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
November 12, 2010
Volume 7, 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. Department of Justice Reaches Civic Access Agreement with Fort Myers and Newport
On September 30, the United States Department of Justice announced that it had reached agreements with Fort Myers, Florida, and Newport, Rhode Island, to improve access to civic life for individuals with disabilities. The agreements were reached as part of the Project Civic Access (PCA) initiative to enforce compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in cities throughout the country. Through PCA, the department has come to 185 agreements, increasing access to local government facilities, programs, and services for over four million individuals with disabilities.
The Fort Myers agreement includes provisions requiring physical modifications to various public, civic and community centers, installing curb ramps, ensuring compliance with ADA architectural requirements, and providing equal access to emergency, domestic violence, and community services, along with various other provisions. The Newport agreement will also require building and ramp modifications, compliance with architectural requirements, access to emergency services, and will train city staff to enhance communications with individuals who have hearing impairments.
Full Story: Justice Department Signs Agreements with Fort Myers, Fla., and Newport, R.I.; Ensures Civic Access for Four Million People with Disabilities, Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, September 30, 2010, available at
2. New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Sued for Inaccessible Subway Stations
On October 13, the United Spinal Association filed a class action lawsuit against the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) alleging discrimination against individuals with mobility impairments, persons who use wheelchairs, and the elderly in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The MTA is currently renovating several of its subway stations and has not allocated a portion of its budget to improving accessibility.
According to the complaint, the issue is especially relevant in light of the subway stations in question. The 2000 U.S. Census reported that 25.1% of the residents in the ZIP Code surrounding one of the stations identified themselves as having a disability. The complaint alleges that 18.5% of the total subway stations in New York City are inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. The United Spinal Association will be represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit organization that litigates civil rights cases on behalf of individuals with disabilities.
Full Story: United Spinal Association Sues MTA for Inaccessible Subway Stations, United Spinal Association, October 13, 2010, available at
3. Speaker of the House Called on to Liberate Women with Disabilities from Institutions
On September 22, three hundred members of ADAPT, a disability rights organization that advocates the right of individuals with disabilities to live outside an institutional setting, surrounded the site where Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was honored with the Alice Award. The award, named for Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman's Party, is given annually by the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum to an organization deemed to have made an outstanding contribution in breaking down barriers for women. ADAPT argues that Pelosi has done a disservice to women by failing to support the Community Choice Act, which would ensure that individuals with disabilities were given the opportunity to live in, and receive services from, their homes.
Sixty-eight percent of all individuals in nursing homes are women. Yet ADAPT contends that women's and progressive groups, with whom feminist groups have more traditionally been associated, have been less politically aggressive in forwarding the objective of assisting individuals with disabilities to live outside an institutional setting. President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, and President George W. Bush implemented and funded the "Money Follows the Person" initiative, enabling people with disabilities to leave institutions and receive support and services in the home. ADAPT calls on Nancy Pelosi to support the Community Choice Act and on feminist and disability advocacy groups to join in this cause.
Full Story: Liberating Women with Disabilities, Defending Our Freedom, September 22, 2010, available at
4. President Obama Remarks on the Significance of Recent Disability Rights Legislation
At the signing of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (the Accessibility Act) on October 8th, President Obama remarked on the significance of the recently signed Rosa's Law, the Accessibility Act, and the disability rights movement. He introduced the origin of Rosa's Law, explaining that as a child with Down syndrome, Rosa and her family worked to have the words "mentally retarded" officially removed from the health and education code in Maryland. Rosa's Law alters the phrase to "Americans living with an intellectual disability" in all federal health, education, and labor laws. President Obama quoted Rosa's brother when he explained, "What you call people is how you treat them. If we change the words, maybe it will be the start of a new attitude towards people with disabilities."
The president went on to describe the expected impact of the Accessibility Act. It will make technology innovations more accessible to individuals with various disabilities and ensure greater participation in an evolving, technology dependent, economy and society. He concluded with a summary of legislation the administration has enacted to ensure the rights of individuals with disabilities.
Full Story: President Barack Obama, Remarks by the President at the Signing of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, The White House Office of the Press Secretary, October 8, 2010, available at
1. Revised Restraint and Seclusion Bill Proposed
Legislation was introduced in the Senate on September 29, 2010, that seeks to restrict restraint and seclusion in schools and change the way that educators discipline students with disabilities. The bill was introduced by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and is co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. This new bill "would allow schools to include restraint and seclusion in individualized education plans, or IEPs, for some students if they have a two-year history of behaviors that create an 'imminent danger of serious bodily injury in school.'" This Senate bill is similar to a House of Representatives bill that won approval in March, but the House bill would have prohibited restraint and seclusion from being included in an IEP. The Senate made this change to gain bipartisan support, despite opposition from disability rights advocates. The rationale for their opposition is that "incorporating restraint and seclusion in a child's IEP makes the techniques acceptable practice and opens the door for increased use." Advocates, including Ari Ne'eman, the president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, acknowledge that the bill must simultaneously improve the situation for students with disability, while remaining a bill that can pass. Either way, when Congress returns from recess in mid-November, it is unclear whether they will consider this legislation at that time. If they do not approve it before the end of the year, the discussions and the bill making process will have to begin again.
Full Story: Senators Propose Revised Restraint and Seclusion Bill, disabilityscoop.com, October 5, 2010, available at
2. Kansas University Receives $22 Million Grant from the U.S. Department of Education
Kansas University received the largest grant in its history from the U.S. Department of Education. The receipt of the grant was announced on October 12, 2010. This grant of $22 million will fund the development of a new assessment system for children in special education programs. The system is called the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment System that will be housed in Kansas University's Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation. According to Kansas University's Dean of Education, this Center "has been a leader in the development of assessments for K-12 students for nearly 30 years." Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, 11 other states will receive funding from their individual departments of education for this program. This new system aids teachers in determining how individual students are learning by using a "learning map," which details the thousands of skills students develop through their education. This system will thereby uncover how students learn best.
Full Story: Government Grant to Fund System for Special Education Students, The University Daily Kansan, October 12, 2010, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. Communications Act Will Mandate Improved Access
This October, President Barack Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. The president remarked upon this year's 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and called the signing of this bill another step in guaranteeing equal access, opportunity and respect for all Americans. The new law will establish federal standards to increase accessibility "so that Americans with disabilities can take advantage of the technology our economy depends on," President Obama declared, "and that's especially important in today's economy when every worker needs the necessary skills to compete for the jobs of the future." Key improvements created by the bill include audible descriptions of on-screen action for the blind, compatible Internet calls with hearing aids, and improved interfaces for smart phones.
Full Story: Darlene Superville (Associated Press), Obama Signs Technology Access Bill for Disabled, October 8, 2010, msnbc.com, available at
2. eLEGS Gives People with Disabilities the Opportunity to Walk
Developed by exoskeleton developers, Berkeley Bionics, eLEGS is a new robotic system that is giving paraplegics the opportunity to walk. Battery powered, this lower body robotic system uses sensors, robotic limbs and crutches to allow individuals to stand and walk on their own. The system is battery powered, and completely mobile. Clinical trials of the device are scheduled to begin early 2011, and the hopeful commercial release date is late 2011. When released the price tag is likely to be around $100,000. Although expensive, with time this technology could evolve into a lifestyle changing asset to all those with mobility related disabilities.
Full Story: Aaron Saenz, Berkeley Bionic's eLEGS Allow Paraplegics To Walk Again, October 9, 2010, Singularityhub.com, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Funding Decreased for Medicaid Waiver Program in Texas
The Department of Aging and Disability Services in Texas cut a Medicaid services waiver program in October 2010, which granted waivers to help keep those with disabilities out of institutions. The budget cut eliminates funding for more than 13,000 people, most of whom are on a waiting list to receive the Medicaid waiver services in private or group homes and other community settings. The change may also remove funding for those who already receive the waiver. The budget cuts have also affected reimbursement rates to providers in the community and at private care centers.
Full Story: Emily Ramshaw, Budget Shortfall Forces Big Cuts for Disabled, October 12, 2010, The Texas Tribune, available at
2. Family Moves to Different State to Receive Autism Treatment for Son
A West Virginia family recently moved to Florida to receive Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy for their 2-year-old son who has autism, because insurance companies in West Virginia do not cover the cost of ABA therapy. Wendy Radcliffe, who was employed by the state, received West Virginia's Public Employees Insurance, which, like several other states, does not cover ABA because it is defined as an experimental treatment; though most experts agree that it is "the best-researched and most effective current treatment for autism." When medical bills for treatment soared and they were unable to find qualified ABA therapists, Radcliffe and her husband made the decision to move to a state that has autism anti-discrimination legislation, which states that health insurance companies are required to cover ABA therapy for children with autism. Autism anti-discrimination legislation is increasingly being passed in many states.
Full Story: Paul Frysh, Moving Out of State to Get Autism Treatment, September 17, 2010, CNN.com, available at
1. President Declares National Disability Employment Awareness Month
On October 1, President Obama proclaimed October to be National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In his official proclamation, President Obama stated, "No individual in our Nation should face unnecessary barriers to success, and no American with a disability should be limited in his or her desire to work." The president noted his Executive Order from July requiring federal agencies to increase employment of people with disabilities. "This month," President Obama stated, "let us rededicate ourselves to fostering equal access and fair opportunity in our labor force, and to capitalizing on the talent, skills, and rich diversity of all our workers."
Full Story: Presidential Proclamation--National Disability Employment Awareness Month, The White House Office of the Press Secretary, October 1, 2010, available at
2. Department of Labor Awards $21 Million in Disability Employment Initiatives
On September 29, the US Department of Labor awarded $21,276,575 to nine states under the Disability Employment Initiative, which aims to improve the education, training, and employment opportunities of people receiving Social Security disability benefits. The nine states that entered the cooperative agreements are Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. The state projects aim to involve state vocational rehabilitation services, mental health and developmental disability agencies, independent living centers, Medicaid Infrastructure Grant-supported activities and other nonprofit organizations. The initiative is also concerned with expanding workplace involvement with the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work program.
Full Story: US Labor Department Awards More than $21 Million in Disability Employment Initiative Cooperative Agreements to Nine States, The Cypress Times, September 29, 2010, available at
1. Voters with Disabilities Find Inaccessible Voting Booths During Primary Elections
During the midterm primary elections last September, people with disabilities reported a number of inaccessibility problems at polling places. In New York City, there was a lack of ramps, wheelchair accessible doorways were locked with no way of communicating with people inside, there was a lack of private voting space, and optical scanning voting machines were placed too close together for a wheelchair to get through. Despite the Help America Vote Act of 2002, disability advocates say there are still issues in voting accessibility. In these primaries, there was also a lack of accessible ballot marking devices (BMDs), which are supposed to be available to people of all needs and have special tools for the blind, deaf and mobility impaired. Voters reported that polling locations did not have BMDs, that they were unavailable, or that election workers didn't know how to operate them. Disability advocates note that BMDs make ballots accessible to all, and that some voters may have a hard time reading small print size on paper ballots.
Full Story: Carl Zanoni, Voters with Disabilities Add to Complaints about Primary Election, DNA Info, September 20, 2010, available at
2. HBO Documentary Features Married Couple with Down Syndrome
On October 14, HBO premiered a new documentary, "Monica & David," following Monica and David Martinez through their wedding and first year of marriage. This documentary details the couple's struggle to adjust to life together and define their own independence, and is unique because both Monica and David have Down syndrome. Alexandra Codina is Monica's cousin and the filmmaker who followed the couple through their first year of marriage. She stated that "even though no one was openly objecting to the wedding, there seemed to be this unspoken feeling that they were still children," and that the movie is as much about their parents, who fear letting go of their children, as it is about Monica and David. "I do really believe in Monica and David and other people with disabilities having the opportunity to love and find partners and marry and have a sexual life," Codina said, "There is still a lot of resistance from family and caregivers who are worried about marriage. I think Monica and David are a phenomenal example of love and how to have a true partnership and a healthy relationship."
Full Story: Michelle Diament, 'Monica & David' Explores Marriage with Down Syndrome, Disability Scoop, October 7, 2010, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. Mobility International Presents on Inclusive Emergency Response Planning
During September 2010, the staff of Mobility International - USA presented on access to emergency response programming for persons with disabilities at the International Organization for Migration's (IOM) Workshop on Gender, Vulnerable Populations and Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean. Attendees of the workshop included "humanitarian assistance agencies, donors, governments and emergency response actors." The presentation advocated for the Building an Inclusive Development Community (BDIC) project, and developed a list of recommended actions to move toward inclusive emergency response.
Full Story: MIUSA Staff Presents on Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Response Programming, Mobility International USA, October 1, 2010, available at
1. People with Disabilities Test the Accommodations of the Dubai Metro
On Tuesday, October 7, the Rail Agency of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority asked 13 people with disabilities to test the accommodations made for special needs in order to identify problems. The volunteers stated that the facilities in stations and trains were excellent, but the access points to the stations, such as entrances and exits, were dangerous to people with disabilities and need instant attention. The stations' tactile and Braille guidance paths aid people with visual impairments without impeding the ability of people in wheelchairs to navigate the metro stations.
However, many of the volunteers made suggestions to improve other facilities in the station. For example, one of the volunteers noted that the tactile and Braille guidance systems do not lead to the Gold Class areas or the "women only" coaches. Another volunteer proposed that seat belt straps be provided in areas reserved for wheelchair passengers. A hearing impaired volunteer introduced the idea of placing a staff member who knows sign language at every station; otherwise it would be difficult for hearing impaired passengers to communicate with staff.
The Dubai Rail Agency built many accommodations for numerous different disabilities in its renovations, and asked that people who represented a wide array of different disabilities test the accommodations. One of the Dubai volunteers expressed satisfaction with Dubai's approach because it incorporated the opinions of people with disabilities who would actually use the accommodations. The volunteer, an individual with a disability herself, believes in the slogan "nothing for us without us," which suggests a role for people with disabilities in the initiatives that accommodate special needs.
Full Story: Dubai Metro's Facilities for People with Disabilities Put to Accessibility Test, Disability News Asia, October 7, 2010, 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.; Senior Editor Elizabeth Ribet, Ph.D., J.D.; and Associate Editors Brandon Sawyer, Hannah Pooley, Jonathan Schnader, Dana Mele, Tovah Miller, Nicole Loring, and Stephanie Herring.
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