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
March 1, 2019
Volume 16, Issue 2
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. Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of Accessibility in Mobile App
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gave a win in digital accessibility against Domino's Pizza. The court said the ADA applied to Domino's website and app because it is a place of public accommodation. Domino's argued that the absence of regulations allowed their app to be inaccessible.
The suit was filed by a blind customer who could not use the app to customize pizza on his iPhone. Even though the iPhone had the technology that the user needed, Domino's app was not set up to enable the technology to read the screen of the app. The case has been sent back to the district court, which must issue a new ruling based on whether the app adequately communicates its function to blind users.
Full Story: Domino's Pizza App Must Be Accessible to Blind People, BBC News, Jan. 16, 2019, available at
2. Accessibility Complaints Against Beyoncé's Website Lead to Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit claims that Beyoncé's official website, beyonce.com, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying blind users equal access. The plaintiffs' lawyer noted that there are many important pictures on the website that lack alternative text tags. This makes it impossible to determine what is on the website, so users can browse or shop. One plaintiff visited the site in hopes of buying a concert ticket but could not access the site.
The website is also inaccessible because of its menu navigation features. The plaintiffs hope that the website will be made accessible. They are also pursuing damages for those who have been discriminated against.
Full Story: Laura Snapes, Beyoncé's Parkwood Entertainment Sued Over Website Accessibility, The Guardian, Jan. 4, 2019, available at
1. December Sees Dip in Employment Numbers for People with Disabilities
Employment numbers went down for people with disabilities in December. This is according to the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability. Experts are still optimistic about 2019. There has been steady improvement in the employment situation for people with disabilities since February 2016. The past seven months have seen both ups and downs in the employment-to-population ratio and labor force participation rate for people with disabilities.
December is the third month in 2018 with results that show a decline. Workforce participation for people who do not have disabilities and are of working age rose about 1 percent. The number for similar people with disabilities was just above that. Working age refers to people who are between 16 and 64 years old. Employed people with disabilities represented 3.2 percent of the 146.5 million people employed in the US.
Full Story: Andrew Houtenville, John O'Neill, Employment Numbers for People with Disabilities Dipped in December, Philanthropy News Digest, Jan. 11, 2019, available at
2. Disability Hiring Campaign Launched by Richard Branson
Richard Branson is supporting a campaign to get 500 global businesses to commit to having disability issues prioritized. Branson's Virgin Group joined nine other businesses, including Microsoft and Barclays, in the initiative. Branson stated that "disability can no longer be a conservation reserved for charity and health organizations." He added, "It's time more brands woke up to the collective benefits of understanding people with disabilities and their needs." The campaign is called Valuable 500 and was launched by an Irish disability advocate named Caroline Casey, who is blind.
According to the World Health Organization and World Bank, in 2011 around 15% of the global population had some sort of disability. Casey's organization estimates people with disabilities are about 50% less likely to get a job. They also estimate that they are 50% more likely to experience poverty. Casey notes that the conversations have to happen at the top first. The next steps are to make inclusion spread through the rest of the business. These efforts are aligned with ongoing world conversations, including those at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Full Story: Alanna Petroff, Richard Branson Helps Launch New Disability Campaign for Businesses, Yahoo Finance, Jan. 25, 2019, available at
1. Study Says Test Scores Support Inclusive Classrooms
A new study from Indiana University adds force to the argument for inclusive classrooms. The study comes out of the University's Center on Education and Lifelong Learning. Researchers focused on eighth graders across the state of Indiana. They looked at the state test scores of the sampled eighth graders over the course of their school career. Data showed that the test scores of those with disabilities greatly improved when they learned in an integrated general education classroom rather than a special education class.
An age-old debate questions what type of learning environment best serves students with disabilities. Researchers hope that this study offers support for the benefits of integrated, inclusive education. They also position the study as a tool for parents deciding where to place their kids.
Full Story: Joey Bowling, IU Study Supports Disability Inclusion in K-12 Classrooms, Indiana Daily Student, Feb. 10, 2019, available at
2. New Tool Seeks to Educate on the History of Autism
In January, Ellen Herman's "The Autism History Project" went live. Herman works as a historian at the University of Oregon. Herman noticed that the vast amounts of information, discussion, and debate surrounding the topic of autism was missing something. She believes that autism discourse lacks historical context or grounding.
Herman decided to do a deep dive into autism's history. She set out to create a public website offering the missing historical context of the diagnosis. She hopes the website will be a helpful resource for all those interested in the conversation surrounding autism. She also emphasizes the website's fluidity, which encourages others to add to her work.
Full Story: Emily Halnon, A New History of Autism Traces the Diagnosis of a Disability, Around the O, Feb. 13, 2019, available at
"The Autism History Project" can be found here:
1. Over One Billion Are at Risk of Permanent Hearing Loss
A new study by the United Nations World Health Organization says that more than one billion people between 12 and 35 years old may develop permanent hearing loss from activities like listening to loud music on their smartphone. The study showed that around 50 percent of young people listen to unsafe levels of sound, and that number is only growing globally.
As a result of the study, the United Nations has created new guidelines to help protect young people from losing their hearing. The guidelines include creating functions that allow you to know how loud you are listening to your music, like how a speedometer works in a car, and a parental volume control option for parents who have young children.
Full Story: UN Guidelines Unveiled to Prevent Rising Hearing Loss Among Young Smartphone Listeners, UN News, Feb. 12, 2019 available at
2. Teen Boys Who Are Not Fit Are More Likely to Become Disabled as Adults
A new study out of Sweden has linked teen boys who were inactive or obese in their teen years to becoming disabled at a higher rate as adults. Over one million boys were studied from age 16 to 19 for around 28 years. The boys studied who were inactive or obese were more likely to receive medical disability pensions as adults.
Having poor fitness often was linked to disabilities such as muscle problems, nervous system diseases, tumors, and mental problems. One Yale professor who reviewed the study says this is a reminder that it is never too early to take steps to protect your health.
Full Story: Steven Reinberg, Unfit Teens Often Grow Into Sickly Middle Age, Study Shows, U.S. News and World Report, Feb. 12, 2019, available at
1. Disability Emojis: A Step Toward Inclusion
Apple recently announced that later this year 59 new emojis that represent people with disabilities will be released. People love using emojis to express emotion, talk to others, and shorten messages by sending emojis instead of words.
Soon you will be able to send a message with a service dog, a person using sign language, or even someone with prosthetic limbs. If those don't interest you, maybe a hearing aid ear, a person using a wheelchair, or a person using a white cane will. There are even distinct guide dogs and service dogs.
Full Story: Stephanie Collins, Disability Emojis a Step Towards Inclusion, Human Rights Watch, Feb. 11, 2019, available at
To see all of the new emojis:
2. Paramobile Chair Allows for Disabled to Play Golf
A new kind of wheelchair allows for those with disabilities to play adaptive golf. The chair has 360-degree mobility, and the seat rises to allow for swinging the golf club. The chair can go on a standard grass course, so users do not have to push through grass or up hills on paths.
The chair is made by Ability360, a nonprofit company, which also created the adaptive golf program that lets members use the Paramobile chairs to play. The new creation puts a smile on users' faces, as they get to enjoy an activity they would not get to otherwise.
Full Story: Technology Makes Adaptive Golf Accessible to Disabled, AZ Big Media, Feb. 17, 2019, available at
1. Affordable Housing Remains out of Reach in Portland
Fewer affordable housing options in Portland, Oregon, have impacted all renters and the situation has had a significant effect on those with disabilities. One man with disabilities has lived in his one-bedroom apartment for over a decade only because he receives subsidized rent because of his disability. He admits that if he lost this apartment, he would be homeless. People with disabilities who cannot find affordable housing often end up moving to a group assisted-living home. These are like institutions. Residents in these facilities have no freedom or privacy and must ask for permission to do many things.
In Multnomah County, 72 percent of the homeless people have one or more disabilities. Almost 25 percent of those living with a disability make under $15,000 a year. In early September the federal government gave Multnomah County's housing authority 99 new vouchers that are specifically reserved for people with disabilities. The 99 vouchers barely make a dent for the number of people with disabilities seeking affordable rent in Portland. The county's Joint Office for Homeless Services intends to make the rental hunt a little easier for at least the 99 new mainstream voucher recipients. Local nonprofit organizations are also available to help those who need affordable housing and have disabilities.
Full Story: Alex Zielinski, Affordable Housing Remains Out of Reach for Portlanders with Disabilities, Portland Mercury, Sept. 27, 2018 available at
2. Domestic-Violence Shelters Can't Handle Survivors with Disabilities
The A New Leaf shelter struggled as deaf and hard-of-hearing survivors of domestic violence left after only a day or two. They left with frustration because of a lack of qualified interpreters, along with other communication problems. While the shelter has secured state and federal funding to have assistive-hearing and communication devices installed, it has not been enough. These measures do not mean the staff understands the unique challenges of people with disabilities and are prepared to appropriately assist them. For shelters that work with domestic violence survivors or sexual assault victims, true accessibility problems can take longer to come to light.
While they have have good intentions, disability rights advocates say there is little funding, and such shelters are often unequipped to serve survivors who use wheelchairs, are blind, deaf, or have service animals. Shelters do well around ADA accommodations because they are required to by law. But accessibility still remains a work in progress at most domestic violence facilities across the country.
Full Story: Maria Polletta, Many Shelters Can't Handle Domestic-Violence Survivors with Disabilities, Arizona Republic, Sept. 16, 2018, available at
3. Sydney Wants People with Disabilities to Be Welcomed in Nightlife Venues
The Too Easy campaign hopes to make Sydney's nightlife more accessible and has started by reaching out to more than 1,300 Sydney venues. The campaign is about starting conversations on how venues can do better. Too Easy reaches past venue access and attitude. It looks at the community and social responsibility of all, which can get lost amongst the hustle and bustle of a big city. The campaign includes educational material and a series of videos demonstrating strategies for inclusion.
The campaign focuses on more than just physical accessibility, also focusing on intellectual, sensory and psychiatric disabilities. Many of the pubs and clubs are in older buildings that are not accessible. The recent controversy and policy around plastic straws has also been an issue for people who need them. It is even reported that patrons with disabilities are assumed to be intoxicated if they naturally have slurred speech or an unsteady gait. Aside from people with disabilities, the organizers hope that the changes might also affect others, like the elderly and others who hope to have better access throughout the community.
Full Story: Robin Eames, The City of Sydney Wants Nightlife Venues to Actively Welcome People with Disabilities, TimeOut, Dec. 17, 2018 available at
1. Armenia to Hear Testimony From People with Mental Health Conditions
Armenia recently ruled that courts and investigators will have to hear testimony of those who have mental health conditions. Armenia used to refuse to let people testify who were "not able to perceive correctly and reproduce the circumstances."
This new change is a result of a case where a military recruit was physically abused by his commander, but was not allowed to testify about his abuse in court. His case was closed after only hearing from the commander and other soldiers.
Full Story: Anahit Chilingaryan, Advancing Access to Justice for People with Disabilities in Armenia, Human Rights Watch, Jan. 26, 2019, available at
2. Australians Push for a Royal Commission on Disability
Disability advocates in Australia are sitting at the Parliament House calling for a royal commission to be created to look into abuse within the disability sector. The Australian Senate is expected to make a motion for the commission to be set up after horror stories from patients have become public.
One patient who is disabled said a nurse at his rehab facility would light his hair on fire at night, while others spoke of being raped, bullied, or subject to violence. If approved, the commission would take place after the election. The election must be completed by the middle of May.
Full Story: Claudia Long, Royal Commission Calls Grow as Disability Campaigners Tell Stories of Abuse and Trauma, ABC News (Australia), Feb. 17, 2019, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. First Person with Autism to Attend a D1 School on an Athletic Scholarship
Kalin Bennett looks like many basketball players on the court. He differs because he will be the first openly autistic person to play NCAA Division 1 basketball and the first person with autism to attend a D1 school on an athletic scholarship. In November Bennett signed his letter of intent to play at Kent State University in Ohio. He was recruited by several schools before choosing Kent State. Other students with autism have played in D1 sports, but as walk-ons.
Bennett and his family were unsure if he would learn to walk and communicate verbally. He learned at his own pace and basketball became a way that he enjoyed expressing himself when he learned to play in the third grade. One of the reasons that Bennett choose Kent State was their support of autism awareness. He looks forward to living on campus, playing ball, and raising awareness himself.
Full Story: Kelly McLaughlin, A Kent State Recruit Is the First Player with Autism to Earn a Scholarship for a Division 1 NCAA Team Sport, Insider, Nov. 28, 2018, available at
Read More: Elizabeth Chuck, Kalin Bennett, Arkansas Teen with Autism, Recruited to Play Basketball at Kent State, NBC News, Nov. 30, 2018, available at
2. Mannequin Using Wheelchair on Display at Bridal Shop
A bridal shop in the United Kingdom received praise when it displayed a mannequin in the front window sitting in a wheelchair wearing a wedding dress. The shop owners did not think much about it when they installed the window display and are saddened that it is a rare sight. They have been getting positive response to it and hope other shops will follow their example. They note this is one of many ways the wedding industry is not inclusive to a lot of different groups of people.
A wheelchair user who took a photo of the shop that went viral adds that people with disabilities feel invisible because they don't feel represented in the modeling and bridal industries. She said the display had made her feel represented. She did not need a dress but said she would be happier and would rather patronize a shop where she knew she would be accepted if she did. Folks liked the added decorum of the wheelchair, too.
Full Story: Bridal Shop's Wheelchair Window Display Praised, BBC, Jan. 10, 2018, available at
3. Actress Turns Down Deaf Role in Hopes that Deaf Actress Is Hired for the Role
Jameela Jamil turned down the role of a deaf woman. She said it was not appropriate for her to take the role and she did not want to deprive an actress with a disability the job. Jamil herself was born partially deaf but hears now. Jamil's comments come after the controversy around Bryan Cranston's defense of his decision to play a person who is quadriplegic. This also highlights bigger issues of disability representation in media. Acting professionals feel differently about taking roles representing marginalized groups.
Jamil called for actors to band together in support of having more actors with disabilities and from the LGBT community play appropriate roles, so that diversity can be part of the story and not the whole story about the film. This is seen on television where 95 percent of characters with disabilities are portrayed by actors without disabilities. Praise is offered when people with disabilities are given a chance, which does happen as well.
Full Story: Elyse Wanshel, Jameela Jamil Turns Down Role, Says a "Brilliant Deaf Woman" Should Get it Instead, Huffington Post, Jan, 18, 2019, available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers
Disability and Mothering: Liminal Spaces of Embodied Knowledge by Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson explores "the theoretical frameworks of feminism and disability studies, locating the points of overlap crucial to a study of disability and mothering. Organized in five sections, the book engages questions about reproductive technologies; diagnoses and cultural scripts; the ability to rewrite narratives of mothering and disability; political activism; and the tensions formed by the overlapping identities of race, class, nation, and disability."
The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter is supported by the following sources:
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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; Lead Editor Eddie Zaremba; and Associate Editors Jason Harris Lauren Galloway, and Sarah Knickerbocker.
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