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 30, 2010
Volume 7, Issue 6
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. Pennsylvania School Settles Special Education Abuse Litigation
A settlement agreement was reached on May 27, 2010, between a Pennsylvania school and parents of students with disabilities who were abused in the special education setting. The lawsuit alleged that seven students enrolled in the Clarks Summit Elementary School in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania (near Scranton), were repeatedly physically abused between 2001 and 2003, when they were aged 5 to 11. The plaintiffs asserted that a teacher, Susan Comerford Wzorek, pulled hair, slapped, and stepped on the feet of the children on multiple occasions, once breaking a student's arm. In addition, makeshift restraints were used on the students, including rope and duct tape. When the allegations first arose in 2006, Wzorek was charged criminally and ultimately pled no contest to a single charge of reckless endangerment of the welfare of a child, and received probation. As a result of the settlement, approved by Judge A. Richard Caputo in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the children's parents will collectively receive $5 million.
Full story: Tom Infield, $5 Million Settlement in Alleged Abuse of Autistic Students, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 29, 2010, available at
2. Nebraska Assisted Living Facility Sued for Disability Employment Discrimination
Haven Manor, an assisted living facility in Lincoln Nebraska, was sued by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on June 3, 2010, for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC alleges that Haven Manor violated federal law when it refused to accept Amanda Huff as an employee. The lawsuit was filed after the Nebraska EEOC and U.S. EEOC tried to reach a voluntary settlement agreement with Haven Manor.
Ms. Huff was a certified nursing assistant with a hearing impairment who was sent to Haven Manor by a temporary staffing agency. According to the complaint, Ms. Huff was in an orientation meeting with Haven Manor when she asked her supervisor if she could have her pager alert set to vibrate instead of producing an audible noise. After discovering from this meeting that Ms. Huff had a hearing impairment, a Haven Manor supervisor informed Ms. Huff that her temporary employment would no longer be required. Thereafter, Ms. Huff sought legal assistance from the state and federal EEOC, which commenced this employment discrimination claim under the ADA.
Full story: EEOC Sues Haven Manor for Refusing to Accept Hearing-Impaired Certified Nursing Assistant, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, June 2, 2010, available at
3. Students and National Federation of the Blind Bring Lawsuit Against California Law Schools
Three law school students, who are blind, in concert with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), are suing four California law schools and the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) for providing an inaccessible application process. The lawsuit was initially filed against LSAC in February 2009 but was amended on June 8, 2010, to include the law schools, namely the University of California Hastings School of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Whittier Law School, and Chapman University School of Law.
The lawsuit alleges that the application process required by the schools, specifically the use of LSAC's centralized online application, is not accessible for blind students. The complaint states that blind persons are unable to use the online application process without resorting to sighted assistance because LSAC's website, used exclusively by the four law schools, does not allow the use of screen access software. Moreover, Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) preparatory study materials, available at the LSAC website, are similarly not accessible, according to the complaint.
Full story: National Federation of the Blind Files Suit Against Four California Schools, PR Newswire, June 9, 2010, available at
1. Parents Fight to Remove Textbook with Outdated Disability Language
Tom and Pauline Lewis are the parents of a seventh grade student with Down syndrome in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. In February 2010 the student's seventh grade teacher contacted his parents to notify them that the 2002 edition of the science textbook, Science Explorer: Cells and Heredity, contained a passage about Down syndrome. Upon reading the text, the parents discovered the book used the term "mental retardation" and referred to Down syndrome as a genetic "error." The Lewises then became concerned that the language in the textbook would influence how fellow students view their son and others with Down syndrome. They fear the hurtful, outdated language will create the view that the child is a mistake, an error.
Getting the textbook removed from the school has proved unsuccessful for Tom and Pauline Lewis. They asked for a temporary removal until a committee could make a permanent decision and were told a temporary removal would be too burdensome on the teachers and a financial problem for the school. In March 2010, the committee to evaluate the textbook held a hearing; three weeks later it issued a letter determining that the textbook would not be removed from the school's curriculum. Part of their reasoning was that the use of "mental retardation" is in transition and replacement terms are still being debated. Instead of removing the books, the committee determined the teachers can create lessons for "teachable moments" when the term arises in the text. The Lewis parents have appealed the committee's decision and their appeal will be heard in open session at the June 16 B-R school committee meeting.
Full Story: Rebecca Hyman, Parents of a Bridgewater Student with Down Syndrome Want Textbook Removed, Gatehouse News Service, June, 10, 2010, available at
2. Federal Waivers Granted to Allow States to Cut Special Education
Iowa, Kansas, and North Carolina have all asked for permission to cut back on the funds they allocate for special education under an escape clause in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) aimed at financially struggling states. Under the IDEA, waivers can be given out in exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances (such as a natural disaster or an unforeseen decline in state financial resources). Thus far, both Iowa and Kansas have been guaranteed the waiver; however, the federal government has asked for more information from North Carolina before giving approval. Iowa made its request for a waiver in January of 2010 and Kansas followed with its request in March.
There is speculation that more states may begin requesting waivers to cut special education funding, especially when many states have grim financial outlooks. This appears to be the first time that states have made waiver requests. Despite the budget problems in 2009, federal stimulus dollars helped to support state budgets. However, budget crises in 2010 are far worse than last year, and it is believed they will be even worse in 2011. Under the IDEA, when a waiver is granted it is only for one fiscal year. On expiration of the waiver the state must return to the same level of funding for special education they provided before the waiver was granted.
Full story: Christina A. Samuels, States Seek Federal Waivers to Cut Special Education, Education Week, June, 15, 2010, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. Prosthetic Limb Embedded with Microprocessor and Motion Tracking Sensor Improves Comfort and Mobility
New technology for below-knee prosthetics integrates an embedded microprocessor with a vacuum system to regulate pressure for fit and comfort with every move. The microprocessor is customized by a prosthetist using Bluetooth technology. This technology works with motion tracking sensors similar to those used by the Nintendo Wii. The sensors detect what the wearer is doing, whether it be walking, jogging, or running, and adjust the vacuum accordingly. One user of this technology said that "[i]t's not just a crutch . . . I can actually pull the ground with my hamstring with my prosthetic side for the first time."
Full Story: Wendy Rigby, Motion-Tracking Limb Gives Amputees a Leg Up, KENS 5, June, 3, 2010, available at
2. Video Relay Service Protections Implemented and Proposed by the FCC
On May 24, 2010, the FCC reinforced its commitment to protecting Video Relay Service (VRS), which has been plagued by "waste, fraud, and abuse." VRS permits persons that have hearing or speech disabilities "to use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with friends and family and to conduct business in near real time." The FCC action included a reiteration of previous rules, new interim rules, and a request for comments on permanent rulemaking. Until final rules can be implemented, the temporary FCC rule requires senior executives at provider companies to swear that the information contained in submissions for reimbursement from the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund is correct. Currently, provider companies, which do not submit to review by the FCC, may have their funding revoked. Proposed rules include whether there should be whistleblower protections for employees of providers, procedures for recording length of conversation time, and antifraud measures in general.
Full Story: FCC Takes Further Steps to Ensure That Video Relay Service Will Continue as a Vibrant Service, FCC Press Release, May 27, 2010, available at
A non-PDF version can be found at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Soldiers Have Trouble Receiving Treatment for Traumatic Brain Injuries
At Fort Bliss in Texas, one of the three largest military bases in the United States, some soldiers returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 are having trouble receiving treatment for mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs). They report having to wait weeks, and sometimes months for appointments with neurologists, and physical, speech, and occupational therapists. When treatment is received, it is often for less time than in civilian settings, and some medical officers suggest that the soldiers are malingerers or are suffering from psychological trauma instead. The lack of focus on MTBIs may be due to an overall military focus of treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At Fort Bliss, two new medical buildings were constructed, building 805, which handles treatment for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and an experimental PTSD clinic. While the PTSD clinic is up and running with long term in-patient programs, building 805 missed its opening date by one month and still has yet to offer the general TBI screening service that it has promised.
Full Story: T. Christian Miller and Daniel Zwerdling, With Traumatic Brain Injuries, Soldiers Face Battle for Care, NPR, June 9, 2010, available at
2. New Research Center in HHS to Focus on Effectiveness of Support Services for Persons with Disabilities
The Department of Health and Human Services Office on Disability opened a new Center of Excellence in Research on Disability Services, Care Coordination and Integration in May 2010 with the help of more than $6 million that they received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The new center will conduct research, identify and analyze the usability of data, and publicize the clinically and scientifically relevant information to help patients, families, caregivers, policy makers and health care providers make more informed health care decisions. This data will also allow the Office on Disability and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to compare the effectiveness of different support services provided for those with disabilities and to improve care.
Full Story: Mike Milliard, HHS Establishes Research Center for Disability Services, Healthcare IT News, May 7, 2010, available at
1. Virginia Partnership Prepares Autistic Students for Workforce
A partnership of groups in Virginia, including Henrico County Public Schools, the Virginia Departments of Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), has created a job-training program for individuals with autism. The program originated from a VCU research project on job training models for students with autism. High school students from that project were assigned to either a job internship at St. Mary's Hospital or educational skills training provided in the classroom. The students placed in an internship were given hands-on experience in several hospital departments, and the program was very successful in training individuals with autism for a career in health care administration. At a ceremony on June 14, 2010, recognizing some 100 students for completing the internships, it was announced that dozens of the students received job offers to continue in permanent positions at St. Mary's.
Full story: Tammie Smith, Program Trains Young People with Autism for Jobs, Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 15, 2010, available at
1. Vermont Removes Hurdle for Use of Monkeys as Service Animals
Vermont's Fish and Wildlife Department has changed its position on the use of monkeys as service animals. Vermont has become one of the first states to allow importation of any "exotic animals," including monkeys, into the state, but has done so under very limited circumstances. For one, the regulations only allow monkeys to be imported, thus limiting the class of animals available for importation. Also, the regulations require officials to administer a yearly health exam on the monkey. Finally, the Fish and Wildlife Department reserves the right to verify the adequacy of the monkey's living conditions.
Pressure to make the change mounted as legislation moved though Vermont's Senate and House of Representatives. Initially the Fish and Wildlife Department was not receptive to allowing monkeys as service animals. However, the Vermont Senate passed legislation in April 2010 that would so allow, and the legislation moved to the Vermont House of Representatives for consideration in June.
Full story: Terri Hallenbeck and Adam Silverman, Vermont Allows Monkeys Trained as Service Animals, USA Today, June 3, 2010, available at
For more information on using monkeys as service animals, please see
2. California Company Unveils Creative Transportation Options for Assisted Living Community Administrators and Residents
A California transportation solutions company, A-Z Bus Sales, Inc., has showcased and is now offering for sale customizable buses and vans that can be used by assisted living communities. The convertible buses and vans were first unveiled at the California Assisted Living Association's Spring Expo on June 7 to June 9, 2010. These buses and multi-passenger vans are created to conform to the special needs of passengers. For example, vans can be customized to remove seats where an assisted living community may need to transport one or more persons in a wheelchair.
Two particular models, the "Spirit of Mobility" bus and the "Transit Connect" van, are of particular interest. The Spirit of Mobility bus is one of the few models of low floor buses available in the United States. The design allows entry, with or without a ramp, less than five inches from the curb, for easy accessibility for persons with mobility impairments, including persons in a wheelchair. The Transit Connect van is an inexpensive rear-entry wheelchair van that provides easy accessibility for approximately one to four passengers. This van provides convenient and affordable options for assisted living communities.
Full story: A-Z Bus Sales Exhibits Creative Bus Options for Assisted Living Communities, PRWEB, June 7, 2010, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. Gulf Oil Spill Recovery and Planning Must Consider Americans with Disabilities
The full extent of the damage from the Gulf Oil Spill has yet to be seen. However, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) highlights that persons with disabilities should be involved in any possible evacuation planning as well as response, recovery, and cleanup efforts. The AAPD was involved in a briefing from the White House concerning the Deepwater oil spill on May 28, 2010. Furthermore, unanswered questions are still lingering, including how hurricanes will affect the situation and the extent to which oil exposure can cause disabilities.
Full Story: Charla Wright, What Does Oil Spill Mean for Those with Disabilities? American Association of People with Disabilities, June 10, 2010, available at
1. FIFA Unveils Live Match Experience to Increase 2010 World Cup Accessibility
For the first time in World Cup history, blind and visually impaired persons will be able to experience the 2010 World Cup matches through a "live match experience" at the Global Football Showpiece in South Africa. FIFA announced that there will be fifteen seats in six stadiums equipped with headphones and trained commentators to provide reports on action occurring on the pitch.
According to FIFA President, Joseph Blatter, the World Cup matches should be accessible to everyone because football is a universal sport. Together, the Swiss National Association for the Blind and the South African National Council for the Blind launched the live experience project with financial backing from FIFA. FIFA also partnered with Sony to provide the necessary transmitters to provide the match-day commentary. Sight guides and volunteers were also hired to assist blind and visually impaired persons to their stadium seats.
Full Story: K.N.S. Mensah, World Cup 2010: Live-Match Experience Created for Blind and Visually Impaired Fans, Goal.com, June, 8, 2010, available at
2. Innovative Center for Assistive Technology in Qatar Opens to Public
On June 1, 2010, Mada, a new center for assistive technology, opened for use by people with disabilities living in Qatar. Deputy Director David Banes announced that Mada strives to connect people with disabilities to information and communication technologies that will help them excel in their daily lives. Mada is a non-profit organization that showcases the latest in Assistive Technologies. Mada also provides personal consultations to assist people with disabilities in identifying which forms of assistive technology fit their needs. Personal consultants at Mada also provide training in the use of assistive technology.
Some of the technologies Mada utilizes include eye gaze control systems, accessible mobile phones, a variety of screen readers, and augmented and alternate communications technology. Along with its showcase of different technologies, Mada also has an accessible library designed to be universally accessible. Mada works closely with public and private organizations to support people with disabilities. These organizations play a critical role in helping to identify cutting-edge technologies and provide referrals to people with disabilities.
Full story: Innovative Center for Assistive Technology Opens in Qatar, AMEinfo.com, June, 9, 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 email@example.com for inclusion in a future newsletter.
Calls for Papers and Proposals
1. Disability & Society Journal - Shifting Frontiers and Boundaries
Submission Deadline: August 1, 2010.
2. Disability & Aging
Submission Deadline: September 30, 2010
3. Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging, & Technology
Abstract Submission Deadline: December 1, 2010.
Books and Publications
1. Smith, K., Webb, J., & Williams, B. (2010). Just Below the Line: Disability, Housing and Equality in the South.
2. Journeys Inside and Out. (Winter/Spring 2010). Kaleidoscope Magazine: Exploring the Experience of Disability Through Literature and the Fine Arts, 60.
3. Burch, S., & Kafer, A. (Eds.). (2010). Deaf and Disability Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.
4. Vaughn, J.R. (2010). A Comparative Analysis of Disability Laws.
Conferences and Events
1. International Technology Symposium: Technology and Deaf Education
Location: Rochester, New York; Date(s): June 21-23, 2010. For more information
2. American Council for the Blind - 49th Annual National Convention
Location: Phoenix, Arizona; Date(s): July 9-17, 2010. For more information
3. An International Conference on Rebuilding Sustainable Communities with the Elderly and Disabled People After Disasters
Location: Boston, Massachusetts; July 12-15, 2010. For more information
4. Accessing Higher Ground - Accessible Media, Web, and Technology Conference
Location: Boulder, Colorado; Date(s): November 15-19, 2010. For more information
Scholarships, Fellowships, and Internships
1. Disability Rights Advocates 2-Year Fellowship
Application Deadline: July 31, 2010. For more information
2. Joseph T. Weingold Scholarship
Application Deadline: January 11, 2011. 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 Kenneth Hunt, B.A., Brandon Sawyer, B.A., Melissa McQueen, B.A., and Hannah Pooley, B.A..
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