Burton Blatt Institute Law, Health Policy & Disability Center

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

April 3, 2019
Volume 16, Issue 3

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.

Dear Colleague:

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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1. Fort Bragg Mom Seeks More Inclusive School for Son

Thomas Mosher was born with a rare degenerative condition and was not expected to live past age two. Now that he is preparing to enter kindergarten, his mother is beginning to arrange for his accommodations within the school system. Ms. Mosher feels that the school is not accessible enough for his needs. She is concerned that it will not provide him an inclusive education experience. When she requested a school change, the district denied the request.

Hoke County, NC, claims that all of its schools comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but Ms. Mosher feels that the hallways and classrooms are not large enough to accommodate her son. When they visited with other entering children, Thomas could not play with them on the playground. The school responded by suggesting that a reassignment could be discussed at an upcoming transition meeting with teachers, advocates, and other professionals present. Ms. Mosher wishes that the initial denial included this information.

Full Story: Morgan Norwood, Fort Bragg Mom Fights for School Reassignment for Son with Disability, WTVD, Feb. 18, 2019, available at

2. Mobile App Adopted by Police to Improve Service to People with Disabilities

New technology will help to foster positive interactions between people with disabilities and police. People with disabilities will be able to self-identify and share important information, like de-escalation techniques, with police by filling out a personal profile online. Police officers will have access to an app that allows them to quickly access the information. Citizens can also wear a small beacon tag, which will link to the app and alert the police of the available profile within 80 feet.

In Saint Cloud, MN, the police have adopted this system. The service is free to citizens. Police hope to have the right information on hand quickly so that they can help. It could be important for emergency personnel to know if someone has anxiety, dementia, or sensory issues.

Full Story: Clairissa Baker, "Game-Changing" App Helps Police Interact with People with Disabilities, Saint Cloud Times, Feb. 24, 2019, available at


1. New Report: Massive Employment Gap for People with Disabilities Is Constant

Information shared by the 2018 Disability Statistics Compendium highlights that there are 20 million people with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 64, but only 7.5 million are able to work. This information was compiled by a number of government and public sector researchers. There was an increase in people with disabilities in the workforce between 2016 and 2017, but that trend did not continue in 2018.

People with disabilities who work make less money than people without disabilities. Race can further lead to lower pay for people with disabilities. RespectAbility, one of the organizations involved in the research, highlights the states with the lowest pay margin between people with and without disabilities. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah score the best on the list. The report also names some corporations that are considered better choices regarding pay for people with disabilities.

Full Story: Ben Paynter, People with Disabilities Face a Massive Employment Gap, Fast Company, Feb. 20, 2019, available at

2. Walmart Changes Role but Commits to Helping Workers with Disabilities Stay

Walmart is changing the job requirements for front-door greeters in a way that affects workers with disabilities who hold the role. The new role will combine greeting with other jobs. Qualifications for the customer host is being able to lift, clean up spills, collect carts, climb ladders, and be able to stand for long periods of time among other things that may be tough or impossible for people with disabilities. The change was supposed to happen at the end of April, but Walmart has changed its approach because of significant public backlash.

The President and CEO of Walmart's US stores sent a memo to store managers stating that they are taking some specific steps to support greeters with disabilities. This is after outraged customers, and others started online petitions, formed Facebook support groups, and called and emailed corporate offices in Arkansas. People with disabilities themselves who work for Walmart felt the company was being heartless. Walmart is not changing their decision about the role, but choosing to support their workers with disabilities to find new roles at the company.

Full Story: Michael Rubinkam, After "Botch," Walmart Moves to Keep Disabled Greeters, Yahoo Finance and Associated Press, Mar. 1, 2019, available at


1. Scandal Worries Students with Disabilities

This month brought news of a largescale college admissions scandal. According to court documents, wealthy parents paid for, among other things, their kids to receive disability labels. Those labels allowed students to take their admissions exams at special facilities with extra time. Bribed proctors then apparently exploited this setup even further. Proctors reportedly corrected tests on site or even took the students' tests for them to ensure a good score. By playing the system in this way, parents hoped to secure their kids spots at top colleges.

Outrage swept the nation in response to this revelation. Many called out the unfairness of the college admissions process. However, those with disabilities share a more specific concern. Advocates worry that scams like this one will make it harder to get access to needed accommodations. The scandal advanced the idea that students can fake disabilities just to get ahead. As a result, leaders in the disability community question whether kids with real disabilities will have to work that much harder to prove they deserve necessary accommodations. Only time will tell the true impact of this abuse. However, the scam appeared to make a mockery of the critical services some students need just to access the classroom.

Full Story: Rebecca Cokley, The Real Victims of the College Admissions Scams Are People with Disabilities, Washington Post, Mar. 14, 2019, available at

2. Denver Schools Pursue More Inclusive Classrooms

After highlighting some far-reaching problems, advocates want reforms to Denver's special education system. Accordingly, Denver Public School officials have started talking about making classrooms more inclusive. In March, a task force gave recommendations to the Denver Public Schools Board. The task force included parents, teachers, and disability advocates. The group presented a new proposed policy on inclusion. It also asked the Board to begin tracking local schools' integration efforts.

The task force encouraged the Board to embrace integrated classrooms. They also shared ways that Denver schools could better support students with disabilities. For example, they suggested using more inclusive teaching strategies in general education classrooms. Thus, more students with disabilities could participate. They also mentioned the trend of misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose students, especially students of color. In response, the group advised that students get screened for disabilities several times throughout their school career. This practice would help ensure that students receive accurate disability labels and appropriate help. The school board did not adopt the proposed policy, but they are set to revisit it and learn more in April.

Full Story: Meg Wingerter, Denver Public Schools' Special Education Revamp Could Bring More Students with Disabilities into Traditional Classrooms, Denver Post, Mar. 19, 2019, available at


1. Multiple Sclerosis Progression Slowing

A new study from Sweden showed people at risk of higher levels of relapsing-onset multiple sclerosis (MS) had dropped seven percent from 1995 to 2010. The study noticed the drop in those who need help to walk 100 meters with or without rest.

However, those who have progressive-onset MS, rather than relapsing-onset MS, have not had the same decreases in risk. Dr. Jan Hillert said the most likely cause of the decrease is disease modifying treatments.

Full Story: Damian McNamara, Pace of Multiple Sclerosis Progression May Be Slowing, Medscape, Mar. 22, 2019, available at

Read More:

2. Dentists Cannot Turn Away Patients Because of Disability Under New Rule

Dentists have refused seeing patients who have physical, developmental, or intellectual disabilities in the past. In one state, almost one-third of the people with disabilities had a tooth removed last year. A new rule by the American Dental Association (ADA) now prohibits refusal of a patient due to disabilities the patient may have.

This rule is part of Dentists' Code of Conduct, and states often look to this Code to make laws. Sometimes dentists cannot treat a patient with disabilities because they either lack the expertise required or do not have the proper equipment. If this happens, they must refer the patient to a dentist who can help. Dentists are also working on minimizing sensory challenges such as lights, sounds, and smells to care for patients with autism better.

Full Story: Blythe Bernhard, Dentists No Longer Permitted to Turn Away Patients Due to Disabilities, Disability Scoop, Feb. 28, 2019, available at


1. Bleu Crush, Dating and Friends App for Persons with Disabilities

A special education teacher from Connecticut drew inspiration from her job as a teacher to create a new app for those with disabilities to connect to others. The app is for dating and making friends. The app, called Bleu Crush, features a beach theme and video chat feature, allowing for direct uploading of videos to one's profile. Bleu Crush also allows speech-to-text.

The app is available on Apple devices and starts with a two-week free trial. After the trial, the app costs $20 per month. Portions of the proceeds are donated to disability foundations.

Full Story: Suzie Hunter, Special Education Teacher Creates Dating App for People with Disabilities, WTNH, Mar. 19, 2019, available at

2. New Device Lets You Tweet From Your Brain

Spanish scientists developed a helmet that can read signals from the wearer's brain to send a Tweet. The device collects information, sends it to a computer, and then sends the message to a phone that can read the command and post it on Twitter. The connection between the computer and the phone uses Bluetooth wireless technology.

A small study on users with severe motor impairments showed the device accurately sent the Tweet over 80 percent of the time. The scientists hope, with more studies and tweaks, that the device will work better for more individuals. They hope to adapt it for users who cannot control their gaze or who have involuntary tremors.

Full Story: Alberto Iglesias Fraga and Ruqayyah Moynihan, This Device Allows People with Serious Disabilities to Use Twitter Using Their Brainwaves, Business Insider, Mar. 5, 2019, available at


1. Under Proposed Budget, N.Y. Medicaid Users Unable to Manage Aides

The budget proposed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo would change the ways individuals with disabilities who use Medicaid manage their aides. The Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) allows New York residents who are on Medicaid to hire their aides and manage their own schedules. The Governor's budget would eliminate certain programs from CDPAP and would replace it with a stripped-down version. The changes would include a provision that would limit the amount of money agencies called fiscal intermediaries can be reimbursed from the state.

The state is concerned about fraud within the current system, especially because family members can serve as aides. Many advocates fear that this will force people back to institutions and nursing homes. They argue that it could actually cost the state more. They also say the criticism of having family members as aides can be fixed with oversight that could root out agencies that do not spend their Medicaid dollars wisely. There are also cultural issues at play driving the changes. The response is that there would be no reduction in services.

Full Story: Ellen Abbott, Cuomo Budget Eliminates Program Allowing Disabled Medicaid Members to Manage their Aides, WRVO, Feb. 19, 2019, available at

Read More: Steve Buchiere, Proposed Changes to Home-Care Program Assailed, Finger Lake Times, Feb. 17, 2019, available at

2. Disability Studies Scholar Mike Oliver Passes Away

Dr. Mike Oliver died on March 2 in the United Kingdom. Dr. Oliver was a disability studies scholar and emeritus professor at the University of Greenwich who coined the social model of disability. Dr. Oliver is known best for affirming that removing the disabling barriers that limit and oppress people with impairments is a social, not an individual, responsibility.

The model that Dr. Oliver developed is revolutionary and continues to inspire disability advocates and scholars to this day. He combined grassroots activism with scholarly work. His scholarship shifted views to acknowledge issues of medical imperialism and a culture of dependency that can come about if the onus of accessibility is on the individual. People from the disability community took to Twitter to mourn the passing of a revolutionary.

Full Story: Aine Kelly-Costello, Mike Oliver, Pioneer of "Revolutionary" Social Model of Disability, Dies, Newshub, Mar. 3, 2019, available at

Read More: Ravi Malhotra, In Memoriam: Mike Oliver, The Nation, Mar. 8, 2019, available at


1. United Kingdom Is Reconsidering "Demeaning" Health Assessments

Ministers in the United Kingdom recently announced that they will be overhauling their health assessment system. Many people with disabilities complained that the process was demeaning. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) says that the new plan will provide both a better service and save taxpayers money.

The revamp is expected to cost more than three billion pounds and will change benefit amounts such as the Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment Support Allowance (ESA), and others.

Full Story: Emma Youle, Ministers Plan Multi-Billion Pound Overhaul of "Demeaning" Disability Benefit Assessments, Huffington Post UK, Mar. 24, 2019, available at

2. Seizure Medication Possibly Caused Brain Development Issues in Babies

Valproate is a medicine used to treat epilepsy. It is known in Ireland as Epilim. The drug has recently been linked to developmental delays in over 1,200 children. It has also been linked to over 340 children with physical disabilities.

Experts say this is likely due to women not receiving proper instruction and information about the risks of using the medication during pregnancy. A conference in Dublin was held to spread awareness as well as to announce support services and work toward increased genetic testing and diagnosis access.

Full Story: Eilish O'Regan, Epilepsy Drug May Be Linked to Brain Defect in Over 1,200 Babies, Independent.IE (Ireland), Mar. 23, 2019, available at


1. Royal Shakespeare Company Hires Actors with Disabilities

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has shared plans for its next season, and actors with disabilities have joined the Company. Among the performers for the next season are an actor with a vision impairment, an actor who uses a wheelchair, and an actor who is Deaf. The upcoming productions are As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, and Measure for Measure. RSC is intent on hiring actors to reflect the nation, and not only the white middle class.

The artistic director notes that the hiring is important to the craft and to provide opportunities to all actors. People with disabilities make up about 20 percent of the United Kingdom's population, so having representation in the cast is indicative of the diversity of the population.

Full Story: Dalya Alberge, This Is Another Crack in the Glass Ceiling: RSC Casts Disabled Actors in New Season, The Guardian, Jan. 26, 2019, available at

2. Disabled List Changed to Injured List in Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball (MLB) has renamed their roster for players who are recovering from injuries. It used to be known as the "disabled list," but has now been changed to be called the "injured list." Advocates argued that using the word "disabled" supports the misconception that people with disabilities are injured and therefore not able to participate or compete in sports.

The teams were notified in December. This is a huge victory by disability rights advocates who hope to use this as a model for other organizations or entertainment entities that use words that disparage others. An article lauds this step and encourages entertainment organizations to also hire more people with disabilities.

Full Story: Jeff Passan, Major League Baseball to Rename Disabled List as "Injured List," ESPN, Feb. 7, 2019, available at

Read More: Jacob Bogage, "Baseball Got It": Disability Rights Advocates Hail MLB's Decision to Shelve the Disabled List, Washington Post, Feb. 8, 2019, available at

3. Selma Blair's Oscars Look Highlights Accessible Fashion

Selma Blair arrived at the after party to the Oscars proudly using her cane. Blair announced in October that she has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Blair has been very candid about her disability and how it has changed her life for the better. Her biggest complaint is a lack of clothes that are accessible.

Blair pointed out the need for accessible fashion as she herself has had trouble adapting her style for MS functionality. She hopes to partner with someone to make a line for people like her. Part of her desire includes finding more fashionable cane choices.

She is not the first person to spark the creation of more accessible fashion. In the past few years, companies have begun to answer her wishes. This was highlighted in 2016 when Tommy Hilfiger and Nike both launched lines specifically for adults and children with different disabilities. Aside from fashion, Blair has also added to the conversation as she discusses her experiences.

Full Story: Julie Miller, "There's No Tragedy for Me": Selma Blair's Transformation, Vanity Fair, Mar. 2019, available at

Read More: Sarah Kim, Adaptive Fashion Has Been a Thing Long Before Selma Blair Came Into the Picture, Forbes, Feb. 28 2019, available at

Read More: Zipporah Arielle, Selma Blair Became a Disabled Icon Overnight. Here's Why We Need More Stories Like Hers, Bustle, Mar. 6, 2019, available at



  1. Touch This Page: A Symposium on Ability, Access, and the Archive
    April 4-5, 2019

  2. Multiple Perspectives on Access, Inclusion, and Disability
    April 6-9, 2019

  3. Disability Policy Seminar 2019 and AUCD Policy Forum
    April 7-10, 2019

  4. Aging in America Conference
    April 15-18, 2019

  5. Disability Management Employer Coalition FMLA/ADA Employer Compliance Conference
    May 6-9, 2019

  6. AHEAD: Equity & Excellence Access in Higher Education
    July 9-13, 2019

  7. State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
    October 23-24, 2019


  1. Hearing our Voices: Treatment Needs of Young Adults with IDD and Mental Health Conditions
    April 11, 2019, 2:00 PM EST

  2. Open Question and Answer Session on the Revised 508 Standards
    April 30, 2019, 1:00 PM EST

  3. Accessible Sales and Service Counters
    May 2, 2019, 2:30 PM EST

Call for Papers

  1. Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies: Learning Difficulties Histories and Cultures
    Deadline: April 5, 2019

  2. Research in Developmental Disabilities: Individual Differences in Developmental Disorders
    April 15, 2019

  3. Dis/ability in the Medieval Nordic World
    Deadline: June 1, 2019


  1. Beth Carew Memorial Scholarship Program
    Deadline: April 14, 2019

  2. Sertoma Hard of Hearing or Deaf Scholarship
    Deadline: May 1, 2019

  3. Organization for Autism Research
    Deadline: May 6, 2019


Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design by Bess Williamson offers "an extraordinary look at everyday design, marrying accessibility with aesthetic, to provide an insight into a world in which we are all active participants, but often passive onlookers. Richly detailed, with stories of politics and innovation, Bess Williamson's Accessible America takes us through this important history, showing how American ideas of individualism and rights came to shape the material world, often with unexpected consequences."

The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter is supported by the following sources:

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Note to readers: News article links may require free registration for access, or may be active for a limited time before the respective news services archive them. Archived items may also be available for a fee. Products mentioned in this newsletter are for information only and do not constitute an endorsement.

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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