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
October 30, 2013
Volume 10, 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.
I. MISCELLANEOUS: News and topics may vary
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Amtrak Stations Cited for Accessibility Problems
An October 2013 report from the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) found that many Amtrak stations across the United States are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The NDRN discovered accessibility issues at 89 of 94 train stations surveyed across 25 states and the District of Columbia. Accessibility issues identified include inaccessibility of restrooms, missing ramps and elevators, ticket counters that were too high for people using wheelchairs, missing visual displays of train station announcements, and more. Curt Decker, the executive director of NDRN, said that "Amtrak's negligence goes beyond simply ignoring the Americans with Disabilities Act, but demonstrates a deliberate disregard for passengers with disabilities."
This is especially concerning given the growing number of Amtrak passengers with disabilities. As of June 2013, ridership among those with disabilities rose 20% from the previous fiscal year. Amtrak reportedly is working to make its stations more accessible. Despite improvements to 200 stations over the last four years, Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman stated, "we are not satisfied with our pace of progress on accessibility." One impediment standing in the way of more improvements is that Amtrak does not own a large percentage of the train stations it services. However, Boardman reported that Amtrak will work with station owners to make improvements.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Amtrak Stations Cited for Accessibility Problems, Disability Scoop, Oct. 17, 2013, available at
See Also: National Disability Rights Network, All Aboard (Except for People with Disabilities), NDRN.org, October 16, 2013, available at
2. California Bill Expands Services for People with Developmental Disabilities
On October 9, the California governor signed Senate Bill 468 into law. The bill requires the creation of a self-determination option for people with developmental disabilities in the state's 21 regional service centers. The regional centers provide services and assistive technology to help adults with developmental disabilities live independently in the community. The new bill will provide consumers and their families obtaining these services with an individual budget and enable them to work with an independent facilitator and financial manager. This will allow the consumer to select which services and supports work best for them with more creativity and flexibility.
The Autism Society of Los Angeles and Disability Rights California co-sponsored the bill, which will be implemented over the next three years. Judy Mark, a board member of Disability Rights California, stated that the "new law creates an important option for regional center consumers" that will lead to "increased choices and services options."
Full Story: Disability Rights California, Governor Signs DRC Sponsored Bill 468 Expanding Choices and Flexible Services for People with Developmental Disabilities, Oct. 10, 2013, available at
See Also: California Legislative Information, Senate Bill No. 468, Oct. 9, 2013, available at
3. Inmate Can Sue State for Failure to Accommodate Disability
On September 24th, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that William Castle, an inmate in the Arizona Department of Corrections, could sue the state over their failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Castle was contracted out to a private company, which failed to provide an accommodation for his ankle injury. Castle was prohibited from suing Eurofresh, the private company, because he was not an employee. The Court upheld Castle's suit against the state ruling that Arizona could not "contract away their obligation to comply with federal discrimination law." The case was remanded to district court to resolve the issue of whether discrimination occurred under the ADA.
Full Story: Pei Li, Inmate Can Sue State for Failure to Accommodate Disability in Prison Labor, Sept. 24, 2013, Cronkite News, available at
See Also: Castle v. Eurofresh, 2013 WL 5312565 (9th Cir. 2013), available at
1. New High School Graduation Credential Offered in New York State
In July 2013, the New York state Board of Regents discontinued the Individualized Education Program diploma for students with disabilities. The Board created a new credential to be offered as of the present (2013-14) school year called the Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential. The new credential allows students to complete a career plan that demonstrates to their potential employers the student's technical knowledge and work-related skills. Under the new guidelines, the student must choose their career, state their employment goals, and identify their career-related strengths and needs.
According to the New York state Department of Education, most students with disabilities in New York will be able to graduate with the CDOS Commencement Credential "as a supplement to their regular diploma". Students with disabilities who are unable to earn a regular diploma may graduate with the CDOS Commencement Credential as the only exiting credential.
Full Story: Joe Gentile, School Board Amends District's Special Education Diplomas, Register Star, Oct. 5, 2013, available at
See Also: James P. DeLorenzo, New York State Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential, NYSEd.gov: Special Education, June 2013, available at
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
1. New App Allows Persons with Disabilities to Map Cities Based on Accessibility
Recently, filmmaker Jason DaSilva developed AXS Map, an app for persons with mobility impairments, which allows them to rate businesses for their accessibility. DaSilva hopes that this app will make cities more accessible by spreading knowledge of accessible businesses and creating incentives for businesses to become more accessible through these ratings.
AXS Map functions as a crowdsourcing platform and shares global reviews and ratings of businesses based on accessibility features. The app uses Google Maps and functions similar to Yelp, in that it allows users to rate several features of accessibility and then averages an accessibility score for the business. This app will allow persons with mobility issues to locate those businesses that are accessible without having to encounter any physical barriers themselves.
Full story: Mia Tramz, Wheelchair (In)accessible: The Story Behind an App That Maps Obstacles for the Disabled, Time.com, Oct. 14, 2013, available at
2. Hearing Loss Association of America and AMC Theatres Reach Accessibility Agreement
On October 10, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) announced that they reached an agreement with AMC Theatres (AMC) to provide personal closed captioning systems at all of its 24 theatres in New York State in the next year. This agreement is designed to improve access to movies for patrons who are deaf or hearing impaired.
AMC is currently installing these personal closed captioning systems nationally as the company converts to digital cinema. The personal closed captioning system captions "the dialogue, narration, musical cues, key sound effects, speaker identification and other auditory information, in the form of written text for guests who have significant difficulty hearing the movie soundtrack." As of October 10, around 25% of the AMC Theatre screens in New York State had personal closed captioning equipment.
Full story: Hearing Loss Association of America and AMC Theatres® Reach Landmark Agreement to Dramatically Improve Access to Movies for Millions of Patrons with Hearing Loss in New York State, Businesswire.com, Oct. 10, 2013, available at
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS
1. Autism Often Misdiagnosed in Children with Genetic Condition
On September 18th, the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders published a study suggesting that the autism and the 22q11.2 (22q) deletion syndrome are not related. DiGeorge Syndrome, or 22q, is a syndrome arising at conception that is caused by the absence of part of chromosome 22. Individuals with 22q represent about 0.025% of the general population. Social awkwardness, anxiety, developmental delay, and low IQ are common symptoms of children with 22q. Common social impairments with children who have 22q are being mistakenly misdiagnosed as having autism. However, of the children with 22q who were tested, results indicated that none was on the autism spectrum. Previously, 50% of those with 22q were thought to have autism.
As noted in last month's newsletter regarding Latino children and autism, this study demonstrates that a greater focus and accuracy is necessary to properly identify and treat children with autism and similar conditions.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Autism Often Misdiagnosed in Kids with Genetic Condition, Disability Scoop, Sept. 19, 2013, available at
See Also: Kathleen Angkustiri et al., Social Impairment in Chromosome 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome: Autism Spectrum Disorder or a Different Endophenotype? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Sept. 18, 2013, available at
2. More Rely on Social Security Disability Benefits in a Rough Economy
Many once employed persons with disabilities have lost their jobs because of the poor economic climate since the recession hit in 2007. For instance, in Millinocket, Maine, the number of people in this area receiving Social Security disability benefits increased from 4,475 to 7,955 between 2000 and 2012. This upward trend in those receiving benefits is a nationwide trend. The Social Security disability program is funded by the Social Security payroll tax and over $135 billion was paid out in 2012. With the increase in new recipients, lawmakers in Congress are concerned that the program is being stretched too far and that benefits are paid to ineligible recipients. "The Social Security disability program has become an economic option for many people," notes economist and former commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, John Dorrer.
However, many former employees still want to work; they simply need accommodations. According to Daniel W. Emery, a disability lawyer in South Portland, Maine, the problem is that, "employers are less apt to make accommodations when the economy is down." As the baby boomer generation is moving closer to retirement it is only natural that physical and mental impairments will develop, making them eligible for disability benefits. But with consecutive years of the program paying out more than received by the payroll tax, it is estimated that funds will be exhausted by 2016.
Full story: Michael A. Fletcher, U.S. Disability Rolls Swell in a Rough Economy, Sept. 20, 2013, available at
1. ADA Decision May Signal Broadening of Accommodation Provision
On September 16, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that accommodations under ADA Title I are not limited to job modifications that enable an employee to perform essential job functions. The plaintiff has osteoarthritis of the knee and was an attorney with the Louisiana Department of Justice. Feist requested free on-site parking as an accommodation and her employer refused. The Fifth Circuit overruled the district court, which had held employers only had to provide accommodations that are related to the essential functions of a job.
Looking to the text of the ADA and its regulations, the Fifth Circuit held that there was no indication that an accommodation had to assist in performance of the essential functions of a job, although it frequently has been interpreted in that manner. The Title I regulations state that an accommodation may include modifications that allow an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges with that of co-workers without disabilities. The case may indicate a willingness of courts in future cases to broaden the scope of accommodations under the ADA.
Full Story: Danielle Barbour Wilson & David L. Woodward, Recent Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Decision Might Signal Broadening the ADA's Accommodation Provisions, The National Law Review, October 1, 2013, available at
See also: Eric L. Sussman, Fifth Circuit Rules that ADA Does Not Require Nexus between Requested Accommodation and Essential Functions of a Job, September 18, 2013, available at
See Also: Feist v. Louisiana, 2013 WL 5178846 (5th Cir. 2013), available at
2. New York City Now Requires Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers
On October 2nd, Mayor Bloomberg signed an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law into law, which will become effective on January 30, 2014, to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers of employers with more than four employees. Employers will have to provide written notice to existing and newly hired employees regarding their pregnancy rights.
This amendment will provide protections that neither Title VII or the American Disabilities Act offer by entitling eligible women to accommodations such as, "bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, and assistance with manual labor." Similar to the defenses under the ADA, under this amendment employers have the option to argue undue hardship and/or that even with the accommodation the employee would not be able to perform the essential functions of the job.
Full Story: Christopher J. Collins & Jonathan Sokolowski, New York City Now Requires Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers, The National Law Review, Oct. 3, 2013, available at
1. Disney Continues Work on Disability Access Policy
On October 9th, Disney Theme Parks will be implementing their new policy and new pass for persons with disabilities. This pass, the Disability Access Service Card, will allow for people with disabilities to not wait in lines at the amusement parks. This policy replaces an older, and generally "abused and exploited," Guest Assistance Card. In addition to the new pass, Disney will be offering a "Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities," explaining how persons with cognitive disabilities can best enjoy the parks.
Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, said, "Our commitment to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all our guests has not changed. We have long recognized that people may have different needs, and we will continue to work individually with our guests with disabilities to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances."
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Despite Pushback, Disney Firms Up New Disability Access Policy, Disability Scoop, Oct. 7, 2013, available at
2. New Independent Living Options for Those on the Autism Spectrum
On October 9th, the New York Times reported a new trend appearing for those living with autism: group homes that support independent living. Recent studies continue to show that people on the autism spectrum generally do not live independently, and that they are not likely to find employment. These new living possibilities, dubbed "Full Spectrum Housing," look to turn that statistic around and have been an encouraging new housing option for adults with autism.
Contrasting the grim outlook on many other housing facilities, these "Full Spectrum Housing" options exist to inspire independence and "life with purpose." The residents have chosen to move there and who their housemates will be. Each tenant is required to sign a 12-month lease and pay monthly rent and association fees. In addition the housing features autism-friendly features such as nontoxic building materials to reduce reactions to sensory irritants, oversized kitchen counters to promote cooking and dining together, and bedrooms that do not share common walls to prevent noise annoyance.
Full Story: Michael Tortorello, The Architecture of Autism, The New York Times, Oct. 9, 2013, available at
1. UN Holds First High-Level Disability Summit on Persons with Disabilities
On September 23, the United Nations held its first-ever, high-level meeting on disabilities. The goal of the summit was to encourage inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life. There are an estimated 1 billion persons with disabilities in the world.
"More than 800 representatives from disability organizations attended the meeting" and discussed the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The U.N. General Assembly adopted an outcome document that emphasized the need for accessibility and inclusion. Member states were encouraged to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a step toward inclusion for persons with disabilities. To date, 158 countries have signed and 82 have ratified the Convention.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, In First, UN Holds High-Level Disability Summit, Disability Scoop, Sept. 24, 2013, available at
See Also: UN News, New Development Agenda Must Be Disability-Inclusive - UN High-Level Meeting, UN News Centre, Sept. 23, 2013, available at
2. UK Labour Party Introduces Disability Hate Crime Legislation
In late September, the Labour Party of the United Kingdom announced its Party's intention to introduce legislation creating a specific criminal charge for disability hate crimes. The rate of disability hate crimes in the UK has risen substantially since reporting began in 2009 and the Labour Party is concerned that victims are being ignored by the government. According to the Home Office, the ministerial department that addresses crime policy, approximately 65,000 disability hate crimes occur each year. Several government offices, including the Crown Prosecution Service and the National Probation Service, have reported that victims of disability hate crimes this year were not receiving the government aid they needed and many attacks were not recorded properly. However, these government offices are concerned whether the Labour Party can provide a "clear and uncomplicated definition" of a disability hate crime.
Full Story: Daniel Boffey, Labour to create new offence of disability hate crime, The Guardian.com, Sept. 21, 2013, available at
3. Care of Elderly Reduced to 15-Minute Visits from Caretakers
In late September, Care Minister Norman Lamb of the United Kingdom introduced an amendment to the Care Bill, which would require caretakers to focus more on an individual's well-being when organizing and providing care for someone. Presently the Care Bill addresses care and support for adults and caregivers, and helps prevent neglect or abuse. The amendment was made in response to a study conducted by Leonard Chesire Disability (LCD), a disability advocacy group, which revealed a 15% rise in the use of 15-minute visits by local authorities in the last five years. LCD argues that 60% of caretakers in England use 15-minute visits to the elderly, which do not provide them with a sufficient amount of care. The government states that these types of visits are "completely inappropriate" and inadequate for certain kinds of care, such as bathing or feeding.
Sally Lubanov, an individual who receives in-house care, stated that the government should not ban 15-minute visits entirely as they are useful for certain situations, such as when a caregiver needs to administer medicine. However, she warns that 15-minute visits "should never be the sole basis for care" but rather "as part of a wider comprehensive care plan involving longer one-to-one visits."
Full Story: BBC, "Disgraceful" Short Care Visits on Rise, Says Charity, BBC News.com, Oct. 7, 2013, available at
See Also: Leonard Chesire Disability, Ending 15-Minute Care, LCD, available at
See Also: Care Bill [HL] 2013-14, United Kingdom Parliament, available at
I. POP CULTURE
1. Project Runway's Justin LeBlanc and the Strength of Disability
This season of Lifetime network's reality show, Project Runway, showcased Justin LeBlanc, the first deaf contestant who is also a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. LeBlanc states, "Television is an incredible, powerful means of informing viewers that people with disabilities may be different from the norm but yet are still part of the team that we call society," and reminds audiences that "people with disabilities contribute to making society great."
While 12% of noninstitutionalized Americans are people with disabilities (PwD), only 1% of the regular characters seen on prime-time broadcast are scripted as PwD. There are even fewer characters on television shows who are both members of the LGBT community and PwD. LeBlanc further states, "I want people to be who they want to be and embrace it. I embrace myself as a deaf designer. It is who I am."
Full Story: Daniel Reynolds, Project Runway's Justin LeBlanc and the Strength of Disability, Advocate.com, Oct. 4, 2013,
See Also: Amirah Mercer, Project Runway Designer Justin LeBlanc on Fashion, Deafness, and the Power of Being Yourself, Policymic.com, Sept. 23, 2013, available at
2. Sins Invalid Promotes New Documentary - "Sins Invalid: An Unashamed Claim to Beauty"
On October 11 and 12, in Oakland, California, Sins Invalid presented performances centering on disabled artists of color, queer, and gender variant. Sins Invalid is a "disability justice based performance project that celebrates the power of disability, embodiment [and] sexuality to offer a vision of beauty that includes all bodies and communities." It is well-known for their "thought-provoking, radical, and multidisciplinary performances." Their work explores the themes of sexuality, embodiment, and the disabled body. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Sins Invalid was able to "document performances, behind the scenes footage and artist interviews in their eponymous, 32 minute film, which will be making its US preview next month." To celebrate the documentary, Sins Invalid threw a kickoff party at their "Crip Soiree," where the audience could interact with the performers to "really highlight the film itself."
Full Story: Toshio Meronek, Sins Invalid Crip Soiree and Speakeasy, Where'sLulu.com, Sept. 25, 2013, available at
See Also: Sins Invalid, An Unashamed Claim to Beauty in the Face of Invisibility, available at
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The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter is the collaborative product of Editor-in-Chief David W. Klein, Ph.D., Executive Editor William N. Myhill, M.Ed., J.D.; Senior Alessandra Baldini; and Associate Editors Douglas Curwin, Jenna Furman, Danielle Morrison, and Susan Schneider .
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