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
May 31, 2018
Volume 15, 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: 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. INDEPENDENCE: Community Integration
G. INTERNATIONAL: Topics Outside the United States
H. POP CULTURE: News and Topics Vary
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING: Conferences, Calls for Proposals, Papers, and Presentations
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A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. Several Employers Cited for Underpaying Workers with Disabilities
An exemption to the Federal Labor Standards Act allows employers to pay workers with disabilities below the federal minimum wage, down to under a dollar per hour. However, the exemption is only available if the employer can show that the worker with a disability could not perform the job as well as a worker without a disability. Recently, the Department of Labor (DOL) has found many employers violating the law.
One such employer is Self Help, which calls itself a "vocational training program" for workers with disabilities. The DOL found it working with local factories to assign menial tasks to workers with disabilities. Self Help was paying their workers in gift cards or a subminimum wage. They also could not show that the workers with disabilities were less productive than workers without a disability. The DOL ordered Self Help to pay workers with disabilities two years in back pay.
Full story: Alexia Fernandez Campbell, A Loophole in Federal Law Allows Companies to Pay Disabled Workers $1 an Hour, Vox, May 3, 2018, available at
2. People with Disabilities Forced Into Nursing Homes by Caregiver Shortage
In Minnesota, around 1,500 people under the age of 65 live in nursing homes designed for seniors because of a statewide shortage of at-home caregivers. Disability-rights advocates in Minnesota argue that the low pay and benefits for in-home caregivers caused this shortage. They are beginning to worry that several state agencies may be violating the Supreme Court's Olmstead Decision. This says that a person with a disability must be given care in their community, unless it is medically necessary for them to live in a nursing home.
Korrie Johnson, a 25-year-old with cerebral palsy, lives in a nursing home because she cannot find enough caregivers to live at home. She will not tell her friends where she is now living because she is embarrassed. Johnson says she misses the freedom that comes with living in her own home, from waking up when she wants, to making coffee the way she likes it.
Full Story: Chris Serres, Caregiver Shortage Forcing Young People with Disabilities Into Institutions, Disability Scoop, May 9, 2018, available at
1. Co-Founders Testify to Increase Job Opportunities for People with Disabilities
In early May, the U.S. Committee on Small Business held a hearing called "Ready, Willing, and Able to Work: How Small Businesses Empower People with Developmental Disabilities." During the hearing, members of Congress heard from John and Mark Cronin. John lives with Down syndrome. He and his dad Mark are co-founders of John's Crazy Socks. The popular sock company sells over 1,900 different pairs of socks. Almost half of its employees have disabilities.
John and Mark not only shared their own story, but they also spoke for the National Down Syndrome Society. John and Mark asked Congress to pass the Transitioning to Integrated Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act. The TIME Act would revoke a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act that allows businesses to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage.
Full Story: Down Syndrome Entrepreneur John Cronin to Speak at Congressional Hearing on Hiring People with Developmental Disabilities, University Chronicle, May 8, 2018, available at
2. EEOC Reaches Settlement with Goodwill
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently settled a suit against Goodwill. The EEOC sued Goodwill on behalf of cleaning staff members who have disabilities. Women from the cleaning staff reported repeated sexual harassment by a supervisor. These women eventually told another manager. The manager then helped the women contact the EEOC.
Goodwill and its partners will pay $850,000 based on the settlement. Goodwill will also update how it deals with complaints.
Full Story: Press Release, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Goodwill and Affiliate to Pay $850,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit, May 10, 2018, available at
1. Texas Improves Special Education Services After Being Found Neglectful
After an investigation that started in 2016, the U.S. Department of Education found that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) denied many students with disabilities special education services. It told the schools to have no more than 8.5 percent of their students in special education. The TEA must fix this.
The first steps are to watch schools in Texas to make sure they are obeying special education laws, train teachers and staff, and identify children who need special education services. The TEA will spend almost $212 million over the next five years working on these tasks.
Full Story: Alejandra Matos, In Plan to Fix Special Education, State Will Spend $212 Million, Disability Scoop, Apr. 25, 2018, available at
2. Robot Allows Teen to Go to School
Keegan Concannon was born with a rare disorder that causes him to have a weak immune system. In an agreement with U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling's office, Hudson Public Schools agreed to let Concannon use a robot to go to class.
Concannon can listen to teachers and interact with classmates from home by controlling the robot. It can move around, see, and hear. Now Concannon can learn important "social and collaborative skills" on top of the required curriculum.
Full Story: Laurel J. Sweet, Hudson Teen to Join Classroom Via Robot, Boston Harold, May 8, 2018, available at
1. The National Institutes of Health Celebrated World Asthma Day
On May 1, 2018, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognized World Asthma Day. The NIH recommitted itself to managing, treating, and preventing asthma. Asthma is a chronic lung condition that affects a person's ability to breathe. According to the NIH, 235 million people live with it worldwide. Research shows that it is most prevalent in minority groups and the poor.
The NIH is working on some promising research projects. These include studies on intercity youth and reducing risk factors in infants. The NIH knows that this cause needs a joint effort. Therefore, NIH also thanked the doctors, researchers, and advocates who further this mission daily.
Full Story: Press Release, National Institutes of Health, NIH Statement on World Asthma Day 2018, May 1, 2018, available at
2. California Bill Aims to Pay Reparations to Those Impacted by Sterilization
Throughout the 1900's many people viewed as undesirable fell victim to laws that allowed sterilization. Sterilization is an operation that makes it so people cannot have babies. Among those most heavily targeted were people with disabilities. A new bill in California would give reparations to those sterilized against their will.
The bill would create the Eugenics Sterilization Compensation Program. The program would fund reparations for living citizens who survived eugenics. In addition, markers would be placed at every institution that sterilized people, and a traveling exhibit would be developed to show the history of eugenic laws. Senator Nancy Skinner, the bill's sponsor, hopes it will help victims share their stories.
If passed, the bill will follow similar laws in North Carolina and Virginia.
Full Story: Lawmakers Seek Reparations for People Sterilized, Disability Scoop, Apr. 24, 2018, available at
1. Microsoft Launches $25 Million AI for Accessibility
2. Accessibility Info Apps Use Google and Crowdsourced Data
Microsoft is starting a new program to encourage people to invent technology that helps people with disabilities. The program is called AI for Accessibility. It will award grants to investors, developers, and universities to build tools with people with disabilities in mind.
Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote that this will help all people, not just people with disabilities.
Full Story: Shaun Heasley, Microsoft Unveils $25 Million Disability Initiative, Disability Scoop, May 8, 2018, available at
Even though many locations claim to be accessible, people learn that they are not when they arrive. Some of these people have tried to fix this problem by creating accessibility guide apps. App makers use maps from providers like Google and data from users to create better accessibility guides. Access Earth, AccessNow, and AXS Map are some of those apps.
Most of the guide apps are incomplete, but some are better in locations where users have added a lot of content. Getting people together to test an area for accessibility and sharing the results with an accessibility app is a way to improve apps and teach people about accessibility.
Full Story: Marguerite Reardon, Building Better Maps for the Disability Community, CNET, Apr. 6, 2018, available at
1. Advocates Gain Support for Disability Integration Act
In Olmstead v. LC, the Supreme Court ruled that people with disabilities have the right to live in the community rather than in institutions and states must provide them with the services they need to do so. However, this rule is often ignored. Part of the problem is that Medicaid makes states fund institutions but does not require them to pay for in-home services.
In 2015, the Disability Integration Act (DIA) was first introduced before Congress. The DIA would give people with disabilities the legal right to choose how and where they receive the services they need. It would also make states have more accessible housing that people with disabilities can afford.
ADAPT is a national group that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. Many of its members spent the week of May 14 in Washington, DC, gathering support for the DIA. While Senator Lamar Alexander ignored them and had 51 members arrested, many other individuals and groups agreed to support the bill. These include, but are not limited to, Senator Patty Murray, AARP, the Center for American Progress, and the Heritage Foundation.
Full Story: Robyn Powell, Disability Activists Fight for the Right to Live in Their Communities, Rewire.News, May 18, 2018, available at
2. Microsoft Develops a New Accessible Xbox Controller
People with disabilities play video games for entertainment and social interaction. Many design homemade controllers that allow them to play as well as people without disabilities. Microsoft has developed a new controller for the Xbox that will accommodate the needs of many people with disabilities.
Called the Adaptive Controller, it has two big buttons and a directional control pad on its surface, and there are 21 ports on the sides to accommodate many kinds of assistive technologies. One example is a joystick that someone can operate with their mouth.
Microsoft has not said when they will put the Adaptive Controller on the market, but it will cost $99.99. The controller's accessories will be sold by other companies, such as Logitech, Ram, and AbleNet.
Full Story: Rachel Lerman, Microsoft's New Xbox Controller Courts Gamers with Disabilities, Seattle Times, May 16, 2018, available at
1. France Is Not Providing Proper Services to People with Disabilities
The European Disability Forum and Inclusion Europe filed suit against France on behalf of people with disabilities living in institutions. The associations brought the suit before the European Committee of Social Rights of the Council of Europe in May.
They claim that France is not following the rules of the European Social Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in six ways. (1) France does not allow people with disabilities to live in the same area as their families and has moved thousands to live in institutions in Belgium. (2) Some healthcare services are not accessible to people with disabilities. (3) There is not enough accessible housing. (4) There is a lack of supports that would allow people with disabilities to live independently. (5) By not providing supports to people with disabilities, France is not protecting families who must make sacrifices to help loved ones with disabilities. (6) France is not protecting the "work-life balance" because some family members must work less or not at all to help their family members with disabilities.
The hope is to set a precedent for other European nations.
Full Story: EU Reporter Correspondent, Organizations Representing Persons with #Disabilities Lodge Complaint Against France, EU Reporter, available at
2. Toddler's Death Prompts Possible Legal Change in UK
On April 28, 23-month-old Alfie Evans died after being off life support for almost a week. Alfie's parents, Tom and Kate, admitted him to Alder Hey Hospital in December 2016. His doctors said Alfie had an undiagnosed degenerative brain disorder and that it would be cruel to keep him alive with life support. The British courts agreed with the doctors and ruled they could take him off life support.
Alfie's death caused people to advocate for a law, Alfie's Law, that would give parents more say over their children's treatment. Currently, the British courts can overrule parents' decisions about their children's treatment because European law depends on the authority of the state. The British government believes that prolonging the life of a child who has no hope of recovering is only going to make the child suffer longer. However, advocates like Steven Woolfe believe parents should have the final say.
Full Story: Annabelle Timsit, The Life and Death of Alfie Evans Highlights the Gap Between the US and Europe on Right to Life, Quartz, Apr. 28, 2018, available at
See Also: Alfie Evans: Parents and Doctors to Discuss Sending Toddler Home, BBC News, Apr. 26, 2018, available at
See Also: Alfie Evans: Legal Battle Toddler Dies, BBC News, Apr. 28, 2018, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. Nike Develops Shoe for All Athletes
Nike has added a new shoe to its FlyEase line, which features shoes designed for people with disabilities. Designers from Nike worked with Justin Gallegos to develop the new shoe. Gallegos is part of the University of Oregon track club and has cerebral palsy.
Nike designers looked at how Gallegos ran as he trained for his first half marathon. Gallegos told them he needs a shoe that is durable in front, has good cushioning and stability, and is easy to get off and on.
The result is the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 FlyEase. It features a wraparound zipper that allows people to take it on or off in one motion. Bungee cords replace traditional shoe laces to control the shoe's tightness without having to tie laces.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Nike Turns to Runner with Cerebral Palsy to Help Design Next-Gen Shoe, Disability Scoop, May 1, 2018, available at
See Also: the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 FlyEase, Nike, available at
2. John Scalzi's Science Fiction Looks at People with Disabilities
John Scalzi is a popular science fiction author who writes about one book a year. Unlike most science fiction, many of Scalzi's books feature people with disabilities and look at issues surrounding disability laws.
In his latest novel, Head On, the survivors of the Haden virus can no longer move their bodies and rely on robots to move around. Federal and private programs provide funds for the survivors to use the robots. This causes people without the Haden virus to become jealous and want access to the robots. Companies use government subsidies to fund their business rather than to help the people who need them. Congress cuts funding for "long-term supports and services" because of this.
The story is like the fight to stop Congress from approving the Americans with Disabilities Act Education and Reform Act.
Full Story: David M. Perry, How to Write Great Sci-fi About Disability Law, Pacific Standard, Apr. 17, 2018, available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers
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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 Angel Baker; and Associate Editors Kate Battoe, John Cronin, Lauren Galloway, and Eddie Zaremba.
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