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 21, 2011
Volume 8, Issue 5
The Disability Law & Policy Newsletter is a monthly 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. Disability Rights Advocates Arrested While Protesting Medicaid Plan
On May 1, 2011, Capitol Police arrested eighty-nine disability rights protesters in the Cannon House Office Building. The protesters, from the disability advocate group ADAPT, were demonstrating against Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicaid plan, which would force people with disabilities to live in nursing homes instead of their own homes. The protesters were arrested on charges of unlawful conduct for demonstrating in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor offense. Ryan's House-passed budget resolution would turn Medicaid into block grants and reduce its spending by over 700 billion dollars over ten years. Combined with state-level Medicaid cuts, the plan could restrict funding for people with disabilities so much that they would not have public support to live independently.
Full Story: David Nather, Eighty-Nine Arrested in Medicaid Plan Protest, Politico.com, May 2, 2011, available at
2. Governor Nixon Vetoes Bill That Undermines Missouri Human Rights Act
On April 29, 2001, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon vetoed Bill 188, which would have weakened legal protection for workers claiming discrimination. The bill was opposed by a large group of disability rights groups, including the American Cancer Society, Missouri Association for the Deaf, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Missouri Centers for Independent Living, and a wide variety of civil rights groups.
Nixon said the bill undermined the Missouri Human Rights Act and would have rolled back decades of civil rights progress. The bill would have made it harder to prove discrimination in the workplace. In response to letters from businesses urging him to sign the bill, Nixon argued that making it easier for Missouri companies to discriminate against people with disabilities, women, the elderly, and minorities would not help to create jobs or compete in the economy. It passed by a wide margin in the House and Senate, which could override the Governor's veto with a two-thirds majority in both chambers.
Full Story: Gov. Nixon Vetoes Bill 188, Apr. 29, 2011, available at
3. Arizona Medical Center to Provide Effective Communication with Individuals Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
On May 2, 2011, the Department of Justice reached a settlement agreement with the Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott, Arizona, to resolve an investigation and ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The complaint alleged discrimination because the Center required individuals with hearing disabilities to sign waivers of liability as a condition for the use of sign language interpreters. Such waivers were allegedly a violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in hospitals. The Center cooperated with the investigation, during which the Department concluded that the Center's policies and procedures did not adequately accommodate communications with patients. The Center took remedial steps and voluntarily entered into the agreement.
Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, applauded the medical center for its cooperation. "We hope this agreement is a reminder for other hospital and health care providers about the requirements of the ADA," he stated. Dennis K. Burke, U.S. District Attorney for the District of Arizona, added, "proper medical care depends on effective communication...the Obama administration is committed to ensuring all individuals in this country can go to the hospital and communicate effectively with staff in order to receive proper medical care."
Full Story: Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Arizona Medical Center to Ensure Effective Communication with Individuals Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, May 2, 2011, available at
4. Timken Settles Gender and Disability Discrimination Suit with EEOC for $120,000
On April 29, 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that the Timken Company, an Ohio-based manufacturer, will pay $120,000 and other relief to settle a sex and disability discrimination lawsuit filed in July 2007. The lawsuit alleged that Timken denied a full-time position to a part-time employee, Carmen Halloran, after four years of employment because her managers believed that she would be unable to work full time and care for her disabled child. The suit alleged that Timken discriminated against Halloran based on stereotypes that the mother of a disabled child would necessarily be the primary caregiver and that she would not be a reliable employee.
In addition to the $120,000 settlement, Timken must provide anti-discrimination training to managers, supervisors, and employees. The company will post a notice concerning employees' rights under federal anti-discrimination laws and report to the EEOC on its hiring practices periodically.
Full Story: The Timken Company To Pay $120,000 to Settle EEOC Gender and Disability Discrimination Suit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Newsroom, Apr. 29, 2011, available at
1. Supreme Court Requests Input from Obama Administration in Special Education Case
The Supreme Court is currently deciding a case brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) arising from a school district in Compton, California. Two lower courts ruled that the plaintiff's mother had a valid claim under the IDEA that the school district failed to identify her high-school-age daughter's disabilities. The mother's claim argued that the school district failed under the IDEA's "child find" requirement to identify the student's disabilities sooner.
In a 2-1 decision in March 2010, the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit "rejected the school district's argument that the IDEA did not authorize claims where there was an affirmative refusal to act on the part of the district officials." The appeal is called Compton Unified School District v. Addison (Case No. 10-886). The Supreme Court is now seeking further review from the solicitor general's office on this case. This type of review generally takes several months.
Full Story: Mark Walsh, Justices Seek U.S. Views on Special Education Case, Education Week, Apr. 18, 2011, available at
2. Private School for Students with Disabilities Under Investigation for Poor Conditions
Rock Creek Academy, a Washington D.C. private school for students with emotional and physical disabilities, is under investigation for various issues pertaining to lax security, high rates of truancy, and inadequate academic progress. D.C. officials received a large number of complaints from Rock Creek parents and students, including an allegation of sexual misconduct by a staff member involving a student older than 18. According to the president and chief executive of the school, the sexual misconduct allegation was found to be false.
In November, D.C. police arrested a Rock Creek art teacher after he allegedly punched a student in the mouth. That teacher was subsequently fired. D.C. State Superintendent of Education Hosanna Mahaley reports that the inquiry was supposed to be complete by the first week of April, but results have yet to be reported.
Full Story: Bill Turque, District Investigates Special-Ed School, The Washington Post, Mar. 17, 2011, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. Sprint Introduces Mobile Video Relay Service for Deaf and Hard of Hearing
On April 17, 2011, Sprint introduced its new mobile videophone application, Sprint Mobile VRS, for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The free Android application allows users to access qualified video interpreters who can relay their phone calls. It will allow users to make and receive video mail and missed calls. Sprint calls the mobile video relay service a step toward the future of barrier-free telephone access. The app is designed specifically for the Samsung Epic 4G, HTC EVO 4G, and Samsung Tab telephones. The app can be obtained using the Android Market or a barcode scanner.
Full Story: John Holland, Sprint Mobile VRS: A Whole New Way of Reaching Out, Online Pr Media, Apr. 17, 2011, available at
2. Florida Law Firm Uses Adaptive Technology to Represent Disabled Clients
Coye Law, a disability and personal compensation firm based out of Orlando, Florida, is leading the way for innovative technology inside the courtroom. Coye uses technology to provide better access for its clients with disabilities including a system of electronic recording; iPad and tablet presentation; and video conferencing. Electronic conferences save money and allow face-to-face conversations with clients with disabilities who may not be able to travel or leave their homes. Coye recently worked in cooperation with the Social Security Administration to use advanced technologies in a disability benefits claim. The electronic system of records eased organization and allowed the lawyers to find, bookmark, annotate, and present physical files in electronic format. Currently the firm is holding hearings with the National Hearing Center via video conference. Coye's actions are just one example of the advancements being made by government agencies and professionals to use advanced technologies as a general practice.
Full Story: Law Firm Uses iPad and Other Technology in Denied Disability Benefits Claim, PR.com, Mar. 31, 2011, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
Iowa Senate Passes Mental Health Care Reform Bill
On May 26, 2011, the Iowa Senate voted 36-9 to pass a bill designed to reform the state's mental health care system. The bill, which would take effect in July 2013, would transform Iowa's county-based mental health care system to a more uniform, statewide system that would be administered regionally. The Senate bill proposes 17 changes to a reform bill that passed the Iowa House on May 10, including adding a member of the Iowa Association of Counties to the interim committee that will implement the system's overhaul.
The Iowa legislature's recent reform efforts follow its April 2011 repeal of the county-based mental health care system, which received bipartisan criticism for creating long waitlists and providing an inferior standard of care to residents living in rural areas. The Senate's reform bill is intended to serve as the foundation for more comprehensive legislative efforts to address these problems. Lawmakers plan to introduce more detailed reforms during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions.
Full Story: Lynn Campbell, Mental Health Reform Clears Iowa Senate, but Fate in House Unclear, Missouri News Horizon, May 30, 2011, available at
William Petroski, Iowa Senate Approves Mental Health Reform Bill, Des Moines Register, May 27, 2011, available at
2. New Federal Rules to Make Medicaid More Flexible and Efficient
On April 14, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced four initiatives to give states more flexibility to adopt efficient services for Medicaid and Medicare carriers. The initiatives support President Obama's work to make Medicaid more flexible and efficient and to address long-term cost growth
Among the initiatives is a promise that all states will receive increased flexibility to provide home and community-based services for more people living with disabilities. In addition, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services proposed new rules giving states new flexibility for their programs to help people with disabilities choose to live in their communities rather than in institutions.
Full Story: KATC Lafayette News, Feds: New Rules Will Make Medicaid More Flexible and Efficient, Apr. 14, 2011, available at
1. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Broadens Workplace Protections
On March 25, 2011, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published new regulations to expand workplace protections to a wider group of people. These new rules will change the definition of disability to include periodic impairments, such as epilepsy, and will also include impairments which do not prevent a person from walking or communicating. "With the release of the EEOC's regulations, employers across the country will have a clear set of guidelines and rules of the road to ensure equality for Americans with disabilities," wrote Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. "This will help ensure civil rights protection for people with 'invisible disabilities.'" These regulations are applicable to discrimination claims dating back to January 1, 2009, and apply to companies with fifteen or more employees.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Feds Broaden Workplace Protections to Include 'Invisible Disabilities,' Disability Scoop, Mar. 24, 2011, available at
Improving Employment Access For Americans with Disabilities," Real Clear Politics, Mar. 28, 2011, available at
2. Unemployment Rates Continue to Increase for People with Disabilities
According to the national unemployment numbers released on April 1, 2011, people with disabilities continue to face increasing unemployment rates. Unemployment numbers nationwide reached a two-year low in March, but unemployment rates among Americans with disabilities increased to 15.6 percent, up from 15.4 percent in February. The unemployment rate for the general population decreased from 8.9 percent in February to 8.8 percent in March as the economy added 216,000 jobs. Unemployment figures for Americans with disabilities are released monthly.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, More with Disabilities Jobless in March, Disability Scoop, Apr. 1, 2011, available at
1. U.S. DOJ Guidelines: Only Dogs and Miniature Horses Count as Service Animals
Under new federal guidelines issued March 15, 2011, by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for the Americans with Disabilities Act, the definition of service animal is limited to dogs and housebroken miniature horses. These guidelines are not binding to states, municipalities and agencies, which are free to adopt the national guidelines or make up their own policies. The policy excludes parrots, rodents, ducks, monkeys and ferrets, as well as animals that provide emotional support or comfort. The DOJ revised its service animal definition because of requests from businesses, state and local governments, and individuals with disabilities. Horse experts and disability advocates say that the new guidelines will probably increase the number of miniature horses used as service animals.
For more information on what constitutes a service animal, see the Burton Blatt Institute TIPS solution about Service Animals.
Full Story: Madeleine Bernstein, ADA Service Guidelines Limit Service Animals to Dogs and Miniature Horses, technorati.com, Apr. 1, 2011, available at
2. Americans with Disabilities Struggle to Find Adequate Housing, Report Finds
A new report released in March 2011 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that the number of individuals with disabilities who live in dire housing situations is on the rise. About one million households that include people with disabilities qualified as having the "worst case housing needs" in 2009, according to the report. This number of "worst case" situations has increased by 140,000 between 2007 and 2009, according to HUD officials. The report identified households with low-income renters who receive no government housing aid and who spend more than half of their income on rent or who live in substandard living conditions. During the same time period, there was a twenty percent increase in the number of people without disabilities who struggled to find acceptable housing.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Housing Increasingly a Struggle for Those with Special Needs, Disability Scoop, Mar. 25, 2011, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. Partnership Solidified to Advance Emergency Preparedness
The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) signed a memorandum of agreement on March 11, 2011, to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are met "before, during, and after disasters strike." The agencies recognized that for too long such needs were an afterthought during disasters, resulting in inaccessible shelters, communications, and warnings. FEMA stated that this agreement will help them plan for the needs of the entire community in any disaster or emergency situation, and it is "another step toward bringing the collective resources of the entire community to the table to help meet those needs."
Full Story: Heidi Avery, The White House Celebrates Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities, The White House Blog, Mar. 11, 2011, available at
1. British Woman with Multiple Sclerosis Sues Air Carrier Ryanair
On April 15, 2011, Jo Heath successfully sued Ryanair for £1,750 after her husband was forced to carry her onto an airplane. Heath, a woman with multiple sclerosis, waited for thirty minutes for a hydraulic lift on the tarmac of Luton airport. The lift never showed up. Heath asked the crew to help her but they refused, quoting health and safety regulations at her. Consequently, Heath's husband, Paul, had to sling his wife over his shoulder and carry her up the movable stairs to the airplane. "The engines were starting to warm up and they had closed the back door. I was sitting there feeling a little awkward," said Heath. She remembered being a "gibbering wreck and embarrassed" about being carried onto the plane in front of all the other passengers.
"It was humiliating and distressing," says Heath. "They treated me like an inconvenience, not a passenger. I was made to feel like it was my fault." Heath had even filled out a special requirement form online to request accommodations. As a result of the ill-treatment, Heath sued Ryanair for breach of contract for failure to provide the assistance she ordered and contravening disability discrimination laws.
The judge who heard the case, Judge Paul McHale, said: "It cannot be argued that Mrs. Heath didn't suffer distress and physical inconvenience...[s]he is a disabled person and she made arrangements with the airline to avoid humiliation in embarking on the plane. The defendant did not provide that service." Ryanair blamed the airport for the incident and will appeal the decision.
Full Story: Andrew Levy, Disabled Woman Sues Ryanair After Husband Is Forced to Give Her Fireman's Lift to Get Her on Plane, Daily Mail Online, Apr. 14, 2011, available at
2. EU Under Pressure to Enforce Disability Equality Rules on Airlines
An increasing number of travelers who use wheelchairs have reported being refused travel by airlines in Europe. Among the travelers denied by airlines was Shuaib Chalken, the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on Disability. Chalken complained to the European Commission (EC) after he was denied boarding on his flight from Heathrow to Geneva because he was a passenger with a wheelchair who was flying unaccompanied. "I think it is absurd," said Chalken. "I am a paraplegic frequent flyer for the last fifteen years and I've travelled around the world on my own."
The EC has been receiving daily complaints, according to Aurelien Dayde, spokesman for the European Disability Forum. It is not enough for people to have rights on paper if they don't work on the ground," stated Siim Kallas, the European Commissioner for Transport. "We know there are still far too many cases where people with disabilities are being refused basic access to flights." According to Kallas, "the Commission will bring forward new guidelines before the end of the year to close loopholes."
Full Story: Airlines Facing EU Clampdown for Refusing Travelers with Disabilities, Disability News Asia, Apr. 20, 2011, available at
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