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
June 8, 2010
Volume 7, 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. State Laws Lack Seatbelt Protections for Persons in Wheelchairs
A 2010 review of state transportation laws by the Associated Press indicates that a vast majority of states lack seatbelt laws for persons in wheelchairs using public, paratransit, or private transportation services. Federal law requires buses to be furnished with straps to lock down wheelchairs and harnesses for the individual, but many state laws require little in the way of seatbelt requirements to protect persons in wheelchairs in the case of accidents or erratic driving.
According to the AP review, only five states (Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin) have enacted laws that equal federal requirements to strap securely both the wheelchair and the individual on paratransit buses. Some other states require seatbelt use for persons in wheelchairs (but not floor restraints) with some exceptions. For example, in New Jersey requirements are limited to passenger cars and vans, while in Oregon laws are limited to commercial buses that have 16 or fewer seats. On the other hand, skeptics of regulation argue that if the general public is not required to use seatbelts on public or paratransit buses and vans, as is the case in many states, persons in wheelchairs also should not be required to wear restraints.
The lack of seatbelt laws is important insofar as it results in deaths or injuries to persons with disabilities. A University of Michigan study indicated that there were at least 52 vehicular crashes since 2007 involving persons in wheelchairs. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data indicate that 42 persons in wheelchairs were killed in automobile accidents between 2004 and 2008 with 45.2% of these deaths related to van accidents.
Full story: Bus Seat Belt Laws Mostly Exclude Wheelchairs, Associated Press, May 20, 2010, available at
2. Congress to Consider Change in Terminology for Persons with Disabilities
A bill proposed in November 2009 known as Rosa's law will finally be considered by the United States Senate this month. Rosa's law will replace the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded individual" with "intellectual disability" and "individual with an intellectual disability" in all federal laws. The first step toward passage of Rosa's law began on May 23 as the Senate Health, Education and Pensions Committee began to mark up the legislation. Senator Barbara Mikulski (Democrat - Maryland), who introduced the bill last year, says the legislation is necessary for all children and persons with disabilities "who are labeled, stigmatized, and bear a burden the rest of their lives because of the language we use." The bill has broad bipartisan consensus and is expected to pass both houses of Congress with widespread support. Moreover, the legislation has been supported by the American Psychological Association, an organization with a vested interest in the naming and categorization of mental illnesses.
Full story: Julian Pecquet, Bipartisan Senate Bill Aims to Take 'Retarded' Out of Federal Lexicon, The Hill, May 23, 2010, available at
3. Incarceration, Not Treatment, Is the Norm for Persons with Mental Illness
A May 2010 report conducted and released by the Treatment Advocacy Center and National Sheriffs' Association shows that Americans that have severe mental illnesses are at least three times more likely to be incarcerated than to receive treatment in a psychiatric hospital. The study broke down results by state and relied on data collected in 2004 and 2005 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. In no state is a person more likely to receive treatment than to go to prison. Also, in some states, such as Nevada and Arizona, ten times more persons with severe mental illnesses are put in prison than receive treatment. In addition, a major finding of the study showed that states which spend less on mental health care services have more persons with mental illness in their jails. Moreover, the study indicates that over 16% of inmates today have mental illness, compared to 6.3% of inmates in 1983.
Full story: Michelle Diament, Jail More Likely Than Treatment for Americans with Psychiatric Disorders, Disability Scoop, May 13, 2010, available at
The full report is available at
1. Oklahoma Bill to Create Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
Representative Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City is the author of a new bill, HB 3393, that would allow K-12 students with developmental disabilities to receive publicly funded scholarships. The bill would qualify those students with an individualized education program to receive a state-funded scholarship to attend any public or private school that is accredited by the Oklahoma State Board of Education. On May 5, 2010, Mr. Nelson reported that the bill would soon be considered by a joint Oklahoma House-Senate conference committee before returning to the chambers for separate votes. According to Mr. Nelson, the bill will redirect how public funds are spent to educate students with developmental disabilities. Critics say the measure will divert education dollars now going to public schools to private institutions, similar to a voucher program.
Full Story: Okla. Bill Would Create Special Needs Scholarships, Associated Press, May, 5, 2010, available at
2. Individual with Cerebral Palsy Instructs Students on Inclusive Education
At the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Wilson Buswell, an individual with cerebral palsy, instructs a Spring 2010 course that teaches students how to teach and include students with significant support needs. The special education course, entitled Significant Support Needs, is offered through the UCCS College of Education to both undergraduate and graduate students. Co-instructor Christi Kasa-Hendrickson, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, designed the course around a model of full inclusion for students with disabilities. Hendrickson's vision for the class was to have an individual with a disability teach the class with her, to have representation from the community of persons with disabilities.
Buswell provides PowerPoint lessons that outline his experiences as an individual with a disability; he uses his life experience to engage the students in the course to think about how they would include their students with disabilities in education. Buswell's involvement in the education of future teachers will help to eliminate the fears many teachers currently have about fully including students with disabilities in their classrooms.
Full story: Jeremy P. Meyer, Colo. Man with Cerebral Palsy Teaches Students, The Denver Post, May, 2, 2010, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. New Movies to Be Made Accessible from the Home
On Friday, May 7, 2010, the FCC approved a plan which will result in an accessible, home delivered format of new movies more rapidly (from each movie's theater release date) to persons who cannot enjoy movies in a theater because of a disability. Ultimately, the approved procedure allows media companies to encode new movies not yet in DVD format with a signal that will not allow the movies to be recorded on a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The technology allays concern about illegal copies. It also allows distributors to offer in-theater movies that are unavailable to some persons with disabilities over television services more quickly than they would normally be released.
Full Story: Paul Bond, FCC Backs Studios' VOD Plan, The Hollywood Reporter, May 7, 2010, available at
2. Organization Granted Digital Rights to Convert Books into Accessible Formats
Bookshare, a nonprofit organization, provides books which they have converted into an accessible format, to persons with qualified print disabilities such as blindness or low vision. Cambridge University Press, an academic and professional publishing company, entered into an agreement with Bookshare in May 2010. This agreement grants Bookshare digital license rights to all of Cambridge University Press' publications for conversion into accessible formats. A qualified U.S. student can access all of these books with a Bookshare membership, with the nominal fee paid by the U.S. Department of Education.
Full Story: Cambridge University Press Grants Worldwide Digital Rights to Bookshare, Cambridge Press Releases, May 20, 2010, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. New Rule Regarding Parity in Provider Reimbursement Draws Ire of Health Insurers
The Obama administration and insurance companies have begun to battle over a new rule stemming from the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008. That legislation requires insurance providers to apply the same payment requirements and coverage limits for mental health treatments as used for physical ailment treatments. As regulators in the Obama administration have passed rules applying this law, insurance companies have pushed back and argued that the regulations exceed the authority delegated by Congress. In particular, insurers are fighting a new rule that would extend the Act to alter the process by which insurers select and reimburse doctors. The new regulations require equal insurance coverage for treatment of physical and mental ailments. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Executive Director Justine Handelman, and other insurers, claim that this rule should be dropped because the purpose of the Act is to "ensure parity in benefits for patients, not parity in provider reimbursement." Mental health advocates and the Obama administration believe that the new rule is necessary to ensure access to mental health care, since most insurers do not pay enough to cover the full cost of services. This means that persons with mental disabilities or mental health problems must find mental health experts outside of their health insurer's network of providers. Going outside of network typically costs significantly more and thus will either amplify treatment costs or require persons to forgo necessary treatments.
Full story: Robert Paer, Fight Erupts Over Rules Issued for 'Mental Health Parity' Insurance Law, New York Times, May 9, 2010, available at
2. Cuts in Funding for Health Care Services to Kansans with Disabilities
Kansas lawmakers have cut more than $1 billion from the state budget, slashes that will have a detrimental impact on persons with disabilities. The cuts to the 2011 budget, agreed upon in mid-April 2010, will have four concrete impacts on persons with disabilities and care providers. First, in-home caregivers and doctors who accept Medicaid patients will receive 10 percent less pay. Also, 1,500 persons with disabilities in Kansas who do not receive federal disability payments were removed from a state cash assistance program. Moreover, low-income women will no longer receive funding for dental care. Finally, 6,000 more people will be forced onto waiting lists for the already scarce services for persons with disabilities.
Full story: David Klepper, State Budget Cuts Threaten Disabled Kansans' Ability to Live Independently, Kansas City Star, April 26, 2010, available at
1. Department of Labor Resource Helps Employers and Workers Understand Disability Rights
An online tool launched by the United States Department of Labor in April 2010 is assisting workers and employers in understanding the rights of employees with disabilities and the obligations of employers that retain such employees. The Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor allows individuals to receive the applicable governing federal disability standards based on details about the workplace that the user inputs. According to the Department of Labor, the tool implements the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, Vietnam Era Veteran's Readjustment Act, and the Workforce Investment Act, where each piece of legislation is applicable. More specifically, an employer or employee can input the number of employees and federal funding status of the employer and the tool will list the applicable federal laws and a description of employee rights and employer responsibilities. Kathleen Martinez, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability, praised the tool as "interactive and easy-to-use" and said that it will encourage employees to "access the talents of the 36 million Americans with disabilities."
Full story: Michelle Diament, Employers, Workers Get Help Understanding Disability Rights on the Job, Disability Scoop, May 5, 2010, available at
The Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor is available at
2. New Program Trains Persons with Disabilities for Health Care Positions
A new program that began in March 2010 in Rock County, Wisconsin, trains persons with disabilities for jobs in healthcare facilities. The program is the result of collaboration between a community college (Western Technical College), a private company that provides educational support services (Riverfront Inc.), local health care providers, and county government agencies. The program has been successful in pairing persons with disabilities in need of employment and job-specific training with employers experiencing extreme shortages in nursing and health care assistant positions. Nine persons are expected to enter the workforce within the next month, and enrollment for future training has increased dramatically. The program will continue to be funded by grants from the Western Wisconsin Workforce Development Board and the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Full story: K.J. Lang, Program Connects People with Disabilities to Jobs in Health Care, Lacrosse Tribune, May 10, 2010, available at
1. Federal Lawsuit Alleges Rampant ADA Violations in Arkansas
The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of Arkansas on May 6, 2010, alleging that the state failed to provide persons with disabilities living in state institutions with reasonable options to transition towards an independent living situation. Specifically the complaint alleges that Arkansas's residents who leave "draconian" state institutions often are forced to return to that environment because community living supports are not available, and no education is provided about community living options. The complaint also alleges that the state institutions themselves are outdated. Residents often are not provided with options to leave the facilities and -- while in the institutions -- are given little opportunity to interact with individuals who do not have disabilities. Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez says that "Arkansas's lack of community services requires individuals with developmental disabilities to choose between receiving services in segregated institutions and receiving no services at all." There is currently a 10-year waiting list for an individual with a developmental disability for receiving a waiver to receive Medicaid home or community living care.
Full story: Michelle Diament, Feds File Suit Alleging Widespread ADA Violations in Arkansas, Disability Scoop, available at
2. State Cuts in Medicaid Limit In-Home Care Services
Persons with disabilities are losing options as home health care services funded by Medicaid are being cut by states dealing with increasingly tenuous budget situations. In-home health care services have been an increasingly popular target for state lawmakers in California, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Vermont for several reasons. For one, even though home health care costs less than institutionalizing individuals with disabilities, states are often forced to cut home health care first because of federal mandates regarding Medicaid. For example, states faced with budget crises are required by federal law to offer inpatient and outpatient care at hospitals, x-rays and lab services, and nursing-home services, all areas that could be cut instead of home health care services if federal law allowed. In addition, states cannot reduce Medicaid eligibility this year as a condition of recently passed national health care reform. Finally, the standards that are set for provision of in-home care services are very minimal, and in some cases the services are entirely optional. Moreover, many state legislatures believe that family members of persons with disabilities will step in and provide a stop gap for cuts in home health care services.
Full story: Claire Ansberry, Disabled Face Hard Choices as States Slash Medicaid, Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2010, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against Massachusetts for Lack of Preparedness
The Disability Policy Consortium filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice on May 19, 2010, claiming that Massachusetts wasn't prepared to respond properly to the needs of persons with disabilities in the aftermath of a water main break resulting in an order for several days to boil water prior to consumption . Furthermore, the complaint alleges that Massachusetts did not provide sign language interpreters for news conferences and failed to caption video clips on the state website. The state has stated that they mobilized a massive communications effort, which included federally compliant web postings in response to the water crisis. Ultimately, the order to boil water may not have reached some deaf persons and persons with other disabilities, resulting in possible health hazards.
Full Story: Russell Contreras, Group Files Complaint Over Water Crisis, The Boston Globe, May 20, 2010, available at
1. First Disability-Friendly City Declared in Saudi Arabia
On May 16th, 2010, Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman declared Riyadh the first disability-friendly city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The declaration came after Prince Salman signed a series of agreements on disability accessibility between the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research (PSCDR) and a number of government departments. Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of PSCDR, urged all relevant government departments and private agencies to cooperate with the new disability accessibility project. The project has been identified as a turning point that marks the government's support for persons with disabilities becoming productive citizens.
The project is designed to make the society as a whole more accessible for everyone, including people with disabilities and the elderly. It will create greater ease of access to both public and private areas (like shopping centers, car parks, schools, mosques, homes, and commercial institutions) for all members of society. The idea for the project began about four years ago and has since developed into a comprehensive program to support people with disabilities and the elderly. Statistical analysis of the region shows that 65 percent of the Kingdom's population is below the age of 25; Prince Sultan bin Salman believes the Kingdom will need more comprehensive programs for accessibility as the population ages in the next 35 years. PSCDR signed agreements with eleven government departments but hopes to sign similar agreements for accessibility with more government departments and agencies in the future.
Full story: Riyadh Is Disabled-Friendly City, Arab News, May, 17, 2010, available at
2. Israeli Center Hosts Conference for Deaf-Blind Persons
The Beth David Center's Institute for Deaf-blind Persons hosted Building Bridges, the first conference in Israel for deaf-blind people, took place in Tel Aviv on May 9th and 10th, 2010. Jelica Nuccio, project director of the National Support Service Provider Pilot Project and political activist, was the first distinguished deaf-blind individual to come to Israel since Helen Keller visited in 1952. Nuccio was there to share her experiences as a fully independent individual in the deaf-blind community. With around 1,200 deaf-blind individuals living in Israel, the focus of the conference was not hope for a cure, but hope for living a good life.
Although Israel has communication technology for deaf-blind individuals, they lag in the development of more easily accessible transportation systems for deaf-blind individuals. The Beth David Institute's hope is that the conference puts the subject of deaf-blindness on the national agenda for policymakers and to encourage them to make the environment more physically and emotionally accessible for both deaf-blind persons and other disability communities.
Full story: Meredith Ross, 1st Conference for Deaf-blind Persons in Israel a 'Momentous Event', Ynetnews, May, 16, 2010, available at
Appropriate announcements include any of the following, incorporating a focus on disability law or policy: calls for papers or proposals, book announcements, conference or event announcements, scholarship, fellowship or internship competitions, and announcements of new or forming resources or organizations. Please send any announcements to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in a future newsletter.
Calls for Papers and Proposals
1. Accessing Higher Ground - Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference
Request for Proposal Deadline: May 31, 2010.
2. American Association of Law Schools Annual Meeting on Disability and Tort Law
Submission Deadline: August 31, 2010.
3. Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging, & Technology
Abstract Submission Deadline: December 2010.
1. Carey, A.C. (2010). On the margins of citizenship: Intellectual disability and civil rights in twentieth century America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
2. Patterson, A.C. (Ed.). (2010). Financial incentives for Americans with disabilities.
Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers,
3. Smith, K., Webb, J. & Williams, B. (2010). Just below the line: Disability, housing & equity in the South. Fayetteville, AK: University of Arkansas Press.
Conferences and Events
1. 7th International Conference on Higher Education & Disability
Location: Innsbruck, Austria; Date(s): July 20-23, 2010. For more information
2. ANSI-HSSP Workshop on Emergency Evacuation Operations
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana; Date(s): June 17, 2010. For more information
3. International Technology Symposium: Technology and Deaf Education
Location: Rochester, New York; Date(s): June 21-23, 2010. For more information, please see
4. 2010 Independence Expo
Location: Brentwood, New York; Date(s): June 25-26, 2010. For more information
5. 2010 Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States; Date(s): June 26-30, 2010. For more information
Scholarships, Fellowships, and Internships
1. Disability Rights Advocates 2-Year Fellowship
Application Deadline: July 31, 2010. For more information
2. Fall 2010 ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law Internship
Fall 2010 Deadline: Mid-August 2010; Spring 2011 Deadline: Mid-December 2010. For more information
More e-newsletters from the Burton Blatt Institute and Partners:
ADA Headliner (monthly e-newsletter) http://sedbtac.org/headliner.php
ADA Pipeline (tri-yearly newsletter): http://sedbtac.org/pipeline.php
One Stop Toolkit Resources of the Week: http://www.onestoptoolkit.org/resourceoftheweek.cfm
Twitter - http://twitter.com/BBISyracuse
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Burton-Blatt-Institute/194731496501
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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); 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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