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
August 4, 2017
Volume 14, 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: ADA, Section 504, CRPD Ratification
B. WORKFORCE: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Vocational Rehabilitation
C. EDUCATION: Special Education, Youth Transition, Postsecondary Education, & Outcomes
D. HEALTHCARE: Access, Services, Benefits, and the Affordable Care Act
E. TECHNOLOGY: Assistive, Information, and Communication Technologies
F. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Disaster Preparation, Mitigation, and Response
G. INDEPENDENCE: Community Integration
H. INTERNATIONAL: Topics Outside the United States
I. POP CULTURE: News and Topics Vary
J. EVENTS AND FUNDING: Conferences, Calls for Proposals, Papers, and Presentations
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Disability Activists Stage Sit-In over Medicaid Cuts
Activists from ADAPT, a disability rights group, staged a sit-in from June 29 to July 1 in the office of Cory Gardner, the Republican Senator from Colorado. The protest was aimed at getting a meeting with the Senator over the new Republican healthcare bill, which would have a drastic impact on Medicaid. Gardner is one of a few Senators who publicly expressed that he has concerns about the bill. Despite this, he refused to meet with the protesters, many of whom were arrested on the third day of the protest.
Similar protests took place earlier in the week, with a high-profile one at Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's Washington office. More than 40 arrests were made across Washington, D.C., during peaceful protests by people with disabilities. However, they seem to have the desired effect, as Senator McConnell agreed to postpone the vote on the bill following the string of protests.
Full Story: Elyse Wanshel, Activists with Disabilities Would Rather Go to Jail Than "Die without Medicaid," Huffington Post, Jul. 1, 2017, available at
See Also: Daniella Diaz, Dozens Arrested after Disability Advocates Protest at McConnell's Office, CNN, Jun. 22, 2017, available at
2. Lawsuit over People with Disabilities' Right to Counsel in Utah Guardianship Cases
In 2016, Utah passed a law, set to expire in July 2018, eliminating the requirement of representation for adults with disabilities whose parents petition courts for guardianship. On July 6, the ACLU of Utah and Latham & Watkins sued the state in federal court on behalf of the Disability Law Center. Aaron Kinikini, the director of the Disability Law Center, stressed the importance of guaranteed legal protection during guardianship proceedings, because of the threat to freedom they pose.
The bill's co-sponsor Senator Lyle Hillyard worries that requiring an attorney for both parties will make the process too expensive and thus freeze guardianship applications. He argues that many parents are acting in their child's best interests when seeking a guardianship. However, John Mejia, ACLU of Utah legal director, points out that guardianship deprives people with disabilities from making their own decisions regarding things like housing and medical care.
Full Story: Dennis Romboy, ACLU Sues Utah over Disabled People's Right to a Lawyer in Guardianship Cases, Desert News Utah, Jul. 7, 2017, available at http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865684409/ACLU-sues-Utah-over-disabled-peoples-right-to-a-lawyer-in-guardianship-cases.html
1. Uber Introduces Limited Insurance for Drivers
In May, Uber partnered with OneBeacon and Aon to offer its drivers a limited form of insurance in case they are injured on the job. Uber is offering the insurance in lieu of workers' compensation, which the drivers do not qualify for since they are contractors, not employees.
Uber has a history of avoiding expenses due to labor regulations. For example, when the company began operating in Alaska, Rhonda Gerharz, the chief investigator for Alaska's Workers' Compensation Board, suspected Uber was misclassifying its employees and started investigating it. Uber left the state before she could finish her investigation. By claiming to be a company that connects people with services instead of providing the services directly, Uber does not have to abide by laws that protect employees, such as workers' compensation.
The insurance is different from workers' compensation in many ways. The two most important are that the program is voluntary and drivers must pay for it. Other differences include only honoring claims for people who are permanently, and not temporarily, disabled; excluding claims from people with mental disabilities; and offering half the weekly pay to a driver who cannot return to work. Workers' compensation pays two-thirds of injured employees' pay.
See Also: Avi Asher-Schapiro, Uber Still Doesn't Get It: Company Docs Reveal Flimsy Plan for Injured Workers, The Intercept, Jun. 28, 2017, available at
2. United Airlines Flight Attendant Gets Chance to Try Disability Class Action
Tonia Tate, a former flight attendant with United Airlines for fourteen years, alleges she was subjected to a hostile work environment and fired because of her disability. Tate has type I diabetes, which substantially limits her major life activities, such as walking or standing, and states that standing for long periods while working amplified her physical impairment. Tate claims United treated her diabetes as a common illness rather than a disability and has treated other individuals with disabilities in the same manner. As a result, Tate has pursued a class action suit on behalf of herself and the other individuals with disabilities United terminated due to their disabilities.
United Airlines responded by attempting to have her suit thrown out. United Airlines stated Tate's complaint could not be combined with other individuals' similar complaints under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Judge William T. Hart agreed with Tate and denied United Airlines attempt to have Tate's attempt at a class-action suit thrown out. Judge Hart referenced a previous instance where United agreed to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities, and modify training and notice practices. The hearing will be on October 5, 2017.
Full Story: Elizabeth Alt, Judge Clears Diabetic Ex-United Flight Attendant for New Try at Disability Class Action, Jul. 3, 2017, available at
3. Ticket to Work Helping Find Jobs
Ticket to Work is a free program through Social Security for individuals ages 18 to 64 who are receiving disability benefits. It is intended for individuals who need support reentering the workforce or who will be working for the first time. People who qualify for a ticket can receive services such as vocational rehabilitation, training, and job referrals. Ticket to Work is intended to help individuals receiving Social Security benefits to become financially independent.
By using Ticket to Work, individuals have the chance to explore several employment networks prior to choosing one. An employment network includes private organizations, public agencies, and state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies. Once an employment network is chosen, it will help the individual create an employment plan. Ticket to Work reviews participants' progress toward achieving employment goals every twelve months. By choosing to receive services from an employment network, an individual is then also protected from medical disability review.
Full Story: J. Dyer, Ticket to Work Puts People Back in the Driver's Seat, Jul. 9, 2017, available at
1. Over Half of States' School Systems Fall Short of Federal Special Education Requirements
A study by the Department of Education has found that only 22 states were classified as meeting the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). All remaining 28 states were classified as needing assistance for compliance with the IDEA. The assessments were based on a number of factors, including test performance, how often schools performed procedural evaluations of students' programs, and functional outcomes for students with disabilities. If a state fails to meet the requirements for two consecutive years, the Department of Education can enforce the IDEA by withholding funding or developing correctional plans.
This marks a slight drop off from last year, when 24 states were found to meet expectations. However, no states fell into the two more drastic categories of needing either intervention or substantial intervention.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Feds Find Fewer States Meeting Special Ed Obligations, Disability Scoop, Jul. 11, 2017, available at
2. DeVos Criticized Following First Speech on Education and Disabilities
Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, was criticized following a speech at the Office of Special Education Programs Leadership Conference in Arlington, Virginia. DeVos praised the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its guarantee of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) but focused her speech on school choice and charter schools, which are not obligated to enforce the IDEA. In addition, she has been a critic of the public school system that must follow the IDEA.
Many school voucher programs require students to give up IDEA protections when they attend private schools. Further, many private schools are not appropriately equipped for students with disabilities. Despite this, DeVos continues to promote "school choice," while criticizing the public school system. This is becoming a pattern for DeVos, who was criticized following her confirmation hearings, where she demonstrated a lack of understanding about the IDEA and its enforcement.
Full story: Valerie Strauss, The Deep Irony in Betsy DeVos's First Speech on Special Education, Washington Post, Jul. 18, 2017, available at
1. Antidepressants During Pregnancy Unlikely to Cause Intellectual Disability
A first of its kind study found that children born to mothers treated with antidepressants are not at an elevated risk of having intellectual disabilities when compared to children born to mothers who were not treated with antidepressants. Similar studies have been conducted examining the correlation between autism in children whose mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy.
The study was conducted in Sweden between 2006 and 2007. Based on a population of 178,000 children, 4,000 were exposed to antidepressants and other psychotropic medications during pregnancy. These children were compared to 25,551 children who were not exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy, but whose mothers were diagnosed with depression or anxiety prior to childbirth. Intellectual disability was diagnosed in .9% of the children exposed to antidepressants and .5% of the children who were not exposed to antidepressants, showing there is not a statistically significant difference between the two subgroups of children.
Full Story: No Statistical Significant Risk of Intellectual Disability in Children from Mothers Using Antidepressants, Science Daily, Jul. 12, 2017, available at
2. Early Intervention Allows for Increased Hearing
New research from a study at University of Colorado at Boulder suggests children with hearing loss who are diagnosed by three months old and receive intervention by six months old develop greater vocabulary when compared to children who receive treatment at a later age. The study conducted multistate research to assess the impact of Early Hearing Detection Intervention 1-3-6 guidelines. The guidelines recommend all newborns to be screened for hearing loss by the time they are a month old. If those newborns test positive for hearing loss, it is then recommended they be evaluated by a specialist before they reach three months of age and start receiving intervention services before they are six months old.
Interventions for a child with hearing loss can include listening and spoken language intervention, sign language, or hearing devices such as cochlear implants or hearing aids. Only 58% of children of 448 children with hearing loss in both ears received intervention. Using a Vocabulary Quotient as a measure, a hearing child of similar age would score 100. Children who received intervention as recommended by the guidelines performed significantly better than children who received intervention short of the final steps recommended by the guidelines, or no intervention at all. Children who did not receive any intervention scored an average below 70, the lowest 10th percentile.
Full Story: Babies with Hearing Loss Form Better Vocabulary with Early Intervention, University of Colorado Boulder, Jul. 13, 2017, available at
See Also: Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, Allison L. Seedy, Mallene Wiggin, and Winnie Chung, Early Hearing Detection and Vocabulary of Children with Hearing Loss, AAP News & Journals Gateway, Jul. 2017, available at
1. Texas Waterpark Uses Technology to Boost Accessibility
Morgan's Inspiration Island, a waterpark in San Antonio, opened June 17. Inspiration Island is a "sister park" to Morgan's Wonderland, and both are owned by Gordon and Maggie Hartman. The Hartman's daughter, Morgan, was born with cognitive and physical disabilities, which inspired the Hartman's to design these fully accessible theme parks. Inspiration Island is free to people with disabilities.
The park includes three different types of waterproof wheelchairs available to use; water nozzles that are adjustable by height and pressure; cues for people with visual and hearing impairments that tell them when water will splash; and a new type of electric wheelchair, designed specifically for the park. The PneuChair is powered by compressed air and is safe to use in water, but works just like an electric wheelchair. All wheelchair options are available free of charge at the park. The Hartmans stress that their goal with the park is simply to allow people with and without disabilities to enjoy the parks together.
Full Story: Brianne Garrett, Wheelchairs at the Water Park Bring Fun in the Sun for All, CNet, Jun. 23, 2017, available at
2. Uber Sued over Accessibility; Has Spotty Disability Rights Record
Uber was recently sued by the Equal Rights Center, a civil rights nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit is based on Uber's Washington, D.C., area services, and alleges that Uber is incapable of adequately providing services to customers with nonfoldable wheelchairs. And even though some cars are wheelchair accessible, there is no way for drivers to indicate that their vehicles are accessible or for riders to request it. Although Uber has introduced the UberWAV app for riders with disabilities, an investigation by the Equal Rights Center showed that riders using the app paid up to twice as much and waited on average eight times longer for rides than people who use Uber's nonaccessible service. The lawsuit alleges that Uber's vehicle requirements actively discourage Uber drivers from operating accessible vehicles.
Since its inception, Uber has sought to avoid compliance with the ADA by characterizing itself as a technology company, not a transportation company. From there, they classify their drivers as "independent contractors" rather than employees. Doing this has thus far allowed them to avoid responsibility for any discrimination, which is why the Equal Rights Center has raised specific concerns about Uber's technology itself. They also claim that Uber actively discourages their drivers from offering accessible cars. By having requirements such as mandating vehicles have four seats in addition to the driver, they end up excluding many accessible vehicles from their fleet. One Uber driver was told that his wheelchair-accessible van was not allowed; he traded it in for a standard vehicle in order to work for the company. The Equal Rights Center said that they are starting by suing Uber because it is the market leader in the "ride sharing" area, and they hope that, by achieving a positive outcome, they can force Uber's competitors to follow suit.
Full Story: Sara Ashley O'Brien, Uber Sued over Lack of Wheelchair-Accessible Cars in D.C., CNN Tech, Jun. 30, 2017, available at
1. Program in Arizona Aims to Put People with Disabilities in Leadership Roles
The New Horizons DisAbility Empowerment Center and the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council have announced their new program, the Arizona Community Leadership Academy (AZCLA), to combat the severe lack of disability representation in positions of power. Recognizing that many people with disabilities do not know how to get involved in important decision making and are often shut out, the AZCLA aims to impart advocacy skills to empower participants to become community leaders. Lessons include topics involving disability history, systems advocacy, and leadership skills important to holding positions on boards, councils, and commissions.
The program entails a six- to eight-week course that meets once a week. Enrollment is free, with the requirement that participants attend each session to receive their certificate. The program will be offered in two counties and begins in August.
Full Story: David Siegler, Arizona Community Leadership Academy, Prescott eNews, Jul. 15, 2017, available at
2. Bus Service Requires Disability Training Run by People with Disabilities
The Greater Dayton Regional Transit System (RTS) is requiring new drivers to participate in a day-long immersive training session, designed and run by individuals with disabilities. As the drivers go from table to table, they perform exercises that mimic activities from the perspective of people with various disabilities. Each table's activity is led by an individual with the specific disability the activity is mimicking, and the drivers are instructed to think critically about their daily activities and internalize their experiences.
Exercises include experiences involving vision, hearing, and dexterity impairment. Drivers are also taken on a bus ride in wheelchairs and must navigate the transit system and local community. The leader of the training session, the Access Center for Independent Living, also provides experiential trainings for schools, businesses, and organizations. The RTS recognizes the need to better understand the population they serve and plans to continue these trainings to raise awareness of the disability community.
Full Story: Jerry Kenney, Disabilities Training: A Role Reversal for RTA Bus Drivers, wyso.org, Jul. 13, 2017, available at
1. Grant Awarded to Aid Individuals with Psychosis in India
The National Institute of Health Research's Global Health Research Unit was recently awarded almost two million dollars to improve the lives of individuals with psychosis. The award will be used to improve the health, wellbeing, and functioning of individuals with psychosis. Psychosis affects between seven and eight million people and is a leading cause of disability in India.
The three-year project will develop culturally appropriate interventions for families, raising standards of care and the use of digital technologies to overcome infrastructure problems in India. The team in India is working alongside researchers in Canada at McGill University Montreal to reach these goals.
Full Story: £1.5 Million Grant Awarded to Tackle Psychosis in India, University of Warwick, Jul. 14, 2017, available at
2. Screening Color Blind Physicians
A team of ophthalmologists and medical students from University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, suggested that students with congenital color deficiency, commonly known as colorblindness, should be screened prior to beginning medical courses. The concern is that people who are colorblind could make significant mistakes in medical practices as a result of their inability to distinguish between colors. Justice Dipak Misra believes the exclusion of individuals who are color blind would be a violation of human rights. The issue was brought for a hearing on July 11. Prior to the hearing, the court asked a committee to study international practices with regards to color blindness, as well as to examine prosthetic aids available for individuals who are color blind.
In a study conducted by University College of Medical Sciences, 1,022 medical students were screened for errors. Thirty-five of the students were colorblind. According to the findings, both groups made errors, but the group who was colorblind made more errors. The study noted that the individuals with colorblindness could learn how to compensate for their disability rather than be discouraged from becoming doctors.
Full Story: Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar, Study on Colour Blind Medical Students Shows Need for Screening, Counselling, Jul. 10, 2017, available at
See Also: SC Glare on Colour Blind Ban, The Telegraph, Mar. 26, 2017, available at
I. POP CULTURE
1. AbleGamers Connects Game Developers with Gamers with Disabilities
AbleGamers, a nonprofit organization that aims to make video games accessible for people with disabilities, is creating Player Panels to connect gamers with disabilities with video game developers. The panels would test games that companies are developing and offer advice on how to make them more accessible.
To keep the panel members safe, AbleGamers will liaison between them and the companies. They will vet incoming requests for advice as well as make sure the panel members are paid for their work. AbleGamers is aware that many people with disabilities are on Social Security and cannot receive extra money without it affecting their benefits and is working with companies to offer alternative compensation. One idea is to give the panelists gift cards to popular stores.
AbleGamers COO Steve Spohn would not reveal what companies are involved, but he hopes that the project will start within the next few months.
Full Story: Brad Chacos, AbleGamers' Player Panels Could Make Future Games More Disability-Friendly, PC World, Jun. 29, 2017, available at
See Also: AbleGamers Charity, Gamers with Disabilities Wanted, AbleGamers, available at
2. TV's "Last Comic Standing" 2006 Winner Advocates for People with Disabilities
Josh Blue, who won "Last Comic Standing" and has cerebral palsy, takes his show worldwide and advocates for people with disabilities. Although it is not the main focus of his act, he talks about his disability in every show to make people feel at ease. In an interview he stated, "The way I do it, it's like you don't have the right to be uncomfortable with cerebral palsy because I am so comfortable with it."
With around 200 appearances a year, Blue does not plan his show. Instead he reads the room and then decides what jokes to tell. He also likes the audience to be spontaneous because the interaction shows them he is not afraid of taking risks.
In his spare time, Blue is working on a script for a TV show. Since there are not many shows about people with disabilities, Blue decided to write one. Once he finishes the pilot, Blue will pitch it to the TV industry.
Full Story: Guy D'Astolfo, Comedian in Mahoning Valley Debut, Valley 24, Jul. 20, 2017, available at
See Also: Chris Hewitt, St. Paul-born Comedian: "If I Didn't Have Cerebral Palsy, I Would Just Be a Goofy White Guy," Pioneer Press, Jul. 11, 2017, available at
J. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers and Proposals
Webinars and Conferences
Teaching Pre-Employment Skills to 14-17-Year-Olds: The Autism Works Now!® Method by Joanne Lara and Susan Osborne shows how to help students aged 14-17 develop the necessary transition skills for getting and keeping a meaningful job, with accompanying worksheets available to download.
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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.; and Associate Editors Kate Battoe, Christina Kalebic, John Cronin, and Laura O'Brien .
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