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 13, 2019
Volume 16, Issue 4
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
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A. CIVIL RIGHTS
1. New Toolkit Gives Employers Better Understanding of Mental Health
The U.S. Department of Labor is working to help employers better understand and support employees with mental health conditions. They created a Mental Health Toolkit to help employers. The Toolkit provides background, tools, and resources, and can be easily accessed online by employers.
The Toolkit starts by describing what various companies in different industries have done to support mental health. It also provides resources that employers can use to get started creating their own initiatives. With one in five American adults experiencing a mental health condition each year, the Department hopes this new Toolkit will allow for an increase in supportive workplaces that promote wellness.
Full Story: U.S. Department of Labor Announces New Tool to Help Employers Understand Mental Health Issues and Create Supportive Workplaces, U.S. Department of Labor, Apr. 3, 2019, available at
2. Safeway Settles in Discrimination Suit by Deaf Job Applicant
Safeway recently agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a disability discrimination case. The case was brought after a Deaf man was not given a job interview after requesting an interpreter. The national grocery chain also agreed to take further steps to improve their ability to include people with disabilities as part of the settlement. They will revamp their website to make it easier for job applicants to request accommodations and will provide contact information for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) policy questions. They will also now conduct trainings on the ADA and about accommodations.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that the settlement shows the grocery chain's commitment to making their workplace accessible to all. It also sends a message that the EEOC views enforcement of the ADA as an important mission that they take seriously.
Full Story: Safeway to Pay $75,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Apr. 19, 2019, available at
1. Bradley University Changes Job Posting for Diversity Officer
After coming under fire from disability advocates for a job posting for assistant director of diversity and inclusion, Bradley University has changed their job posting. The original job description required the person to be able to work in buildings that are not compliant with the ADA, including a campus cultural center. The job had a specific focus on Hispanic/Latinx student outreach and retention. Advocates highlighted the blatant discrimination and have noted that this is not the first occurrence of this kind involving discrimination in academia.
Bradley has since changed the wording of the job description and the statement regarding access to noncompliant buildings has been retracted. The school noted that they were trying to be transparent about the limited ADA accessibility. The school pledged to make any efforts needed to ensure that applicants could access the buildings, and they outlined their plans for future studies and improvement of campus accessibility.
Full Story: Tim Shelley, Bradley Revises Job Posting for Diversity Officer After Criticism From Advocates for People with Disabilities, 25 News NBC, Mar. 12, 2019, available at
See Also: Disability Advocates Criticize Bradley Over "Diversity" Job Description; University Vow Change, Chicago Local CBS News, Mar. 12, 2019, available at
2. Subminimum Wage Case Launched Against Oscar Swag Bag Company
A New Mexico nonprofit that employs workers with disabilities assembled gift bags for the Oscars and Grammys. The people with disabilities who did the work have launched a class action lawsuit against the nonprofit. The complaint was filed by the advocacy group Disability Rights New Mexico and the legal nonprofits Towards Justice and Public Justice. Factors that have led to the suit are the substandard wages and the fact that the employer did not have the required approval to pay the workers so little.
Sheltered workshops like this have been ordered to pay hefty fines in the past, including a Texas case that required the employer to pay $1.3 million for disability-based wage discrimination. Another company was ordered to pay its employees an amount around $240 million. The federal government has supported waivers for sheltered workshops since 1938, but the Department of Labor is supposed to grant waivers for the activities. Some states have abolished the practice altogether.
Full Story: Josh Eidelson, Disabled Workers Sue Oscars Swag Bag Company for Wage Theft, Bloomberg News, Mar. 12, 2019, available at
1. College Student Tracks Inaccessibility
After encountering inaccessible buildings on his college campus, student Adith Thummalapalli decided to take action. At the beginning of the year, the University of Maryland student could not attend a friend's birthday party. He could not attend because the party was held in an inaccessible dorm room. The lack of access angered him. In response, Thummalapalli, a wheelchair user, began documenting inaccessible buildings on campus. Months of observation later, he had compiled 43 pages of instances of inaccessibility.
The Student Government Association (SGA) at the University recently took up Thummalapalli's cause. In April the SGA passed a resolution to publish Thummalapalli's findings. Thummalapalli and the SGA hope his report compels change at the University. To that end, the SGA plans to schedule meetings with school officials to urge greater accessibility.
Full Story: Victoria Ebner, Many Buildings at UMD Aren't Accessible. This Student Made a 43-Page Report to Track Them, The Diamondback, Apr. 16, 2019, available at
2. Parents Fight to Record Special Education Meetings
Parents of students with disabilities want to better advocate for their kids by seeking policy change. A Missouri school district's policy currently prevents parents from recording meetings with school officials. The ban, with few exceptions, includes meetings about special education services. Thus, policy prevents parents from recording what is said at individual education plan (IEP) and 504 plan meetings. The Columbia Special Education Parent-Teacher Association hopes to change that.
The group hopes to change the policy by lobbying the school board. Fast-paced and full of complex jargon, IEP and 504 plan meetings remain difficult for many parents to follow. However, the option of recording meetings and returning to them later could make it easier. Further, the group urges that such recordings would be helpful in resolving potential disputes about a child's needs. The school board tabled the issue at a recent meeting hoping to collect more information on the subject.
Full Story: Roger McKinney, Parents Push to Record Special Education Meetings with Teachers, Columbia Daily Review, Apr. 20, 2019, available at
See Also: Kyreon Lee, Parents Push for the Right to Record School Meetings About Children with Special Needs, 13KRCG, Apr. 22, 2019, available at
1. Will You Battle Depression? Your Genes Have the Answer.
A new study from Munich, Germany, shows that a new genetic score may be able to predict depression in young people. The study takes information from several genetic variants that have been linked to depression and creates a score that not only predicts the risk of depression, but also the severity and the age it will start.
The study is a first step in being able to create a mechanism to prevent depression. The study allows medical experts to identify children at risk of developing depression before any symptoms have occurred. Depression affects more than 300 million people around the globe and currently is the number one cause of disability.
Full Story: James Ives, New Genetic Score Reliably Predicts Risk, Severity Of Depression in Young People, News Medical Life Sciences, Apr. 8, 2019, available at
2. New Autism-Friendly Period Book Released Worldwide
Robyn Steward, an author with autism, had her latest book, "The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods," released worldwide on April 18, 2019. The book aims to fill the gaps between current menstrual health education and the learning needs of individuals on the autism spectrum.
The book discusses all of the basics of having a period, from what they are and why people get them to available supplies and common worries. The book also goes into autism-specific issues relating to periods. Steward said her motivation to write the book came from finding each book she read on the topic to be lacking details, with no photos and little literal language that could be more readily understood.
The book is available at major retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Full Story: Ellen Stumbo, Autistic Author Robyn Steward Creates First Accessible Guide Book About Periods, The Mighty, Apr. 2019, available at
3. New Jersey Preschoolers Have Highest Rates of Autism in U.S.
A new study from Rutgers University revealed that preschoolers in New Jersey have the highest rates of autism ever recorded in the U.S. The study found that one in 35 children in New Jersey is diagnosed with autism by their fourth birthday.
The study shows a 43 percent increase in the rate of autism among four-year-olds, with the number as high as one in 23 boys diagnosed. The national average for autism rates is 13-per-1,000 children, with Missouri's 8-per-1,000 being the lowest and New Jersey's 28-per-1,000 children being the highest.
Full Story: Lindy Washburn, NJ Preschoolers Have Highest Autism Rates Ever in US, But Garden State Also Best at Reporting, North Jersey Record, Apr. 11, 2019, available at
1. New Toilet Seat May Save You From Embarrassment
An Alabama inventor developed a toilet seat with improved accessibility for the disabled and elderly. The new seat, called Dignity Mode, reduces the amount of strength it takes to sit down and get up from the toilet.
The inventor was inspired by taking care of her elderly mother. She said her mother would feel "shame and embarrassment" when needing help to use the restroom. The inventor hopes that not only will the new seat make using the bathroom a less embarrassing experience, but also lower the risk of fall-related accidents in the bathroom.
Full Story: Invent Help, Invent Help Inventor Develops Toilet Seat for the Disabled and Elderly, Cision PR Newswire, Apr. 15, 2019, available at
2. Children with Fragile X Syndrome May Benefit From Playing Memory Games
UC Davis recently conducted the largest nonmedicine trial in children with fragile X syndrome (FXS). They found that in-home treatments involving playing memory games are affordable and can be beneficial.
The study looked at 100 families three times each. They instructed individuals with FXS to play computer memory games to test the improvement in working memory and executive function after playing the games. Most studies involving drug therapies have been unsuccessful, so to have a study with demonstrated improvement in memory could eventually lead to a breakthrough.
Full Story: Computer-Based Memory Games May Be Beneficial for Individuals with Fragile X Syndrome, UC Davis Health, Apr. 15, 2019, available at
1. Ikea Is Making Furniture That Is Accessible for People with Disabilities.
Ikea Israel has teamed up with two nonprofits to make accessible furniture. Ikea is the world's largest furniture manufacturer. They have valued sleek design that is not necessarily friendly to the needs of people with disabilities. Under the new partnership, they will develop a series of modifications to fix popular Ikea furniture pieces.
The initiative is called "ThisAbles," and the modifications are available online as free schematics, which can be 3D printed and installed on popular Ikea pieces. Thirteen designs are available already. The products are available now in Ikea's Israeli stores and include extended sofa legs, a larger switch, and a handle attached to a shower curtain.
Full Story: Mark Wilson, Ikea Is Hacking its Own Furniture for People with Disabilities, Fast Company, Mar. 12, 2019, available at
See Also: Rachel Siegel, Ikea Is Making Furniture Better for People with Disabilities--With the Help of 3-D Printers, Washington Post, Mar. 15, 2019, available at
2. Department of Transportation Issues First Report on Damaged Wheelchairs
In February the Department of Transportation (DOT) released the Air Travel Consumer Report. This is their first report on the number of wheelchairs carried and mishandled by commercial airlines each month. The data for this report was collected in December 2018. This is the first report to come out after Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act in 2018, which included a rule that requires airlines to report the total number of wheelchairs carried and mishandled each month.
In December, 701 wheelchairs and scooters where mishandled or damaged by the 12 largest airlines in the U.S. In total, over 32,000 wheelchairs were handled, even though two of the top airlines did not properly report their totals. The reports will continue, and travelers should report even cosmetic issues related to the way the wheelchairs and scooters have been treated.
Full Story: John Morris, First Data on Wheelchair Damage by Airlines Released by DOT, WheelchairTravel.org, Mar. 14, 2019, available at
See Also: Russ Choma, Tammy Duckworth Forced Airlines to Report When they Break Wheelchairs. Hers Ended Up on the List, Mother Jones, Apr. 2, 2019, available at
3. All Can Experience Dinosaur Hall at Museum
The Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) has reimagined Dinosaur Hall so that it is accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired. They installed Braille signage and commissioned bronze tactile sculptures with corresponding Braille signage. The team includes a man who is blind to ensure accuracy and the best experience possible. CMC noted that the key to doing this right was by involving blind people in the process.
Even though there are computer programs that translate signage into Braille, they are more of a rough translation, such as Google translate for foreign languages. These updates to Dinosaur Hall have been a big hit, and now CMC is working on plans to making other exhibits accessible by using the same methods.
Full Story: Lucy May, Cincinnati Museum Center, Clovernook Team Up So More Can Experience the Wonder of Dinosaur Hall, WCPO Cincinnati (ABC affiliate), Jan. 30, 2019, available at
1. Air Pollution Linked to Brain, Heart, and Lung Damage
Scientists believe air pollution is responsible for a new estimate of 8.9 million premature deaths per year. This number comes from studies on populations around the globe, including the United States, China, and Oceania. The average lost life expectancy worldwide from air pollution is 1.8 years, a number that is greater than the lost life expectancy from smoking, alcohol and drug use, and even unsafe water.
The studies link air pollution to a number of serious illnesses. They include strokes, heart disease, COPD, lung cancer, reduced cognitive function, and lower respiratory infections. When a person breathes in air pollution, the particles travel through the lungs and cross into the bloodstream, allowing transportation of the toxins to every organ in the body.
Full Story: Dr. Dorothy Robinson, Air Pollution Damages Brains, as Well as Hearts and Lungs, News Medical, Feb. 7, 2019, available at
2. For the First Time, Braille Ballots Being Used in Egyptian Referendum
Many people with disabilities are eagerly casting their votes in polling stations across Egypt using brand new ballot papers. This referendum is the first affected by new laws that will improve accessibility in Egypt. This is the first time that embossed paper ballots with braille are being used so that citizens with vision impairments may vote unassisted.
A new law will create a National Council for People with Disabilities, aimed at protecting, developing, and promoting rights of persons with disabilities. The ballots are one of many steps Egypt has recently taken to protect the constitutional rights of citizens with disabilities. Egypt's president directed 80 million Egyptian pounds toward a fund that supports people with special needs. In another example, security forces assisted voters with disabilities using wheelchairs at the polls.
Full Story: Amr Mohamed Kandil, Disabled People Keen to Vote on Constitutional Amendments, Egypt Today, Apr. 21, 2019, available at
3. All Individuals Crossing Chaman Border to Be Vaccinated for Polio
A new campaign by Pakistan mandated that everyone crossing the Chaman border be vaccinated with antipolio drops. Over three days, 33 districts in Balochistan will give more than 1.7 million children the drops. Children under ten will be given the drops each time they cross the border, where those over ten will be vaccinated once a year.
The border was chosen because the Pak-Afghan friendship gate is located there, a site where around 40,000 children cross each month. This year alone six new polio cases have emerged in Pakistan, and the World Health Organization imposed strict travel restrictions on Pakistan in 2014 to prevent spreading of the disease. Pakistan's governor hopes the measure will prevent more children from facing lifelong disability.
Full Story: Zeeshan Aziz, Polio Drops Declared Mandatory for All, Crossing Pak-Afghan Border at Chaman, Urdu Point, Apr. 21, 2019, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. Discussion Opens Up About People with Disability, Sex, and Relationships After Hashtag Goes Viral
People with disabilities are often desexualized. However, a new movement around the social media hashtag #DisabledPeopleAreHot has sparked critical conversations. #DisabledandCute is another social media movement that has occurred in the past that links disability and attractiveness.
Hashtags like this show that people with disabilities are "hot" by both conventional beauty standards and in spite of them. They allow people with disabilities to own their own narratives and personhood and are not objectifying or fetishizing disability. While research has shown that few people without disabilities have dated people with disabilities, this may be starting to change. The sex toy industry is also taking notice, as new products are coming to market with various needs in mind.
Full Story: Alania Leary, #DisabledPeopleAreHot Is Trending on Twitter, Healthline, Feb. 28, 2019, available at
See Also: Aly Fixter, The Taboos Around Disability and Sex Put Limits on Everyone, Disabled or Not, The Guardian, Mar.18, 2019, available at
2. Books that Promote Curing Autism and Misinformation About Vaccines Removed From Amazon
Amazon is removing books that promote "cures" for autism as part of an effort by big tech companies to cut down on misinformation around vaccines. The books claim that children can be cured of autism, and some include pseudoscientific methods such as ingesting and bathing in a form of bleach and taking medication meant to treat arsenic and lead poisoning. A recent article in Wired called out Amazon for selling the books.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that there is no cure for autism spectrum disorders. This is backed by years of scientific research. Also, decades of medical research consistently show there is no link between vaccines and autism. The conversation around vaccines and cures for autism have been fervent since a now-debunked study linked autism with a vaccine used for measles, mumps, and rubella in the 1990's.
Full Story: Caitlin O'Kane, Amazon Removes Books Promoting Autism "Cures" and Vaccine Misinformation, CBS News, Mar. 13, 2019 available at
See Also: Brandy Zadronzny, Amazon Removes Books Promoting Autism Cures and Vaccine Misinformation, NBC News, Mar. 12, 2019 available at
3. Stock Images Now Feature Photos of People with Disabilities
A growing collection of stock images that break stereotypes and authentically portray people with disabilities in everyday life are being compiled for use by the public. The efforts are being led by a partnership between leaders in the stock images and disability rights fields. There are over 350 images in the Disability Collection's inaugural batch of images. The images show people with disabilities participating in everyday life activities.
The team took an equitable approach to compiling the images. They performed focus groups and collected feedback from various disability organizations. The commitment is not intended to fade away, either. The project will be managed by experienced leaders. The inaugural batch of images was recently unveiled in Washington, D.C., and hundreds more images are being curated to add to the collection.
Full Story: Margaux Joffe, Together with Disability Advocates and Getty Images, Verizon Showcases Inaugural Disability Collection Photos, Oath: A Verizon Company, Feb. 25, 2019, available at
See Also: Denise Brodey, Changing How the World Sees Disability One Photo at a Time, Forbes, Mar. 20, 2019 available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers
Strangers Assume my Girlfriend Is my Nurse by Shane Burcaw offers "an essay collection about living a full life in a body that many people perceive as a tragedy. From anecdotes about first introductions where people patted him on the head instead of shaking his hand, to stories of passersby mistaking his able-bodied girlfriend for a nurse, Shane tackles awkward situations and assumptions with humor and grace."
The Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter is supported by the following sources:
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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.
To subscribe to this free e-newsletter, go to http://disability.law.uiowa.edu/lhpdc/publications/news.html for directions for the "Disability Law & Policy e-Newsletter."
The e-Newsletter is archived at http://disability.law.uiowa.edu/lhpdc/publications/news.html
Re-distribution / forwarding of this e-Newsletter to your networks is encouraged.