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
January 28, 2011
Volume 8, Issue 1
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. Kansans Amend Constitution to Improve Voting Rights for People with Mental Illnesses
On November 3, 2010, Kansans voted to pass Constitutional Amendment 2, amending a provision in the Kansas State Constitution that prevented people with mental illnesses from voting. Section 2 of Article 5 of the Kansas State Constitution previously read: "The legislature may, by law, exclude persons from voting because of mental illness or commitment to a jail or penal institution." Amendment 2 alters Section 2 by repealing the legislation's authority to exclude persons with mental illnesses from voting.
The "Vote Yes on 2" campaign provided the statistic that 1 in 5 Kansans have some form of a mental illness. In a statement, a spokesperson for the campaign said, "[T]onight's election demonstrates that the voters of Kansas understand that a common health problem such as mental illness should never be used to determine whether someone is qualified to vote. ... [I]t shouldn't matter whether someone has depression, bipolar disorder or PTSD: the right to vote is a fundamental right that belongs to all law-abiding Kansans, regardless of the disability they might live with." The campaign attributed its success in part to hundreds of volunteers. Many were individuals with mental illnesses and acknowledged that the passage of Amendment 2 was a step in the right direction for disability rights, but did not defeat the stigma that often accompanies mental illness.
Full Story: YOU DID IT! Voting Rights Amendment Passes! Vote Yes on 2, Nov. 3, 2010, available at
2. Georgia Settles Suit; Expands State Mental Health and Developmental Disability System
On October 19, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it reached a comprehensive settlement agreement with the state of Georgia to resolve a lawsuit alleging unlawful segregation of individuals with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities in state psychiatric hospitals. The lawsuit alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Olmstead v. L.C., in which the Court found that a Georgia state hospital was segregating individuals with disabilities who could have been treated in a more integrated setting. The lawsuit at issue was initiated after two investigations found that preventable deaths, suicides, and assaults occurred with alarming frequency in state hospitals and that the state failed to serve individuals with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, violating the ADA and Olmstead. In January 2010, the DOJ filed a complaint and motion for immediate relief to protect individuals confined in hospitals from continued segregation and from threats of harm to their lives, health, and safety.
The settlement agreement expands community mental health services so that Georgia can serve individuals with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of each individual. Georgia will increase assertive community treatment, intensive case management, case management, supported housing, and supported employment programs to serve 9,000 individuals with mental illnesses in a community setting over the next five years. It will increase community crisis services to respond to community crisis situations without hospital admission and establish crisis services centers, crisis stabilization programs, mobile crisis and crisis apartments. For individuals with developmental disabilities, it will create at least 1,000 Medicaid waivers to facilitate a transition from state hospitals to community settings and increase crisis, respite, family and housing support services in community settings.
Full Story: Justice Department Obtains Comprehensive Agreement Regarding the State of Georgia's Mental Health and Developmental Disability System, Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, Oct. 19, 2010, available at
3. Federal Report Finds Delaware Psychiatric Center in Violation of ADA
The DOJ issued a report in early November 2010 to Delaware state officials criticizing treatment of patients at the Delaware Psychiatric Center (DPC). According to the report, the DPC violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and patients' constitutional rights.
The report states that "the vast majority of individuals confined to DPC could be and have a right to be living in community settings with the appropriate services and supports." The average length of stay for non-criminal patients at DPC should range from three to six months but is close to three years because of the lack of community-based placements. An inappropriate discharge assessment process keeps many individuals from being released. Officials also determined people in the community face an unnecessary risk of being placed in the DPC or other institutions because of the state's failure to provide sufficient community-based services, especially crisis services. At the hospital, patients "suffer significant harm and risk of harm" because of deficient practices including inadequate risk assessments, treatment, restraint and seclusion practices, and investigations of serious incidents, according to assistant attorney general Thomas Perez.
The state housing authority seeks two million dollars to aid people with mental illnesses and who are under institutional care. In the meantime, the state has been advised that failure to address the report may lead to a lawsuit.
Full Story: Randall Chase, Feds Issue Scathing Report on Psychiatric Center, Washington Examiner, Nov. 11, 2010, available at
4. Denver Police Department Criticized for Bullying a Woman with Multiple Disabilities
On November 29, 2010, a surveillance camera captured footage of an officer from the Denver Police Department cornering and shoving Doreen Salazar, a woman with Grave's Disease, a visual impairment, and "psychiatric problems." Salazar is a resident of a complex for elderly individuals and persons with disabilities, a project of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The incident occurred when Salazar, whose visual disability impaired her ability to recognize the person as a police officer, failed to immediately open the door for the officer and his partner. When Salazar opened the door, the officer spoke angrily to her at close range, asked "Are you crazy?" shoved her, and followed her into an elevator, backing her into a corner. After the elevator doors closed, Salazar claims she was slammed against the door. The lobby camera shows her later being led out of the building in handcuffs, where she was detained in the police car for ten minutes. An internal affairs investigation was launched the following day.
The executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition called the incident "a serious violation of human rights" and stated that the incident demonstrated a lack of understanding of people with disabilities. A spokesman for the Denver Police Protective Association responded by saying, "[T]here are two sides to every story." A spokesperson for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition has denounced the behavior as unacceptable and called for DPD to train its officers in dealing with people who have disabilities.
Full Story: Jaclyn Allen, Disability Rights Groups Criticize DPD, ABC 7 News TheDenverChannel.com, Dec. 10, 2010, available at
Dayle Cedars, Disabled Woman Says She Was Assaulted By Denver Officer, ABC 7 News TheDenverChannel.com, Dec. 8, 2010, available at
1. Strategy for Obtaining Testing Accommodations
New federal regulations published in September 2010 are intended to ease the process of acquiring testing accommodations for students with disabilities. The regulations go into effect in March, 2011. Despite this advance, legal experts, guidance counselors, tutors, and disability advocates are concerned about resistance from testing providers. They contend that over the past five years the process of obtaining accommodations for the SAT and ACT, in particular, has become harder, not easier. Some propose that opposition on the part of testing entities is due to an exaggerated fear of students obtaining "unmerited accommodations," especially extra time on tests, which could undermine the integrity of the exam. The ACT and graduate school entry exams have become particularly notorious for denying accommodations requests. This article provides information and advice to parents and students who might be beginning the process of applying for accommodations for upper level education entrance exams.
Full Story: Abigail Sullivan Moore, Accommodations Angst, New York Times, Nov. 4, 2010, available at
2. Advocates Sue Governor Schwarzenegger for Cuts to Student Mental Health Services
On November 9, 2010, several education advocates brought suit against California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in response to the state budget package that he signed in October of 2010. The Governor signed line-item vetoes to cut $133 million that was intended for providing mental health services to about 20,000 students with special needs. The California School Boards Association, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Manhattan Beach Unified School District argued in the lawsuit that Schwarzenegger lacked the authority to suspend the state mandate requiring counties to provide student mental health services. Schwarzenegger's office has responded that the line-item vetoes were necessary and legal. His administration has not yet made a decision on whether the mental health services affected will now be funded by the school districts or other entities.
Full Story: Education Groups File Lawsuit Over Mental Health Care Cut, California Healthline, Nov. 10, 2010, available at
http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2010/11/10/education-groups-file-lawsuit-over-mental-health-care-cuts.aspx - ixzz155Pe2TCM
3. American Sign Language Class Enrollment at Colleges Is on the Rise
The number of college students studying American Sign Language (ASL) has increased by more than 16 percent from 2006 to 2009, making it the fourth most common language studied on college campuses. The top three, Spanish, French, and German, have had only a small increase during that same period. ASL professors attribute this rise, in part, to its usefulness as an employment credential as the "demand for nationally certified A.S.L. interpreters is huge" and the pay is competitive. ASL is also useful for students who are interested in pursuing careers as cognitive psychologists, educators, nurses and even scuba divers. Many ASL programs have managed to survive this "vulnerable time for language study," as a result of the deep budget cuts of the recession.
Full Story: Tamar Lewin, Colleges See 16% Increase in Study of Sign Language, New York Times, Dec. 8, 2010, available at
4. A Group of Teenagers Start a National Campaign to Redefine "Normal"
A "youth-led and youth-driven" national campaign kicked off in December 2010 with the purpose of redefining ideas and opinions that children have around inclusion and the concept of "normal." This campaign uses online videos, social networking, and a series of advertising buys (optimal advertising placement within a given media) that are scheduled for next year. These various types of media have been created and circulated in hopes of starting a "conversation about the inclusion of people with disabilities and what it really means to be normal." In addition to drawing on the resources of fellow students, the campaign includes well known disability advocates, including Dan Habib, and Norman Kunc. Dan Habib's son, Samuel, and Kunc both appear in a YouTube video, titled "I am Norm" that was posted in mid- November and has already received over 3,000 votes.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, National Campaign to Challenge Disability Stereotypes, Promote Inclusion, Disability Scoop, Dec. 9, 2010, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. Government Works to Update ADA for Cyberspace
The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to develop and implement new regulations and expand the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act relative to accessibility in cyberspace as early as 2012. Discussions are in the works to equip cyberspace and other public spaces with more disability friendly technology. Facilities that could be affected include text message services at emergency call centers and captions at movie theaters. Twenty years after the law was adopted, today's ADA regulations go far beyond accessibility of ramps and elevators. New regulations on cyberspace and personal technology could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and require sweeping changes across multiple industries. New regulations also may produce life-changing benefits for Americans with disabilities.
Full Story: Carla K. Johnson, Government Wants to Update ADA for Cyberspace, Nov. 15, 2010, available at
2. The National Federation for the Blind Sues United for Inaccessible Technology
New check-in machines utilized by United Airlines fail to include audio software, earphone jacks, or Braille output making the automated check-in experience impossible for many persons with visual impairments. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) brought a suit in October of 2010 against United Airlines and argues that the limited access puts people with disabilities at a disadvantage for first choice in seats and upgrade opportunities. The president of NFB claims that the airline industry has an "unfortunate history of discriminating against blind passengers." The airline industry has been slow to keep up with other accessible trends in the market. For example, today audio assists are not uncommon and are featured in ATMs, computers, and even iPads.
Full Story: Meredith Melnick, United's Travel Technology Excludes the Blind, Lawsuit Alleges, Nov. 1, 2010, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Insurers Must Define "Essential Benefits" under New Healthcare Law
The new healthcare law passed in March 2010 is requiring insurers under United Health Group, Inc., and WellPoint, Inc., to "begin covering a package of 'essential benefits' in 2014." The law, however, does not specify what is considered essential benefits. Absent legislative instruction, insurance groups will have to come up with packages on their own. This ambiguity in the law has left several advocacy groups -- including chiropractic care and autism treatment organizations -- lobbying the insurance companies to include treatments benefiting their constituencies in its essential benefits package.
Full Story: Alex Wayne, Chiropractic, Autism Care May Be Essential under Obama Law, Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct. 22, 2010, available at
2. Autism Bill Vetoed in New York State
On October 21, 2010, New York state governor David Patterson vetoed a controversial autism bill that would require insurance companies to cover evidence-based and peer-reviewed treatments and therapy options for autism. For instance, early screening procedures and therapeutic techniques to manage the symptoms of autism can allow for an overall better quality of life at a cost of millions of dollars each year. This bill is controversial because while it would force insurance companies to provide coverage for such treatments. It may also encourage insurance companies to raise their premiums or limit coverage for new therapies that are not currently evidence-based and peer-reviewed. Patterson's reason for vetoing the bill was financial, stating that it would cost $70 million annually and lacked funding.
Full Story: Governor Vetoes NY Autism Treatment Insurance Bill, Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct. 21, 2010, available at
3. Police Officers Must Provide Services to Mentally Ill
Due to the weak economy many states have cut funding to services for persons with mental illnesses. As a result, police officers around the nation have had to provide emergency services that were previously provided by inpatient and outpatient clinics. Police and sheriff departments, also suffering from budget cut and manpower issues, have had to divert officers from regular duties to respond to increasing calls from families seeking help with their family members' mental health issues. Police officers in Maine and Oklahoma have reported increases in calls by as much as 50 percent by families asking for help.
Full Story: Katie Zezima, State Cuts Put Officers on Front Lines of Mental Care, The New York Times, Dec. 4, 2010, available at
4. Soldier's Request for Mental Health Care Denied
Army Specialist Jeff Hanks went Absent Without Leave (AWOL) after he requested mental health care during a mid-tour leave from Afghanistan in October 2010 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was ordered back to Afghanistan days before he was scheduled to get a mental health examination. He has experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since a six-month tour in Iraq in 2008, and when his access to care was denied, he went home to North Carolina and was evaluated by three civilian therapists, all of whom recommended that he be tested for PTSD. One doctor wrote that his "current functioning is clearly severely impaired." According to Hanks, "All I wanted was to be treated. Going AWOL is not what I wanted to do." He turned himself in on November 11, 2010, to avoid exceeding 30 days of being AWOL, which would warrant a more serious punishment for desertion.
According to Hanks, after he returned, an on-base behavioral mental health counselor evaluated him for 10 minutes in the presence of a military escort, during which the counselor informed him that he did not have PTSD and that if he did, he would not be able to sit in his chair. The counselor then dismissed the three previous evaluations, stating that the military does not look at civilian diagnoses. A Fort Campbell spokesperson would not comment on Hanks's account of his treatment. His punishment for going AWOL may include a reduction in pay or rank, a dishonorable discharge or a court martial and jail time if convicted.
Full Story: Armen Keteyian, Soldier Who Went AWOL for Help "Hits Wall" at Fort Campbell, CBS News, Nov. 15, 2010, available at
Armen Keteyian, Soldier Takes Huge Risk to Get PTSD Help, CBS News, Nov. 12, 2010, available at
1. Unemployment Rate for People with Disabilities Increasing with SSDI Claims
A report published on October 26, 2010, by Allsup, the leading Social Security disability representation company, found that during the third quarter of 2010, unemployment rates for people with disabilities were the highest of the year. The study found that people with disabilities faced an unemployment rate that was 67.7 percent higher than the rate for people with no disabilities. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities during the third quarter was 15.6 percent, compared to 9.3 for people without disabilities. The Allsup report also found that the number of people applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) during the third quarter increased 4.3 from the year before to 764,902. More than 2.25 million people have currently filed disability claims, and almost 1.8 million SSDI claims are pending. The Allsup report found that the average wait time for SSDI claims is more than 850 days.
Full Story: Income at Risk: Quarterly Unemployment Rate for People with Disabilities Climbs Along with SSDI Claims, Reports Allsup, PR Web, Oct. 26, 2010, available at
1. Home for People with Disabilities in Charlotte Fighting to Survive
Charlottetown Manor, an independent living center that is home to about 200 people with disabilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, is struggling to survive in the wake of financial problems and a brewing legal battle. The center relies on public funding to house its residents, and recently has faced financial trouble in late November 2010, when Mecklenburg Open Door, a disbanded mental health contractor, failed to pay more than $200,000 in past-due rent for 75 clients at the Manor. Additionally, $30,000 has been embezzled from the Manor. Now a legal battle is developing between founder and co-owner Mary Rudolph and co-owner Dr. George Raad over getting a court-appointed receiver to run the facility. The Manor is in dire need of repairs and upgrades, and the residents living there depend on the services it provides as well as the freedom it affords them.
Full Story: Ames Alexander, Home for Disabled Fights for Survival, Charlotte Observer, Nov. 27, 2010, available at
2. Foundation Awards Grant for Local Adapted Sports Program
In Utica, New York, the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Inc., awarded a $36,262 grant to the Charles T. Sitrin Health Care Center to fund the Central New York Adaptive Recreation and Sports Program. The program was created by the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Sitrin Health Care Center, and Upstate Cerebral Palsy. The grant will be used to increase recreational opportunities for people with disabilities in Central New York through the CNY Adaptive Recreation and Sports Program, which hosts activities such as curling, adaptive tennis, adaptive shooting and adaptive bowling. The program was founded to promote inclusion and involvement in the community for people with disabilities, as well as enhancing individuals' quality of life through physical activity.
Full Story: Foundation Awards Grant for Adapted Sports Program, Rome Observer, Nov. 4, 2010, available at
3. President Obama Issues Proclamation on International Day of Persons with Disabilities
On December 3, 2010, President Barack Obama called upon Americans to observe the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in solidarity with the growing number of nations that have made a commitment to end unequal treatment of persons with disabilities. President Obama explained that the purpose of International Day of Persons with Disabilities is to acknowledge the contributions of people with disabilities around the world and to recognize the global responsibility of ensuring full inclusion and participation in society for all individuals.
President Obama reviewed some key actions the United States has taken in the past year toward this end, including signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century. The Obama Administration established a Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the state Department and continues to support the World Intellectual Property Organization to increase access to materials for persons with disabilities. Notably 2010 marked the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 35th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The President urged Americans to observe and celebrate the day and to renew and strengthen their commitments to eliminate barriers and ensure equal opportunity for all.
Full Story: President Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation - International Day of Persons with Disabilities, The White House Office of the Press Secretary, Dec. 03, 2010, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. New Guidelines Issued for Emergency Shelters to Ensure Access
On November 2, 2010, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a new plan named the "Functional Needs Support Services Guidance." This plan includes recommendations for state governments regarding emergency sheltering that does not discriminate on the basis of disability and complies with existing federal laws. Craig Fugate, the FEMA Administrator, maintained his commitment to fully incorporating persons with disabilities in all emergency response and management plans. These guidelines come after this past September's Getting Real conference hosted by FEMA, which included a discussion on how to integrate the needs of people with disabilities into emergency planning.
Full Story: FEMA Issues New Guidance to Support People With Disabilities During Disasters, FEMA, Nov. 3, 2010, available at
1. Mass Marriage Conducted in India for People with Disabilities
On November 1st, 2010, the Shree Geeta Bhavan Trust conducted a mass marriage for people with disabilities and people below the poverty line who have lost their parents. This mass marriage for people with disabilities is the first of its kind. Several committees, including a committee consisting of members of the Tamilnadu Physically Handicapped Association and the National Slum Dwellers Federation, selected the couples. The committee provided counseling sessions with psychologists for the selected couples. Such counseling sessions would otherwise be difficult for the economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities to obtain.
Mass marriages have come about in the past twenty-five years as a way to give people with limited means a path to marriage without the high financial burden. These mass marriages also help integrate people with disabilities into society and avoid being stigmatized for not being able to marry.
Full Story: Mass Marriage for Disabled People on November 1st, Disability News India, Oct. 13, 2010, available at
http://www.disabilityindia.com/html/oct10news.html - mdpn
2. Disability Survey Discovers Disability Access Problems in Turkey
On November 3, Anatolia News Agency reported that a study conducted in Turkey discovered that 70 percent of disabled people report difficulty accessing public buildings and services.
State Minister Selma Aliye Kavaf announced the results of the study, which found that 31 percent of disabled people encounter discrimination at work; 77 percent have difficulty accessing public parks and pedestrian areas; 72 percent of disabled people in urban areas and 59 percent in rural areas have transportation problems; 65 percent experienced ill-treatment and mockery from strangers; and 42 percent experienced ill-treatment from public services.
The study surveyed 507 people from among a population of 63,000 disabled people affiliated with 553 associations in 29 Turkish provinces. The study also found that 71 percent of disabled Turks are unaware of disability legislation in Turkey.
According to Kavaf, Turkey has made progress in regards to the employment of people with disabilities: In 2002, the number of public servants with disabilities was 6,103. Kavaf stated that the number of disabled public servants reached 10,357 in 2009 and rose to 14,330 this year, with 6,000 more appointments on the way.
Full Story: Study Reveals Lack of Disability Access to Public Buildings, Services in Turkey, Disability News Asia, Nov. 5, 2010, available at
3. Form of Help for Wheelchair Commuters Considered "Demeaning"
In Australia, new features were recently implemented on railways that were meant to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. The tour of Parramatta station on the International Day of People with Disabilities included station accessibility features, platforms, toilets, safety features, and a broadcast of information pertaining to train changes for people with hearing impairments.
Some of the wheelchair users were displeased with the fact that they were given a designated space on the trains. In addition, to obtain help for boarding trains, the wheelchair user would have to wave a flag to get the conductor's attention as opposed to having station staff help them.
"It is demeaning that we have to be in this spot set aside for us, waving for attention," one of the wheelchair users exclaimed.
Full Story: Australian Commuters with Disabilities Find Railway Help 'Demeaning,' Disability News Asia, Dec. 12, 2010, available at
The staff of the Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter welcomes suggestions for announcements incorporating a focus on disability law or policy in forthcoming issues. If you would like to bring calls for papers or proposals, conferences or events, book announcements, new resources, or scholarship, fellowship or internship competitions to our attention, please send them to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
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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 Kelly J. Bunch, J.D.; and Associate Editors Brandon Sawyer, Hannah Pooley, Jonathan Schnader, Dana Mele, Tovah Miller, Nicole Loring, and Stephanie Herring.
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