filed an emergency appeal to stop a student who is blind from using assistive technology as an accommodation when she sits for the bar examination in two weeks. On January 29, 2010, a federal judge ordered the National Conference of Bar Examiners (National Conference) to accommodate Stephanie Enyart, a recent UCLA School of Law graduate, and even allowed the National Conference to provide their own computer if they wished for increased security. Enyart, 32, has been legally blind since 15 years old and has relied on assistive technology for over a decade. The accommodation includes screen magnification and two-screen reading software.
Initially, the National Conference refused to allow Ms. Enyart to use this technology, instead granting her twice as much time to take the test, a closed circuit television to magnify test questions, and a human aide to read test questions aloud. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California rejected these accommodations as not meeting ADA standards, emphasizing Ms. Enyart's argument that the National Conference's accommodations would make the test prohibitively difficult and even induce anxiety and nausea. The National Conference claims urgent action is needed because Enyart might otherwise pass the test with computer assistance that she is not legally entitled to receive. They also express concern that other visually impaired students will take advantage of this decision and demand their own preferred accommodations.
Full story: Kate Moser, Blind Law School Grad Gets Say in Bar Exam Accommodations, Law.com, February 2, 2010, available at
Bob Egelko, Bar Exam Firm Appeals Blind Student's Request, San Francisco Chronicle, February 11, 2010, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. Major League Baseball Provides Online Accessibility
Joint collaboration between Major League Baseball (MLB), all 30 MLB teams, the American Council of the Blind, the Bay State Council of the Blind, and the California Council of the Blind has enabled MLB to improve the functionality of its website for persons with visual impairments. This development is part of a recently implemented accessibility program. As part of this effort, MLB.com will provide an accessible media center for audio feeds of its games. This accessible media center includes features like volume control and ability to choose between audio feeds. In addition, MLB fans with visual impairments will be able to participate in online voting for the All-Star game. MLB has also promised to provide further accessibility for any features that it adds to its website in the future.
Full story: Fans with Visual Impairments Gain Enhanced Access to MLB.com, PR Newswire, February 11, 2010, available at
2. Expedia Increases Accessibility Options for Persons with Disabilities
The popular travel website Expedia.com has recently revamped its website search options to provide more options to travelers in the United States who have disabilities. Site users with disabilities will now be able to state any specific accessibility requirements. The search engine will respond by sifting through the approximately 15,000 hotels in the country with published accessibility options. Expedia's staff then confirms the accessibility requirements with the hotel before confirming the booking. Expedia officials said that over 500 bookings are made on a weekly basis in the United States. Also, Expedia plans to expand the service to the United Kingdom later this year.
Full story: Accessibility Improvements for Travel Booking Websites, The Independent, February 18, 2010, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. More Children Diagnosed with Disabilities
Although the nation is attempting to subdue rising health costs, more than a quarter of children in the United States have a chronic health condition, according to a new study published February 16, 2010 by the Journal of American Medical Association. This is largely because there is now a broader set of definitions for health conditions. Children today suffer from a different set of illnesses, and many diseases like obesity, asthma, attention deficit disorder, and other mental health or behavioral conditions were not diagnosed years ago. Further, childhood diagnoses are less precise, because symptoms often increase or decrease with age, or completely disappear. According to the study, Latino and African American male youths were more likely to have health problems.
Full story: Shari Roan, Chronic Health Conditions Increasing in Children, Study Finds, Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2010, available at
Original study: Jeanne Van Cleave, Steven L. Gortmaker, James M. Perrin, Dynamics of Obesity and Chronic Health Conditions Among Children and Youth, JAMA, 303(7), 623-630 (2010), available at:
(fee may apply for access to full article)
2. Revision to DSM-5 Now Includes Asperger's Disorder in the Autism Spectrum
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the psychiatric handbook used by health professionals for diagnostic and research purposes, will be published in May 2013. A new category will incorporate the current diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive disorder not otherwise specified. The DSM-5 will not be available for public comment until April 20, 2010. Until the publication date, the American Psychiatric Association will conduct three phases of field trials to test some of the proposed diagnostic criteria in real-world settings. Furthermore, the DSM-5 Neurodevelopmental Work Group members have also recommended that the diagnostic term "mental retardation" to be changed to "intellectual disability." This revision finally brings the DSM-5 up to date with other disciplines, and the Department of Education.
Full Story: Beth Casteel & Jamie Valora, DSM-5 Proposed Revisions include New Category of Autism Spectrum Disorders Name Change for Mental Retardation also Proposed, American Psychiatric Association, February 10, 2010, available at
1. Asperger's Syndrome an Asset in the Workplace
Aspiritech, a non-profit company in Chicago, hopes to help improve statistics from the Department of Labor that show that less than 20% of individuals with disabilities have jobs. Aspiritech trains individuals with Asperger's and high-functioning autism on data entry and computer program testing. The non-profit started with $25,000 in private donations and has since trained eight testers and is set to start work on its first contract later this year. Individuals with Asperger's, in particular, seem to have a knack for this detail oriented and highly repetitive industry, thus providing Aspiritech with what one company founder called a competitive advantage.
Full story: Adriene Hill, For Some Jobs, Asperger's Syndrome Can Be an Asset, National Public Radio, February 11, 2010, available at
2. Preference for Workers with Disabilities
On Tuesday February 2nd, the County Council of Montgomery County, Maryland, voted unanimously to create a local hiring preference for individuals with severe disabilities. It may take a while before the fruits of the new law are realized, since budget concerns have already forced layoffs. But when fiscal times improve, the law ensures that workers with disabilities who are qualified will be given preference for county jobs. The parameters of the law will be modeled after federal laws that extend the same preferences to a similar population of severely disabled individuals.
Full story: Michael Laris, Montgomery County to Favor Disabled Job Seekers, The Washington Post, February 3, 2010, available at
Individuals with a disability who are working can now take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In New York, the EITC is an incentive for people with disabilities to build assets and save for the future. The EITC will not affect any SSI, Medicaid, or federally funded housing programs. The EITC will not be counted as income when it is received, thus not affecting any other assistance programs with income limits. To see if someone is eligible for EITC, there are many free resources in the community to assist you. There are Volunteer Information Tax Sites (http://www.otda.state.ny.us/main/reform/VITAsites.pdf) and you can call Alternatives Federal Credit Union, for free tax assistance. Their phone number is (877) 211-8667.
An additional tax resource for people with disabilities interested in accessing the EITC is available through the Real Economic Impact Tour (REI Tour), a national initiative that provides free tax preparation and filing assistance to low-income people with disabilities.
Full Story: Teri Reinemann, Independent Living: Extra Tax Credit Available for People with Disabilities, The Ithaca Journal, February 19, 2010, available at
Information on the Real Economic Impact Tour is available at:
2. Texas Accelerating Investigations of Nursing Home Complaints
The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services has promised accelerated investigations of complaints against nursing homes statewide. According to the new commissioner of the department, there will be 1,550 investigations in a two week period in February, 2010. Also, the department has hired an additional 35 new investigators. The department aims to investigate the most serious claims, known as priority one complaints, within 24 hours. However, the department has had more serious problems in responding to priority two complaints, which by law must be responded to within 14 days. Priority two complaints are those in which residents are not in imminent danger but there remains a high potential for harm. Only one third of priority two complaints were investigated within the legally mandated 14 day period. The Department of Aging and Disability Services oversees 1,196 nursing homes in Texas and received 16,200 complaints last year.
Full story: Brooks Egerton, Texas Nursing-Home Regulator: We'll Move Faster, Dallas Morning News, February 16, 2010, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. United Nations Urges Continued Assistance in Haiti for Persons with Disabilities
On February 9th, 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities emphasized the needs of persons with disabilities in Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. There is a pressing concern that people with disabilities will be left out of benefits from the relief effort unless the recovery process includes a disability perspective from the start. To facilitate this inclusion, the Committee "urged Haiti to ensure that persons with disabilities fully participate in the decision-making process regarding social and economic reconstruction and that their long-term development needs be taken into account." The Global Partnership for Disability and Development has formed a working group on the reconstruction of Haiti to ensure that people with disabilities are included in the reconstruction effort, and that the newly built infrastructure is fully accessible.
Full Story: Needs of Haiti's Disabled Must Not Be Forgotten, Says UN Expert Body, UN News Centre, February 9, 2010, available at
For additional information on the GPDD working group, see Working Group Formed on Haitian Reconstruction and Disabilities, U.S. International Council on Disabilities, February 1, 2010, available at
2. Settlement Improves Emergency Preparedness for Oakland Residents with Disabilities
The public interest law organization, Disability Rights Advocates settled a federal court case against the city of Oakland, California, on January 21st, 2010. The city was sued because of a lack of consideration for people with disabilities in its emergency preparedness plan. Pursuant to the settlement, Oakland has identified 20 accessible emergency shelters, with each of those shelters having a designated "Functional Needs Coordinator." The coordinator has the responsibility of requesting accommodations (presumably from the city or disaster relief agencies) for people with disabilities in the aftermath of a disaster. Additionally, the city is reforming its emergency notification system so that it will reach persons with hearing, mobility, and vision disabilities. Finally, the city is creating a database of persons who may require accessible transportation service in the event of a disaster. This database is purely voluntary, and persons with disabilities need not register if they believe it is not necessary.
Full Story: Sweeping Settlement Reached by the City of Oakland to Include People with Disabilities in Disaster Planning, Disability Rights Advocates, January 21, 2010, available at
1. Techshare India 2010 Showcases Assistive Technology for Persons with Disabilities
India recently hosted Europe's largest technology conference for persons with disabilities, Techshare India 2010. The two-day event, held February 15th -16th, 2010, in New Delhi, showcased technologies and products that promote accessibility for persons with disabilities. The showcase included a large exhibition of web, software, and mobile technology accessibility products. In addition to displaying products and technologies, Techshare India 2010 featured an experiential lab. This lab allowed visitors and consumers that did not have disabilities to experience dozens of simulated disabilities and then try assistive technology products.
Full story: Europe's Biggest Technology Event "Techshare India 2010" to Promote Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities Inaugurated in Delhi, India, PR Wire, February 15, 2010, available at
2. East African Community Works Towards Treaty for Persons with Disabilities
The East African Community (EAC) held a conference February 10th - 19th, 2010, about equity for persons with disabilities. The event was organized to develop and propose a legally binding regional agreement that will govern the needs of people with disabilities. The EAC was motivated to establish this conference because of weaknesses in the current system under the EAC regarding the human rights of people with disabilities. In addition, this conference was called in furtherance of the objectives included in the "Continental Plan of Action" developed by Addis Ababa for the African Union in 2002. The Plan of Action included guidelines regarding the formulation of programs on disability issues to promote full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in the process of economic and social development and public decision making.
Full Story: Tanzania: EAC Conference to Set Regional Policy on Challenges of Disability, Afrique en Ligne, February 9, 2010, 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); Senior Editor Elizabeth Ribet, Ph.D., J.D.; 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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