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
October 31, 2019
Volume 16, 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. U.S. Department of Labor-Funded Online Toolkit Helps Employers Ensure Disability-Inclusive Workplaces
The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy sponsors the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). JAN came up with the Workplace Accommodation Toolkit. The Toolkit is supposed to help employers and employees know their full rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for their employees, such as making changes to a job or work environment to help the employee perform a task.
The Toolkit helps provide resources and guidance to management. It is helpful when determining reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodation examples are policies, templates, checklists, and training videos. The goal is to help employers keep employees and hire qualified employees with disabilities.
Full Story: U.S. Department of Labor-Funded Online Toolkit Helps Employers Ensure Disability-Inclusive Workplaces, U.S. Department of Labor, Jul. 26, 2019, available at
2. Jury Awards $5.2 Million to Former Walmart Employee in Discrimination Disability Case
A Madison, Wisconsin, jury decided that Walmart broke federal law by not giving accommodations to a longtime worker with disabilities. The former worker, who was deaf and visually disabled, had been a cart pusher for 16 years.
After the worker received a new manager, the manager asked him to resubmit his accommodations, even though the worker's conditions had not changed. After he resubmitted the accommodations, Walmart fired him. So the worker sued Walmart.
The jury decided that Walmart did not follow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines. The jury gave the worker $5.2 million to send a message. If employers do not follow the ADA to provide accommodations, they will be punished.
Full Story: Jury Awards $5.2 Million Against Walmart in EEOC Disability Discrimination Case, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Oct. 11, 2019, available at
1. Proposed Federal Bill Seeks to Increase Inhome Caregivers
A proposed federal bill aims at increasing inhome caregivers. These positions are important for people with developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, the field is often seen as unattractive, and as such there is high turnover. There is high demand in the field, but little supply.
The bill, Direct CARE Opportunity, seeks to provide a solution to the problem. The goal of the bill is to increase the field by one million workers. It seeks to do this through increased funding and using a strategy to make the field more attractive. The bill also seeks to reduce barriers to entry, which would include training, to influence more people into the this field of work.
Michelle Diament, Bill Aims to Boost Direct Support Workforce, Disability Scoop, Sept. 27, 2019, available at
2. Fixing Employer Perception Is Crucial for Increasing Disability Rights
The world for persons who are blind is getting better as technology improves and disability rights laws are passed. However, work still needs to be done. People who are blind do not have equal access to the workforce. When compared to the national average, the employment rate is half. Further, the unemployment rate is double. With the massive improvements in disability rights, these are disappointing statistics.
One of the biggest challenges to equal access to the workforce is employer understanding. Studies show employers do not believe persons who are blind can perform equally compared to those without the disability. However, this is a false narrative. With some assistance, a person who is blind can meet the standards of an employer. Teaching employers that a disability is not an impediment to a successful employee is crucial. Having discussions and participation in events, such as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, are great first steps in changing the belief that persons who are blind are poor choices for employment.
Michelle McDonnall, Blind People Have Increased Opportunities, But Employers' Perceptions Are Still a Barrier, The Intelligencer, Oct. 14, 2019, available at
1. Transition to College Accommodations
Experts suggest sharing information about college to students early. This allows students to set their sights on college. This also ensures students complete the necessary classes and learn strategies they will need to succeed. Once students are accepted to college, they should keep a few things in mind about college-provided services.
First, it is the students' responsibility to apply for accommodations. Second, applying for accommodations may require students to attend a meeting. Third, once students are qualified, they may obtain accommodations. Fourth, families should know that the law does not require colleges to make all accommodations. This includes those such as the substitution of a course requirement.
Citation: Elizabeth C. Hamlet, Successful Transitions to College for Students with Disabilities, Council for Exceptional Children, available at
2. Allowable Time Off for Special Education Meetings
The Department of Labor has said parents can take Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time off to attend special education meetings (IEP meetings). IEP meetings give updates on the children's progress and areas of concern. They also review doctor recommendations, test results, and additional therapy.
The Department of Labor has decided that attendance at IEP meetings is a reason to take intermittent (occasional) FMLA leave. They noted parent's attendance is necessary to provide good care to their children.
The employer can ask for advanced notice of the meeting. The Department of Labor says that parents should try to pick times that do not disrupt their working hours. But if an employee can show that meetings must occur at a specific time or day, the employer must provide FMLA leave. This does not include situations unique to the employer's business needs.
Citation: Parents May Take FMLA Leave for Special Education Meetings, Society for Human Research Management, (Aug. 8, 2019), available at
The letter can be found here:
1. A Call for New Trend in the US and Global Healthcare Industry
The health care in America is making a change from a money model to a value model. This means healthcare centers are to see people as members and not as patients, so that the sole purpose will not be for revenue creation.
To reach the value model, healthcare providers are to work together with government, payers, patients, and all other parties. They work together to improve the standards on developing new solutions, including the use of latest technologies. This can ensure a more personal and direct relationship with the consumers of their services.
Full story: Steve Burill and Doug Beaudoin, 2019 Global Health Care Outlook: Shaping the Future, deloitte.com, Jan. 9, 2019, available at
2. Human Rights as an Underlying Factor in the 2019 Medicare for All Bill
U.S. Congressional representative Pramila Jayapal has introduced a bill called the 2019 Medicare for All. The bill provides for an annual program over several years. The bill will replace the current health insurance system and create a nationwide one-payer system.
This bill is based on wide public support for the U.S. to provide a free healthcare system as a human right. The proposed new health system will cover all geographical locations, race, and sex, without discrimination.
Full story: Michelle Chen, The Human-Rights Agenda Underlying the 2019 Medicare for All Bill, The Nation, Mar. 20, 2019, available at
1. Accessible Polling in Philadelphia
This November polling places in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will be accessible to voters with disabilities. This is a result of Philadelphia purchasing new touchscreen voting machines. However, the new machines could not be carried upstairs because of their size and weight. Therefore, officials were forced to find places where they could wheel the machines up ramps. If the machines get ramps, so do voters with mobility issues.
Accessible machines are a step toward equal access. Full accessibility is important because it influences voter turnout. People with disabilities vote at lower rates. Many people say their disability is their reason for not voting.
Full Story: Jonathan Lai, Every Philly Polling Place Will Soon Be Accessible to Voters with Physical Disabilities and Mobility Issues, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 28, 2019, available at
2. Assistive Technology to Help Students Learn
Over the past 10 years, the number of students enrolled in special education programs went up 30 percent. Educators are turning to assistive technology to help students reach their full potential. Individuals can use technology to help students learn.
Technology that helps individuals includes reminder/time management apps and text-to-speech e-books and audiobooks. Other helpful technology includes FM systems, to help those with hearing impairments, and gamifications, which offer an alternative approach to learning. Additional helpful technology includes graphic organizers and experiential learning, which helps students retain content. Each is helpful to a variety of students.
Brian Potash, 6 Assistive Technologies That Can Help Students Reach Their Full Potential, Ed Tech Magazine, Sept. 5, 2019, available at
1. Google Seeks to Improve Access for Those with a Disability
Google is currently working on improving the access to technology for those with a cognitive disability. A cognitive disability is defined as certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills, such as communicating, self care, and social skills. A new feature on Google cell phones is called Action Blocks via the Google Assistant. Action Blocks allows a user to use a single touch to carry out more complicated phone features. The single touch can be registered to many features, such as making a phone call.
Google shared an analogy, using a ridesharing app, about why they think this feature can truly help. To get to the app and use it takes many taps. To use any feature on the phone usually requires memorizing the exact click sequence and also may require a user to read and write. Both actions can be difficult for those with cognitive disabilities. With Action Blocks, this can instead be done with a single click. The feature does not just include ridesharing but also includes, among other things, making a phone call and controlling home lights. With this feature the hope is that Google can improve on their recent trend in making their devices more accessible.
Shaun Heasley, Google Improving Accessibility for Those with Cognitive Disabilities, Disability Scoop, Oct. 4, 2019, available at
2. Domino's Pizza Loses; The Fight for Increasing Disability Rights Wins
A recent court case, Domino's Pizza LLC v. Robles, is about the ease of use of a business's website. The plaintiff is Guillermo Robles, an individual who is blind. Robles sued Domino's because he experienced their website as difficult to use. Robles claimed the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures to all people equal access to a public business's products. Robles' case made it to the Ninth Circuit. Their ruling stated that the ADA applies to a restaurant's phone applications and websites.
The Supreme Court of the United States decided not to review the lower court's decision. While this choice does not affirm the Circuit Court's decision, it is a positive step in disability rights. It may show the Supreme Court's willingness to expand the ADA. It also shows the Supreme Court's faith in the lower courts in dealing with these types of issues. Robles' case eventually was sent back to the lower court to decide if he suffered discrimination. However, this was still a step toward equal access online.
David G. Savages, Supreme Court Allows Blind People to Sue Retailers If Their Websites Are Not Accessible, National Organization on Disability, Oct. 8, 2019, available at
1. The 2019 Canada Accessibility Act for People with Disabilities
In Canada one out of five people aged 15 and above report having a disability. The government of Canada passed The Accessible Canada Act. The Act is to provide accessible communities, workplaces, and services for people with disability.
To reach this goal new structures and positions have been created. This act is a life-changing law by the government. The purpose of the act is to meet the needs of people with disability by ensuring accessibility for all.
Full story: Employment and Social Development Canada, Federal Accessibility Legislation in Canada Now Operational, Disabled World, Jul. 12, 2019, available at
2. Nigerian Woman Helps Children with Limb Loss to Walk Again
In Nigeria 27 million people live with disabilities. These people with disabilities experience blame because of common cultural and religious beliefs. In 2009 a woman gave birth to a child with a rare medical condition, which caused the loss of the child's right leg.
Because of this woman's experience, she decided to support children with limb loss in the country. Thus, she created the IREDE Foundation. The foundation educates Nigerians on how to live with and care for children with limb loss. The foundation also gives free and cheap artificial limbs to children who cannot afford them.
Full story: Aisha Salaudeen and Earl Nurse, This Woman Is Helping Disabled Children Walk for the First Time, CNN, Aug.9, 2019, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. Breaking Boundaries: Ali Stroker, a Wheelchair User, Wins a Tony
Disabilities are still commonly underrepresented in the theater and acting industries. Ali Stroker broke through the stigma by becoming the first wheelchair user to be nominated for, and win, a Tony. Her performance in Oklahoma! wowed the crowd and critics. Stroker dedicated her award to all the children with disabilities who were growing up in a world that never had a person like them win an award. Stroker did it for them.
Stroker notes that the theatre is accessible to the public, but backstage is a different story. She used her platform to address these issues and call for owners to be more conscious of accessible features during renovations. Stroker called for changes to allow for those with a disability to feel more encouraged and welcomed in the environment.
Full Article: Maya Salam, Ali Stroker Makes History as First Wheelchair User to Win a Tony, N.Y. Times, Jun. 9, 2019, available at
See Also: Tony Awards 2019: Ali Stoker Becomes the First Wheelchair Winner, BBC Entertainment & Arts, Jun. 10, 2019, available at
2. America's Got Talent: Showcasing Talent and Breaking Down Barriers
Kodi Lee left the audience amazed after finishing his first performance on America's Got Talent (AGT). Bringing some of the judges to tears, he showed the country that a disability does not define who you are.
Lee is a 22-year-old who is blind and has autism. Lee took the world by storm when he sang and played piano on the show during the first round of AGT tryouts. His journey did not end there. In September, Lee won the show, walking away with one million dollars and a headlining show in Las Vegas in November.
Full article: Christopher Brito, Kodi Lee Blind Contestant with Autism, Wins "America's Got Talent," CBS News, Sept. 19, 2019, available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers
Eyes to the Wind: A Memoir of Love and Death, Hope and Resistance by Ady Barkan offers "a rousing memoir featuring intertwining storylines about determination, perseverance, and how to live a life filled with purpose and intention. The first traces Ady's battle with ALS: how he turned the initial shock and panic from his diagnosis into a renewed commitment to social justice--not despite his disability but because of it. The second, told in flashbacks, illustrates Ady's journey from a goofy political nerd to a prominent figure in the enduring fight for equity and justice who is 'willing to give [his] last breath to save our democracy' (CNN)."
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 Jacqueline Chilbert; and Associate Editors Eronmwon Joyce Irogue, Renee Nouri, Emily Kosciewicz, and Jake Gellerstein.
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