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
February 4, 2020
Volume 17, Issue 1
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. M&T Bank Settles EEOC Lawsuit
M&T Bank will pay $100,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by a Baltimore M&T branch manager. The manager needed surgery for her pregnancy-related disability. The manager was approved and cleared for leave. Then she was told that her position would be filled unless she was medically cleared to come back to work within ten days. After being medically cleared to return to work after giving birth, M&T made the manager reapply for an open position, rather than reassigning her to one of the 24 vacant branch manager positions around the area. She was eventually fired because of her disability.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity made a reasonable accommodation claim where Judge Ellen L. Hollander found that the manager had a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a right, she should have been reasonably accommodated by being reassigned to an open position. As a result, M&T Bank must pay $100,000 in lost wages and damages to the manager. They also must create a system so that employees cleared for a disability leave will be reassigned to open positions instead of competing with others for their position.
Full Story: M&T Bank Will Pay $100,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit, Equal Opportunity Commission, Jan. 22, 2020, available at
2. Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Against American Woodmark
American Woodmark Corporation agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a discrimination case. This was brought by an employee who requested two unpaid days off to go to the doctor to help treat her disclosed disabilities. The employee worked for the company for sixteen years. Woodmark fired her for going over the number of days off allowed. She gave her employer a doctor's note and updated her Family Medical Leave Act that showed the reason for her time off was for recovery and treatment related to her disabilities.
Woodmark firing the employee for reasons related to her disabilities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An employer cannot make an employment decision based on their employee's disability. In addition, to the $25,000, Woodmark agreed to create and carry out an ADA policy, part of which will help with employment discrimination.
Full Story: American Woodmark to Pay $25,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dec. 13, 2019, available at
3. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Sued for Failure to Provide Accommodations to an Employee's Disabilities
Using the revolving doors to enter a Kaiser workplace created stress for an employee because of their disabilities. She requested a reasonable accommodation to use other doors. Kaiser refused to grant her request. This forced her to use the revolving doors.
Kaiser violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to their employees with disabilities. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged Kaiser in the lawsuit to get back pay and damages for the employee. In addition, the EEOC seeks to prevent future incidents of discrimination.
Full Story: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dec. 5, 2019, available at
1. Virginia Is Engaging more People with Disabilities in the Workforce
The Governor of Virginia issued a press release this January. It detailed a detailed list of executive actions to help those with disabilities. Along with the appointment of a Director of Diversity, Virginia has helped lead the way for disability rights. The state has plans to increase employment by five percent. There are also plans to collaborate with state-run agencies to "prioritize hiring and workforce diversity."
This initiative seeks to fix an ongoing issue. For example, the unemployment rate for those with disabilities is higher than those without a disability. The disability community collectively struggles when it comes to an independent life. Jobs are a crucial part of that. However, companies such as Microsoft are also leading initiatives to fix this. Microsoft launched an Autism Hiring Program in 2015, for example. The program has helped and continues to do so. The goal is to increase inclusivity in the workforce, and so far, it is working.
Article: Eileen Abbott, Virginians with Disabilities Get Help Finding Jobs, Changing America, Jan. 20, 2020, available at
2. Challenge to Better Morale and Greater Retention Rates Through Federal Competition
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has come up with a new mandate for employers. It is to further incorporate workers with disabilities. The business that comes up with the best opportunity can also win a prize of $100,000. The winnings would be used to assist the company in implementing their idea.
Part of the reason for the mandate is to implore employers to hire from a broader range. While traditional hiring techniques have worked, the mandate seeks to go beyond it. There are several barriers facing those with disabilities. HHS's goal is to strip these barriers. This will allow for a better and more competitive workforce for everyone.
Article: Shaun Heasley, Feds Incentivize Disability Hiring, Disability Scoop, Jan. 15, 2019, available at
1. More Funding for Special Education and Special Olympics
Federal funding for special education will rise. This is because of a newly approved government spending plan. The funding has increases for programs people with disabilities rely on.
Special education is a big winner. Special education received a $400 million increase over last year. That is the largest increase the program has seen since 2016. Special Olympics will also see an increase in funding. People were upset after the Trump administration suggested eliminating funding for the sports organization's education programs. The anger led Trump to pledge to continue support for Special Olympics. As a result, the new budget kept funding for the program. The budget also increased spending to over $20 million.
Also, $1 million was saved for a program that would create partnerships between university centers and nonprofits. These would create new models for community-based transition. They would also help with any daytime services that support independent living.
Full story: Michelle Diament, Congress Hands Special Education Hefty Funding Boost, Disability Scoop, Jan. 9, 2020, available at
2. Eye to Eye and Social Emotional Learning
Eye to Eye is an organization that helps students with learning differences. It also helps students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Learning and attention disabilities can range from executive function issues to trouble with reading or math. These disabilities can affect approximately one in five people in the United States. Many parents believe children with learning differences "just need to try harder." Many teachers also do not feel confident to create the necessary changes for these students.
Eye to Eye says the problem is not the student's thinking. Eye to Eye says the problem is how people are being taught. For example, a student diagnosed with dyslexia may find it difficult to read a textbook with their eyes. If the student has an audiobook, they can read and understand the material just like other students.
Eye to Eye teaches members social and emotional learning skills. This includes self-advocacy to prepare students for success. Instead of changing the way a student learns, social emotional learning helps connect them to educational tools that fit their personal learning style. It does this by boosting their confidence. It also does this by encouraging students to ask for what they need.
Full Story: Claire Wolters, Social and Emotional Learning Boosts Students with Disabilities, Changing America, Jan. 6, 2020, available at
1. Positive Response to Medicaid Expansion in Michigan
Residents of Michigan now have increased access to health care because of the Medicaid expansion plan it started in 2013. The plan extends healthcare services to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured residents. People enrolled in the program continue to increase. As more people, are now more committed to adopt healthy behaviors because of the help from their primary health care providers.
Full story: Katelyn Newman, Medicaid Expansion Yields Healthier Habits in Michigan, U.S.News, Dec. 10, 2019, available at
2. Access to Free HIV Prevention Pills for Uninsured Americans
The government is trying to end the spread of HIV by giving out free HIV prevention drugs to uninsured people who may be exposed to it. Some people are saying that the plan is not enough. The drugs are available by enrolling in a government website or through a participating health care provider such as a community clinic.
Full story: Tim Fitzsimons, U.S. to Give Free HIV-Prevention Pills to Uninsured--With One Costly Loophole, NBC News, Dec. 3, 2019, available at
1. Voice Command Technology
Voice search is becoming more widely used. Many think that soon we will not need keyboards, computer mice, or buttons on devices. They think computer input could come only from voice commands.
Voice technology is removing the walls between people and computers. Some say voice interfaces still have limits that cannot be solved by technology. One challenge is noise pollution. Voice assistants are getting better at ignoring background noise. Also, voice commands can be distracting. Researchers have found that voice commands ruin your train of thought. This can be dangerous for driving.
Many of vehicles and military technology have speech recognition controls. These help improve safety by helping keep their eyes focused. The car would let you know when your gas tank or battery is low. This technology in a plane would also allow pilots to focus on important tasks instead of scrolling through the instrument panel.
Voice command technology can also help people who are learning a new language practice pronunciation. "[V]oice interfaces help users with disabilities such as motor impairments, repetitive stress injuries (such as carpal tunnel) or dyslexia."
Full Story: Kelly McSweeney, What Will Voice Command Technology Do Next? Now., Nov. 18, 2019, available at
2. Accessible New Ride-Share Service
Many adults age 60 and over have stopped driving because of discomfort with driving or because they had a disability. As a result, Consumer Cellular has launched CC Go, which allows customers request a ride for themselves or their loved ones. They can receive the same conveniences of a ride sharing service that are enjoyed by the millions of users with a Lyft app. The CC Go ride is trackable.
Customers, even those who currently use landlines and flip phones, will be able to access and book a ride using CC Go. Customers can call and book appointments through the Consumer Cellular call center at (888) 750-2246 (CCGO). Those who use a GrandPad tablet simply need to tap the "transportation app" to arrange a ride. The fare is fulfilled through the user's existing CC Go account.
Full Story: Angie Galimanis, Lyft Now Available to All Consumer Cellular Customers, Including Those with Flip Phones, Associated Press News, Jan. 15, 2020, available at
1. New Technology to Help the Visually Impaired Watch TV
Comcast has recently partnered with NuEyes. They are a company who set out to allow visually impaired customers access to television, through the use of virtual reality. The company created glasses and magnifying devices to do this.
The technology is lightweight and works on everyday objects, not just TV. The new partnership will now allow millions to use the technology. Comcast has also previously released other technology. These include a voice-activated remote, and a talking TV guide. The company has also sought to make their TV programs accessible.
Full Story: Technology Allows Comcast Programs with Visual Disabilities to See TV, Cape Gazette, Dec. 22, 2019, available at
2. Robotic Outfit Helping the Elderly Stand
The University of Texas at Houston and the City University of New York have partnered to achieve an important goal. The two schools created a device to allow seniors the ability to stand. While losing the ability of motor functions is normal among the elderly, it is a large issue. The robotic device seeks to delay the issue. The device is a wearable machine, which functions as an exoskeleton. Fortunately, the design is much lighter than those on the market. This is crucial as a heavy product restricts the user's ability. The lighter the product, the easier it is to use. The school's ultimate goal is to expand beyond seniors. Their design could certainly be utilized by many others.
Full Story: Robot-Powered Outfit Is Being Fashioned to Help Seniors Walk, News Wise, Dec. 16, 2019, available at
3. Community Access Unlimited, Academy for Continuing Education, and Kean's Music Conservatory Program Joint Music Concert
Many musicians played together at Kean University in New Jersey. This was a unique show with a mix of those with and without disabilities. This was the fifth event of its kind. It is hosted in part by Community Access Unlimited (CAU). CAU's goal is to blend people with disabilities into the community. The musicians also work together to better their musical talents.
This event is a chance to showcase that musicians with a disability are no different from those without one. According to the University's music education coordinator, "Music is the great unifier and equalizer." It is also a great backdrop for allowing people with disabilities to show their talents and interact with their communities in ways that previously were difficult to do.
Article: Tapinto Roselle, Musicians with and without Disabilities Strike Perfect Chord at Collaborative Concert, TAPinto.net, Jan. 15, 2020, available at
4. Voting for All
Even after the strides the country has made in voting rights, there are still groups that face barriers. Those with disabilities have a particularly difficult time. For example, those who have a guardian do not have the ability to vote. States largely have the ability to make laws restricting access. Massachusetts is a leading example, however, of why automatic voter registration is helping to fix the situation. Those enrolled in programs like the DMV will automatically be registered to vote. The requirement is participation in a program that grants a state-issued identification.
Those who wish to vote should be given the opportunity. Guardians specifically have the obligation to assist in this. There is further discussion on those who are inhibited by their capacity to read. Assistance in the voting booth is actually a right granted by law, but not many people know about it. While the automatic registration and current laws are helpful, advocacy is key.
Article: Jordan Evans, As I See It: Automatic Voter Registration Rollout Can Further Integrate Disability Community, Telegram.com, Jan. 3, 2020, available at
1. Renaming World Disability Day
The Vice President of India spoke at the International Day of Persons with Disability celebration held in Delhi. He asked that the current name should be changed to International Day of Persons with Special Ability. This is because of the challenges these persons face daily. He asked the world leaders to make the change.
Full story: Press Trust of India, World Disability Day Should Be Renamed as Day of Persons with Special Ability: Vice President, NDTV, Dec. 3, 2019, available at
2. Bulgaria's Group Homes Nightmare
Bulgaria had orphanages, which were replaced with group homes. These were smaller scale orphanages despite being touted to be "family-like homes." The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) demands children grow up in family-like homes. Bulgaria is not fulfilling its role despite ratifying the CRPD. Families that can afford to keep their children with disabilities do, but many cannot afford to do so. Bulgaria needs to do better to support keeping families together.
Full story: New DRI Report Finds Appalling Conditions in Bulgaria's Group Homes, Disability Rights International, Nov. 21, 2019, available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. Setting Records: New Fastest Record for Competing in a Marathon in an Exoskeleton
Adam Gorlitsky is paralyzed from the waist down, but that did not stop him from completing the Charleston Marathon. Gorlitsky wore an exoskeleton suit, which allowed him to walk the race. He finished with a time of 33 hours, 50 minutes and 23 seconds. He walked the race straight through without stopping for sleep. The previous record was held by a British man who took 36 hours and 46 minutes to complete the London Marathon.
This is no small win for Gorlitsky. This was his second try at completing the marathon and trying to break the record. He said that his huge support system was reason he was able to push through the exhaustion and finish the race. People from the community came to walk with him through the race, and he pulled from their energy to get to the finish line.
Full Story: Alaa Elassar, Paralyzed Man Breaks World Record for Finishing a Marathon in an Exoskeleton, CNN, Jan. 12, 2020, available at
2. Jim Thatcher Passes Away at 84
Jim Thatcher is known to be one of the greatest allies in the push for accessibility. With his death, the community loses a great hero. He worked on many projects, including helping to develop the first screen reader, which aided those living with a disability and helped to make the internet age a possibility for people with all different abilities.
For lawyers, he helped provide answers with great courtesy. He helped behind the scenes to answer questions and help provide information on the status of the accessibility community. He influenced many negotiations and helped many organizations become more accessible to people of all ability levels.
Mr. Thatcher enjoyed his role as a mentor and believed in paying it forward. He wanted to instill the message that "it's about inclusion, generosity, and sharing" to make sure those living with a disability are included in the ever-expanding digital world.
Full Story: Lainey Feingold, Jim Thatcher, Accessibility Giant, Dies at 83, Law Office of Lainey Feingold, Dec. 7, 2019, available at
3. Medicare for All From the Democratic Candidates
The Democratic Presidential Candidates for the 2020 election vary on the issue of Medicare. Below is a brief overview of where the candidates stand.
Joe Biden prefers to remain with the Affordable Care Act rather than recreating an entirely new system.
Michael Bloomberg does not believe Medicare for All is affordable or realistic. Instead, he believes it should be for people who are currently uncovered, and we should keep private insurance for those whose employers cover it.
Cory Booker would like to revise the system as it currently stands by changing the requirements for those who are able to qualify for Medicare right now. This will help address the more immediate problems while other options may take longer.
Pete Buttigieg is interested in creating an "opt-in" affordable public program. It will compete with private companies and force them to lower their prices to a competitive rate or allow the public alternative to take over.
Julian Castro would like to have a Medicare for All program that allows for private supplemental insurance.
Tulsi Gabbard is looking to implement a system that will provide universal healthcare to match that of "every industrialized country in the world."
Amy Klobuchar wants to expand the reach of Medicare or Medicaid and also revise the Affordable Care Act to make it truly affordable and offer greater service.
Bernie Sanders believes in a complete Medicare for All program where we treat healthcare as "every other major country on Earth" does and "guaranteeing health care to all people as a right."
Tom Steyer believes in creating a public option, allowing people to choose between private insurance offered through an employer or a public option. He hopes the competition will drive down the costs of private insurance and make all options more affordable.
Elizabeth Warren believes in complete Medicare for All Program financed by the upper class rather than focusing on taxing the middle class.
Andrew Yang is focused on making health care more affordable and solving the issues that are harming the current system. He believes fighting for semantics at this stage is not going to help the immediate problem.
Full Story: 2020 Presidential Candidates on Medicare for All, Ballotpedia, 2019, available at
4. Work Artists with Disabilities Displayed at Chase Center
Artists with disabilities are having their artwork displayed at the Chase Center. This is the new home of the Golden State Warriors. JP Morgan Chase sought to highlight the arena with local artists. The artists are from the nonprofit Creative Growth. The foundation, based out of Oakland, is one of the oldest in the country.
The foundation was created not only to integrate disabled artists. It also allows them to express themselves creatively. The artists can participate in numerous activities. The art has previously been displayed in other prominent places. This display by JP Morgan Chase has allowed these artists and the foundation to become part of a national stage.
Full Story: Melissa Pixcar, Artists with Disabilities Spotlighted in Chase Center Art Exhibit, abc7news.com, Dec. 6, 2019, available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
Call for Papers
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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