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
September 26, 2011
Volume 8, Issue 7
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. DOJ Announces Three Agreements to Ensure Civic Access for People with Disabilities
On July 26, 2011, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced agreements with Norfolk County, Massachusetts; Daviess County, Kentucky; and the city of Madison, Indiana, to improve civic access for individuals with disabilities. The department has now reached 193 agreements under its Project Civic Access initiative (PCA), to ensure that cities and counties throughout the nation comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The DOJ initiated the PCA to ensure that Americans with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in civic life. Department investigators, attorneys and architects examine state and local government facilities, services and programs to identify the modifications needed for compliance with ADA requirements. PCA agreements usually require physical modifications to public facilities to make parking, routes into the buildings, entrances, assembly areas, restrooms, service counters and drinking fountains accessible. Other provisions involve communication, grievance procedures, polling places, emergency management, and domestic violence programs.
More than 89,000 residents in Norfolk County, or 15 percent of residents, have a disability. Over 21 percent, or 18,166 residents, of Daviess County, have a disability, and more than 21 percent, or 2,297 residents, of the city of Madison have a disability.
Full Story: Department of Justice, Justice Department Signs Agreements in Massachusetts, Kentucky and Indiana to Ensure Civic Access for People with Disabilities, Press Release, July 26, 2011, available at
2. DOJ Sues Louisiana for Violating Voting Rights of Persons with Disabilities
On July 12, 2011, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit in federal court in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, alleging that state and some of its agencies and officials violated the National Voter Registration Act. The DOJ alleged that the state violated the law by failing to provide voter registration services at offices administering to residents on public assistance or state-funded programs serving people with disabilities.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in a statement that since the voting process begins with registration, it is essential that all citizens have access to registration. The DOJ is seeking a court order requiring the state and its agencies to comply with the National Voter Registration Act. Sharon Kleinpeter, spokesperson for the Louisiana Attorney General's office, declined to comment immediately.
Full Story: Margaret Cronin Fisk, Louisiana Violated Disabled Voter Rights, U.S. Says in Suit, July 12, 2011, available at
3. National Federation of the Blind Conducts Successful Protests Across the Nation
On July 26, 2011, the National Federation of the Blind conducted successful protests across the nation to raise awareness about the practice of allowing Americans with disabilities to earn wages below the federal minimum wage. Twenty-one protests were held in 16 states, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming.
The protests were held on the twenty-first anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, at the district office locations of United States senators serving on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (the HELP Committee). The Committee is currently considering the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which would reauthorize the payment of below-minimum wages to workers with disabilities. The HELP Committee was scheduled to consider WIA on August 3, but the vote was postponed until after Congress's August recess.
WIA contains language which will reauthorize the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. Although the Rehabilitation Act aims to aid Americans with disabilities to obtain competitive employment, Title V, Section 511 of the proposed Rehabilitation Act reinforces Section 14(c) of the 1938 Fair Labor Act (FLSA) which allows certain entities to pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage.
Full Story: National Federation of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind Conducts Successful Protests Across the Nation, Press Release, July 27, 2011, available at
See Also: Michelle Diament, Disability Legislation on Hold as Congress Nears Recess, Aug. 2, 2011, available at
4. Boston Residents Sue Health Agency for Failure to Comply with ADA
On July 26, 2011, Boston residents with disabilities and the Boston-based Disability Policy Consortium filed a suit in United States District Court, alleging that MassHealth violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide written forms in Braille or other electronic forms, failing to use American Sign Language, and failing to list phone numbers to aid persons with hearing impairments on the agency's website. MassHealth is a state agency that provides health care to over a million people with low incomes. In the complaint, several plaintiffs alleged that because MassHealth sent them inaccessible forms, they had their health care canceled or suspended.
Jennifer Kritz, a spokesperson for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said the administration was examining the lawsuit but had not yet fully reviewed the complaint and could not yet comment. Bill Allan, Executive Director of the Disability Policy Consortium, stated that the Commonwealth had ignored the issue for years and that cost of compliance should not be an issue.
Full Story: David Abel, Disabled Sue State Agency for Forms, July 27, 2011, available at
5. DOJ Obtains Agreement with Delaware to Reform Mental Health System
On July 6, 2011, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had entered into a comprehensive agreement with the state of Delaware to resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) within the state's mental health system. The agreement will ensure that individuals with disabilities can exercise their right under the ADA and the Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C. to receive services in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. The DOJ began its investigation of Delaware's state hospital in 2008, and in 2010 began to focus the investigation on ADA violations throughout the mental health system. The state cooperated with the DOJ to negotiate an agreement resolving the alleged violations.
The agreement expands community mental health services to treat people with severe and persistent mental illnesses in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. Over the next five years, Delaware will expand its crisis services, including a hotline, crisis walk-in centers, mobile crisis teams, crisis apartments and short term crisis stabilization programs, which will prevent unnecessary hospitalization. Delaware will also provide assertive community treatment teams, intensive case management, and targeted case management to individuals living in the community who need support. Under the agreement, the state will also offer scattered-site supported housing to everyone targeted by the agreement who needs such support. Finally, Delaware will offer supported employment, rehabilitation services and peer and family supports.
Full Story: Department of Justice Obtains Comprehensive Agreement Regarding the State of Delaware's Mental Health System, Department of Justice Press Room, July 6, 2011, available at
6. DOJ Reaches Settlement to Ensure Equal Opportunity for Children with Autism
On June 28, 2011, the Department of Justice announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Beach Babies Learning Center, LLC, located in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The agreement resolves allegations that the center terminated the enrollment of a two-year-old child because the child has autism, in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After a comprehensive medical history and examination, a pediatrician confirmed that the child was healthy and could participate in the programs at the center. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, including autism, in early education and child care centers. Under Title III, private early learning and child care providers must make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures to allow children with disabilities to participate in early learning services. Providers must permit changes in schedules to accommodate early intervention services by outside therapists as long as they do not cause a fundamental alteration of the services.
Under the agreement, the center agreed to implement policies to ensure that children with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in the center's programs. The center will also post a nondiscrimination policy at its facility and on its website, and will pay monetary damages to the child's parents. U.S. Attorney David B. Fein stated that the U.S. Attorney's Office is committed to ensuring equal access to public and private early learning centers for every child.
Full Story: Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Connecticut Early Learning Center to Ensure Equal Opportunity for Children with Autism, Department of Justice Press Room, June 28, 2011, available at
7. Deaf 7-Eleven Employee Awarded $934,000 in Discrimination Suit after Being Fired
A U.S. District Court jury in Fort Myers found that 7-Eleven violated the Florida Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it fired Jim Soliday, a deaf employee, after removing his accommodations. The 58-year-old former employee supervised nearly a dozen 7-Eleven stores by using a fax machine to transfer and review data and text pagers to communicate with managers, field consultants, market managers and headquarters for 26 years. However, three years ago, a new boss altered the store's policy, prohibiting him from using texts and faxes, without which he could not perform his job, as a result of which he was fired. He requested a Blackberry, which were provided to managers, but was told that he would have to pay for the device and the monthly charges himself and managers refused to answer his texts.
The jury found that 7-Eleven unreasonably refused to accommodate Soliday, as required by law, and fired him based on his disability. The jury awarded Soliday $178,000 for lost wages and benefits and $756,000 for emotional pain and suffering. In addition, if Judge John Steele grants Soliday's motion for $675,000 in future wages, his total award will exceed $1.6 million. 7-Eleven will most likely file an appeal.
Full Story: Aisling Swift, Deaf 7-Eleven Manager Who Was Fired Awarded $934,000 in Discrimination Suit, June 24, 2011, available at
1. Discussion Surrounding the Legal Requirements of Schools for the Deaf
In a recent online discussion on the necessity of state schools for the deaf in the U.S., Perry Zirkle, a professor of Education and Law at Lehigh University weighed in on the legal connotations behind this argument. Professor Zirkle disregards the moral implications of this argument and contends that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), there is no obligation to provide a separate state school for a deaf child who "could be mainstreamed." While this may be a cut-and-dried issue in some respects, in reality, the key to determining whether a child with a hearing impairment is entitled to a separate and specialized school comes down to whether he or she can receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. It has been found that, under the IDEA, in situations where a child is not receiving a FAPE and the child’s parents wish to find the child a different school, the new school does not need to be in the state where that child resides and the school does not need to be a specified state school for the deaf.
Full Story: Perry A. Zirkle, Do States Need Schools for the Deaf?- What the Law Requires, The New York Times, Aug. 1, 2011, available at
2. MA Politicians Join Disability Advocates in Supporting New Disability Legislation
Massachusetts Senators Katherine Clark and Steven Tolman joined Representative Tom Sannicandro as well as many disability self-advocates and their allies in supporting new legislation that hopes to provide employment and independent living opportunities for individuals with disabilities. On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, the group presented Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick with a 100-foot petition that includes more than 1,000 signatures from supporters advocating on behalf of this new legislation that will push for "federally mandated special education planning and services essential for a successful transition to the adult world" for students with disabilities. This bill would provide optional advanced training for educators who choose to concentrate on employment and independent living skills for Massachusetts students with disabilities between the ages of 14-22.
The House bill is titled H. 159, An Act to promote the successful transition of students with disabilities to post-secondary education, employment, and independent living.
Full Story: Marcia Dick, Clark Joins Fight for Youth with Disabilities, Boston Globe, June 24, 2011, available at
3. Parents of Students with Autism Sue Philadelphia School District
Four parents of students with autism have filed a class action suit alleging that the Philadelphia School District is illegally moving children to different schools exclusively because of their disability. This transfer of students is mandated by the Automatic Autism Transfer Policy, which requires students with autism to change schools at the end of third and fifth grade. Students without autism do not have to make this change. The plaintiff parents ask that this transfer policy be overturned, particularly because the school districts do not prepare the children for such a transition, which can be difficult for any student, but particularly challenging for students with autism. The suit was filed on Monday, June 20, 2011 in federal court; plaintiffs claim that the district violated state and federal law by transferring students simply because they are autistic.
Full Story:Kristen A. Graham,4 Parents of Autistic Children Sue Philly District, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 20, 2011, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. Car for Blind Drivers in Development
A car designed for use by blind drivers is currently in development by Dennis Hong, the engineer and scientist founding director of RoMeLa: Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory. The car uses alternative methods of providing the driver with the necessary information. It is outfitted with cameras and laser range finders to detect the lanes of the road and surrounding vehicles and objects. The driver can control the car's steering with specially designed gloves, and a chair that provides feedback regarding the vehicle's speed and recommended actions for use of the brake and gas pedals. Mr. Hong addressed various issues regarding the system, and whether it would provide sufficient information to make the system safe. He compared it to our trust of airplane autopilot, noting that with diligent engineering it would be as safe as or safer than current vehicles. The current progress of autonomous vehicles was also mentioned. These cars do not require any driver input, and the sensor technologies used are very similar to the non-visual user interfaces used by Mr. Hong.
Full Story: Dennis Hong, Why We Made a Car for Blind Drivers, CNN.com, July 17, 2011, available at
2. New Reports on Closed Captioning and Emergency Access for People with Disabilities
The Federal Communications Commission accepted two reports in July 2011 produced by the Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC) and the Emergency Access Advisory Committee (EAAC) respectively. The two committees were established in accordance with the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, and have been in existence since December 2010. VPAAC's report dealt with the use of closed captioning for television shows streamed over the internet, and focused on how such a system could be standardized and implemented. The EAAC was established to advance equal access to emergency services for persons with disabilities. The EAAC conducted a national survey on this topic, and the report contains an in depth review and analysis of the results.
Full Story: Two Reports of Advisory Committees on Disabilities Issues Released, Federal Communications Commission, July 22, 2011, available at
3. SoftStep Keyworx Offers Foot-Operated Computing
On June 21, 2011, Keith McMillen Instruments (KMI) of Berkeley, California launched SoftStep KeyWorx, a foot-controlled computer input device that is compatible with the Mac and PC operating systems. The SoftStep KeyWorx controller features ten large keys which can be programmed for up to 100 different tasks, including entering text, accessing the Internet, zooming, opening and closing programs, and controlling volume. To replace the standard mouse, the device also features a four-way directional keypad for cursor movement and click control.
KMI is billing the product as the first of its kind, and it says the device will improve computer access and speed for people with disabilities, programmers, record producers, video editors, those with repetitive stress syndrome, and anyone seeking a faster way to use their computer. Jane Berliss-Vincent of the Center for Accessible Technology called SoftStep KeyWorx "a revolutionary new access tool for people with disabilities," noting that its customizability enables it to serve a wide range of users. SoftStep KeyWorx weighs only one pound and sells for about $290.
Full Story: Barry White, KMI Introduces Foot-Operated Computer Interface, News 10, June 21, 2011, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Disability Benefits Continue on Schedule Despite Debt Deal
On August 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama signed last-minute legislation to prevent the nation from default, Social Security officials announced that disability benefits will be paid on time. President Obama had cautioned that Social Security payments, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for persons with disabilities might be endangered absent an agreement to raise the nation's borrowing limit. The deal arrived just in time to ensure that August benefits would go out.
The deal could still have negative consequences for persons with disabilities, however. Under the agreement, Medicaid and other benefit programs will not be cut initially, but a bipartisan committee will establish a plan by the end of the year to reduce spending by a further $1.5 trillion. Disability advocates, such as Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, are concerned that entitlement programs may factor into this plan. Berns remarked that "[t]he Medicaid lifeline … that help[s] ensure incusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in society, are still at stake."
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Debt Deal Leaves Disability Benefits Unscathed for Now, Aug. 3, 2011, available at
2. Secretary of Health and Human Services Announces Federal Disability Initiatives
On July 26, 2011, Kathleen Sebellius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, released a statement to review advances made in disability rights in the 21 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed and to announce new initiatives. Sebellius noted that while the ADA removed barriers in housing, the workplace, schools, telecommunications, and public transportation, it failed to address discrimination in the health insurance market. She assured that the Affordable Care Act would accomplish this goal. Under this law insurers can no longer turn away children because they are born with a disability or put arbitrary lifetime caps on benefits that prevent individuals with disabilities from receiving care. Sebellius also stated that through the law the government is currently working with states to make it easier for Americans with disabilities to obtain supports and services in a community setting.
The Secretary made several announcements to "improve opportunity" for Americans with disabilities. The Administration on Aging allocated $1.1 million to six new states for the Lifespan Respite Care Program. The HHS Advisory Committee on Minority Health released a report on health equity for minority people with disabilities. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will award $2.1 million to four states to pursue innovative strategies to aid people with disabilities transition from institutions to community living. Finally, regulations for the Affordable Insurance Exchange, which include accessibility standards for those who use assistive technology, are open for public comment until September 28th.
The draft regulations may be found at:
Full Story: Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Heath and Human Services, Statement by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, News Release, July 26, 2011, available at
3. Data Show Higher Disability Risks for Adopted Children
Data from a report released July 6, 2011, suggests that adopted children may be three times more likely than children raised by their biological parents to develop physical and mental health disabilities. The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics report found that almost 45 percent of children between ages 12 and 17 years who were adopted from foster care homes developed moderate to severe health problems, compared with 14 percent of all youths in the age group. The most common conditions found were learning disabilities like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Attention deficit disorder affected 20 percent of children adopted out of foster care, and 16 percent had behavior and conduct problems. Seven percent of children adopted from foster homes had bone and muscle problems, compared with 1 percent of all children.
The United States spends $8 billion a year on programs that help states care for homeless children. The most common reasons for entry into a foster home are neglect and abuse. Nearly 3 percent, or 1.8 million, children are adopted. The annual number of adoptions has doubled to 50,000 a year since 1997, according to Laura Radel, one of the study's researchers.
Full Story: Oliver Renick, Bloomberg News, Higher Disability Risk for Adopted Kids, Data Show, San Francisco Gate, July 8, 2011, available at
1. Pepsi Implements "Preventive Measures" as Part of Disability Discrimination Settlement
On August 2, 2011, the Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc., agreed to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). According to the EEOC, the lawsuit arose when the Pepsi Bottling Group terminated Eldridge Davis, a driver at its Hayward, California, facility for "job abandonment and violation of the company attendance policy," when he could not finish his route because of panic attacks resulting from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Pepsi terminated Davis despite the fact that he followed proper procedure by informing his supervisor that he was taking medical leave.
The Pepsi Bottling Group agreed to pay $120,000 to settle, and will also be implementing "preventive measures" to settle the lawsuit. Under the terms of the consent decree settling the suit, Pepsi agreed to implement a training program on anti-discrimination laws for employees, to post a notice describing the terms of the settlement at the Hayward facility, and provide other injunctive relief.
Full Story: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Pepsi Settles EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit, Aug. 2, 2011, available at
See Also: Bob Egelko, PTSD Victim Wins Suit Against Pepsi, The San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 3, 2011, available at
2. Fortune 500 Companies Adopt Inclusive Employment Model
Two major Fortune 500 companies are making efforts to incorporate innovative "Inclusive Employment Models," which make hiring people with physical and developmental disabilities a corporate initiative. The Walgreens drug store chain recently initiated efforts to proactively employ people with disabilities, adapting work environments to ensure that people with disabilities work side-by-side with the rest of the workforce, earn the same wages, and are held to the same standards. Earlier this year, Walgreens Senior Vice President Randy Lewis spoke at a U.S. Senate hearing, telling lawmakers that Walgreens had seen greater efficiency and an improved work environment since instituting its inclusive employment model.
Following the success of Walgreens' corporate effort, Fortune 500 company Proctor & Gamble initiated its own inclusive workforce model, opening a packaging facility in Auburn, Maine, where at least 30 percent of employees will be people with physical or developmental disabilities. The new Proctor & Gamble facility will employ 60 individuals, and if the inclusion model is successful the company plans to consider expanding the initiative.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Inclusive Employment Model Gains Steam, Disability Scoop, Aug. 4, 2011, available at
3. Target Agrees to Pay $160,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit
On July 5, 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that Target Corporation agreed to pay $160,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC. The EEOC charged that Target refused to provide a reasonable accommodation for a cart attendant with cerebral palsy at its Foothill Ranch store in Orange County, California. The employee was hired in 2002 as a part-time stocker, and by 2003 had been dubbed "Target Hero of the Month" and transferred to a cart attendant position at his request. The employee was able to perform the essential functions of the job with the accommodation of a job coach, but Target failed to provide this accommodation during work-related activities and job performance meetings. Following a 2004 medical leave of absence due to a seizure, the employee's work hours were dramatically decreased, which led to the lawsuit.
The EEOC alleged that Target's conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The parties ultimately entered into a three-year consent decree, where Target is required to designate an ADA coordinator in its corporate-level human resources department, and must implement a company-wide policy regarding requests for reasonable accommodations. Target also agreed to train executive team leaders and employees on handling requests for reasonable accommodations. As part of the settlement, Target will also submit reports to the EEOC regarding complaints of disability discrimination occurring within the corporate district where this lawsuit arose.
Full Story: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Target to Pay $160,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit, July 5, 2011, available at
4. Verizon Pays Record $20 Million to Settle Employment Discrimination Case
On July 6, 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that Verizon Communications had agreed to pay $20 million to settle a nationwide lawsuit regarding unlawful policies towards employees with disabilities. Twenty-four Verizon subsidiaries were named in the suit, for having reportedly disciplined or fired over 100 employees after unlawfully denying them reasonable accommodations. Many of these employees were fired after requesting more time off than was allowed by the company's leave policies, after which Verizon fired them pursuant to its "no fault" attendance policies. The "no fault" policies provide a cap on absences, and the company refused to make exceptions for workers with disabilities who needed the extra time as a reasonable accommodation. The settlement also included clear guidance from the EEOC outlining when additional leave is a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Full Story: Stephanie Armour, Verizon Pays Record $20 Million to End U.S. Disability Case, Bloomberg, July 6, 2011, available at
See Also: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Verizon to Pay $20 Million to Settle Nationwide EEOC Disability Suit, July 6, 2011, available at
1. Nonprofit for People with Disabilities Criticized for Use of Medicaid Funds
An August 2, 2011, investigatory report from the New York Times highlighted potentially illegal handling of funds by the New York City-based nonprofit Young Adult Institute Network (YAI), an organization providing group homes and other programs to people with developmental disabilities. The nonprofit faces questions about million-dollar salaries for executives, perks such as luxury cars for executives and college tuitions for their children, and other unusual expenses. The YAI receives over 95% percent of its funding from Medicaid, along with other government programs (over $1 billion dollars over the last decade), and is the largest operator of group homes in New York State.
At the end of June, YAI's top two executives--brothers Joel and Philip Levy--resigned facing scrutiny for exorbitant salaries and expenses potentially funded by Medicaid, including paying for Philip Levy's daughter to buy an apartment in New York's Greenwich Village. The New York Times cites trends of lax oversight by state officials as a contributing factor to the controversy with YAI.
Full Story: Russ Beuttner, Reaping Millions in Nonprofit Care for Disabled, New York Times, Aug. 2, 2011, available at
See Also: Michelle Diament, Group Home Execs Pay Nearly $1 Million Each, Disability Scoop, Aug. 2, 2011, available at
2. Department of Housing and Urban Development Announces New Accessibility Training
On July 26, 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced its "Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST" training program for 2011-2012. The Accessibility FIRST Program offers training and technical guidance for architects and builders, helping them to comply with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act requires certain features of accessible design in all residential buildings with four or more units. Examples of "accessible design" features include: accessible routes, wider doors, and kitchens and bathrooms that are wheelchair accessible.
HUD launched the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST program in 2003 with the intention of promoting compliance with the Fair Housing Act's accessible design and construction requirements. The program consists of a no-fee comprehensive training curriculum and offers a technical guidance resource center for the public. Classes for the 2011-2012 program began on August 22 at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity receives more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints a year, about 48 percent of which involve discrimination on the basis of disability.
Full Story: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD Announces Fair Housing Accessibility Training, July, 26, 2011, available at
3. HUD Suggests $26 Billion Public Housing Repairs and Accessibility Improvements
On June 24, 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a study demonstrating that the nation's 1.2 million public housing units need an estimated $25.6 billion for large scale repairs. The study updated a 1998 analysis, and includes estimated costs to address, among other things, overdue repairs and accessibility improvements for residents with disabilities.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has proposed initiatives to address this repair and improvement backlog, including the Choice Neighborhoods and the Rental Assistance Demonstration programs. Choice Neighborhoods provides grant funding to demolish and redevelop public and assisted housing, while Rental Assistance Demonstration seeks to address the backlog by allowing private investment. Both programs are part of a comprehensive strategy proposed by the Obama administration meant to offer long term solutions to preserving and enhancing affordable housing opportunities.
Full Story: Donna White, New Housing and Urban Development Study: $26 Billion in Major Repairs Needed in Public Housing, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, June 24, 2011, available at
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS
1. Colorado as a Case Study in Emergency Preparedness for Diverse Populations
Over the last few years The Colorado Emergency Response Division has bettered its ability to adequately prepare for emergencies in a way that included everyone, including people with disabilities and people who speak different languages. Problems initially identified included language barriers, lack of understanding and institutional lingo between the various state, federal, and local emergency management agencies and planners, and the allocation of limited resources. Colorado "preparedness communities" were established, and several local meetings with interested people and organizations were held. The unique perspectives and needs of the individual communities were specifically taken into account, and the exercise of forming personal relationships formed between all of the parties was crucial to establish the trust and communication necessary for a successful preparedness plan. The local agencies preferred to be asked what they needed rather than told, and communities wished to be involved in the emergency planning process from the beginning, rather than only being joined in midway through implementation.
Full Story: Rachel Coles, How Colorado Develops Preparedness with Diverse Populations, Emergency Management, July 14, 2011, available at
2. New Rehabilitation Clinic Being Built in Haiti
Construction on a state of the art rehabilitation clinic for persons with disabilities in Haiti began in May 2011 and is expected to open in early 2012. This facility is intended to help all persons requiring physical therapy or any of the other "disciplines related to rehabilitation medicine, including prosthetics and orthotics." The facility has been funded with $1.8 million provided by the American Red Cross, and will be managed by the organization Healing Hands for Haiti. Both the Australian and Norwegian Red Cross organizations are also providing support through the Special Fund for the Disabled. It is being built on a two-acre plot to ensure adequate space and will include training areas so that local clinicians will eventually take over the site. The clinic will make about 200 prostheses per year and plans to handle over 6,000 physical therapy visits per year.
Full Story: A Clinic Rises, Offering Hope to Disabled Haitians, The American Red Cross, July 1, 2011, available at
1. EU Refuses to Fund Reconstruction of Institutions Segregating People with Disabilities in Serbia
On July 28, 2011, a week of intense negotiations came to an end. A wide network of human rights and disability groups, under the direction of the Serbian Mental Disability Rights Initiative, finally succeeded in getting the European Union to back down from funding the reconstruction of six institutions for people with disabilities in Serbia.
This important victory against segregation resulted in the redrafting of the $7.3 million project to instead support the creation of community services in Serbia that will allow children and adults to leave institutions and live in the community.
The decision recognizes that no amount of renovations to institutions can solve the core human rights abuses being perpetrated within them, and that fixing buildings cosmetically is not the answer. In this case providing choices equal to others for those with disabilities started with the demand that the EU enforce the rights outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Full Story: Historic Victory Against Segregation in Serbia, Disability Rights International, July 28, 2011, available at
2. New Six-Billion Disability Insurance Program to be Launched in Australia
On August 3, 2011, Australia's independent research and advisory board, the Productivity Commission, unveiled a new multi-billion dollar insurance initiative targeting the nation's people with disabilities. Responding to gaps in the insurance industry, the proposed changes are hailed as the largest social reform since the advent of Medicare.
The local government will be responsible for setting up and staffing an insurance agency which will oversee the program. Six billion dollars is to be used to provide high-quality, long-term care for those who have significant disabilities regardless of the origin of the disability.
The Victoria region has been chosen for the pilot insurance plan, which begins in 2014, and is to be funded by Commonwealth revenue as opposed to drawing on taxes levied on residents. Pending the results of the initial testing, the program may be expanded beyond the borders of Victoria as soon as 2015.
Full Story: New Disability Insurance Program to be Launched in Australia, Disability News Asia, Aug. 3, 2011, available at
3. America Provides Support for Persons with Disabilities in Lao PDR
On July 26th, 2011, U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR signed a $1.4 million agreement to provide improved orthotic services for people with disabilities. The money, from the USAID Patrick Leahy War Victims Fund, will support the development of the Lao Rehabilitation Program through the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE).
Health clinicians based at National and Provincial Rehabilitation Centres will work with a COPE Orthotist Mentor to develop best practices for design and prescription of components, write treatment protocols for best practice approaches to patient services, and become more informed with better data from greater patient feedback and statistical references.
Over the span of 36 months, the project will commit to three major intervention areas: identification of appropriate orthotic components; improving current orthotic training and training materials; and building capacity of orthopedic workshops to increase production.
Full Story: America Provides Support for Persons with Disabilities in Lao PDR, July 30, 2011, available at
4. Canadian Website Launched with Accessibility Program to Encourage Tourism
On June 27th, 2011, Quality Tourism Services, Inc., (QTS) launched accessadvisor.ca, a program funded by the Canadian federal and provincial governments to promote, educate, and advance the tourism industry on Prince Edward Island. It advises businesses and communities on accessibility services and provisions. It aims to ensure that accommodations are available regardless of physical limitations. QTS offers operators the resources to categorize and promote their business or location using four accessibility designations -- limited accessibility, fully mobile accessibility, sight accessibility, and hearing accessibility.
Full Story: Federal and Provincial Governments Support Accessibility Program for Business and Community Facilities, Canada Views, June 27, 2011, available at
5. Ukraine to Amend Legislation to Promote Rights of Persons with Disabilities
On July 5th, 2011, Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, supported by an overwhelming majority a bill on amendments to some legislative acts on the rights of people with disabilities. The bill will bring national legislation on the rights of people with disabilities in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Laws will be amended so that the terms "disability" and "disabled person" are defined under new wording on the basis of a social rather than a medical model of disability.
The bill aims to promote the development of sign language. In fact the draft law defines sign language as a natural language of persons with hearing disorders and advocates training employees of the social protection of the public so that they can obtain the required skills in sign language. The bill also establishes that educational institutions render educational services to persons with disabilities at an equal level to other persons, through ensuring proper staff and technical provisions.
Full Story: Ukraine to Bring Its Legislation in Line with UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Disability News Asia, July, 07, 2011, available at
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