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

August 6, 2020
Volume 17, Issue 6

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

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


1. Disability Rights Organizations Demand Accessible Voting System in North Carolina

Organizations that advocate for people with disabilities sued the organization in charge of elections in North Carolina because the absentee voting system is not accessible to certain people with disabilities. Voters who want to cast an absentee ballot have to fill out a paper ballot and mail it in. The advocacy organizations claim this violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. People with visual impairments and people who cannot hold a pen cannot vote independently.

Press Release: Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Groups Demand Access to North Carolina's Inaccessible Absentee Voting, Jul. 27, 2020, available at

2. Another Governor Sued for Failing to Have an ASL Interpreter at Press Briefings

Organizations that advocate for disability rights sued the governor of Florida on behalf of four individuals earlier in July because there was not an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter at his press briefings. These organizations claim that not having an ASL interpreter at these press briefings violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also, it is really important for deaf and hard of hearing people to have access to real time information and recommendations about the coronavirus. The organizations who made the complaint are especially concerned as the season for hurricanes is beginning. Evacuation guidelines will be different this year because of the coronavirus.

Full Story: Carli Teproff, DeSantis Denying Access by Not Having Sign Language at COVID-19 Briefings, Lawsuit Says, Tampa Bay Times, Jul. 14, 2020, available at


1. Railroad Agrees to Pay Millions of Dollars for Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Norfolk Southern Corporation and Norfolk Southern Railway Company because of systemic discrimination on hiring or return to work accommodations based on disability. The railroad company agreed to pay a total of 2.5 million dollars to several of its workers. It has also agreed to take steps to promote employees with disabilities within its company.

Press Release: U.S. EEOC, Norfolk Southern to Pay $2.5 Million to Settle EEOC Systemic Disability Discrimination Lawsuit, Jul. 28, 2020, available at

2. Government Agency Finds Many Reasons People with Disabilities Are Unemployed

The National Council on Disability released a report to Congress and the President in late July about the employment of people with disabilities. Some of the highlights from the report are that programs meant to train youth with disabilities for jobs have historically connected them to retail and manual skills jobs. Those jobs are in less demand than jobs in information, knowledge, or technology-based fields. Many people with disabilities who do not work get benefits from programs like Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance. These programs have systems that make it harder for people with disabilities to work. This means that these programs are part of why there is a low rate of people with disabilities who are working. The press release has a link to the full report.

Press Release: NCD, Federal Report Finds Small Business Administration Abandoning People with Disabilities; Federal Training Programs Focus on Wrong Industries, Jul. 24, 2020, available at


1. Families with Children with Disabilities Are Concerned about Their Education

There are now several lawsuits all over the country from families of children with disabilities whose education is affected by the changes in schooling caused by the coronavirus. One of these lawsuits is trying to make many of these complaints into a class action across the country. A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit that asks the court to consider a group of people as being affected by a situation in the same way and needing the same kind of legal help. The main difficulty with this kind of move in the case of children with disabilities is that each child needs different kinds of accommodations and services. However, something needs to be done because children with disabilities are more likely to be affected by a shift to online or remote education than their nondisabled peers because they are often from low income families or need services like occupational therapy.

Full Story: Anya Kamenetz, Families of Children with Special Needs Are Suing in Several States. Here's Why., NPR, Jul. 23, 2020, available at

2. A Lawsuit About Education Reform Is in Progress

A lawsuit is seeking systematic reforms of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education. The judge hearing the case already ruled that the agency violated its duty to ensure that students with disabilities get resources like special education and mental health services. The judge will decide on a remedy after a seven-day bench trial in November.

Full Story: Lawsuit Seeks Education Reform at Native American Schools, Cherokee Phoenix, Jul. 28, 2020, available at


1. COVID-19 Makes an Existing Problem Worse

A fund for Medicare that pays for hospitalizations and in-patient care may run out of money as early as 2022 or 2023. A researcher at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania came up with this estimate. The trustees at Medicare have not adjusted their estimate from April. That estimate predicted that this fund would run out of money by 2026. This fund gets most of its money from a 1.45% tax paid by employees and employers. This is likely to happen sooner than people thought because millions of people are no longer working. This means that less money from the tax is going to this fund. It is not clear what would happen when Medicare runs out of this money.

Full Story: Julie Rovner, Another Problem on the Health Horizon: Medicare Is Running Out of Money, NPR, Jul. 21, 2020, available at

2. Visiting Policies for Long Term Care Facilities Are Loosened by Many States

Earlier in July, over half of the states loosened their restrictions on visitors to longterm care facilities, such as nursing homes. Earlier this year, many longterm care facilities had strict visiting policies. They were following federal guidance. They wanted to keep people in longterm care facilities from getting COVID-19. However, the highest percentages of deaths in many states are still among people living in longterm care facilities. Additionally, many of these people's health has worsened, even if they did not get COVID-19. This is because they have limited human contact. The article includes a graphic showing which states have loosened their policies around visitors to longterm care facilities. The graphic is not accessible to people using a screen-reader.

Full Story: Judith Graham, States Allow In-Person Nursing Home Visits as Families Charge Residents Die "Of Broken Hearts," Kaiser Health News, Jul. 13, 2020, available at


1. Apple Features People with Disabilities, Technology Close to 30th Anniversary of ADA

Apple interviewed four people with disabilities to show how Apple's built-in accessibility settings have made the lives of people with disabilities easier. Apple has a variety of accessibility settings built into their devices meant to help people with many different kinds of disabilities use them easily.

Press Release: Apple.com, Apple, Creatives, and Disability Rights Activists Reflect on 30 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Jul. 22, 2020, available at

2. A Shift Toward Accessibility by a Newly Released Video Game

A recently released video game for the Play Station 4 has many accessibility features. This means that people with visual impairments, deaf and hard of hearing people, and some people with motor impairments can play this game. This is wonderful news because people with disabilities often feel excluded from playing video games.

Full Story: Vincent Acovino, "The Last of Us Part II" Presents an Accessible Apocalypse, NPR, Jul. 20, 2020, available at


1. Accessibility Concerns Make Finding a Place to Live Harder

Most people with disabilities in the United States have a hard time finding accessible housing. This is because of several reasons. First, there is not enough accessible housing. Secondly, much of the accessible housing that exists is in places like apartment buildings, especially those built during the 2000s. Finally, accessible housing, either newly built or with updated amenities, is more expensive. This makes it hard for people with disabilities to afford living in these more accessible housing options because people with disabilities usually have lower incomes.

Full Story: Carly Stern, Most Americans with Disabilities Struggle to Find Accessible Homes, Ozy Jul. 2, 2020, available at

2. Natural Disasters and COVID-19 Are a Cause for Worry When Combined

Natural disasters and new guidelines to help lessen the likelihood of coronavirus infections will negatively affect people with disabilities. For example, shelters will have to give each person more space than before. This means that each shelter will accept fewer people. Also, many workers at shelters are volunteers who are elderly and more likely to get COVID-19. It is possible that there will be fewer volunteers available to work at these shelters because of this. Finally, many shelters are not wheelchair accessible or able to help people with disabilities who need full-time care. People with disabilities were already less likely to evacuate during a natural disaster, because often vehicles sent out to evacuate might not include a wheelchair lift.

Full Story: Joseph Shapiro, Disaster Relief for the Elderly and Disabled Is Already Hard. Now Add A Pandemic, NPR, Jul. 22, 2020, available at


1. Possible Added Cost to Having a Disability During the Pandemic

A proposed tax on online sales is more likely to affect people with disabilities and those who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus. This is because people with disabilities rely on online shopping to get what they need. Most physical stores are not accessible for people with disabilities. The tax is meant to encourage people to shop in-person, instead of online.

Full Story: Frances Ryan, Rishi Sunak's Planned Online Sales Tax Is a Tax on Disability, Guardian, Jul. 30, 2020, available at

2. An Example of Living with a Disability During the Pandemic

A 93-year-old woman wrote a letter to The Guardian about how she was struggling to take care of her son and herself during the pandemic. In that letter and in this story, she argues that the system that is supposed to help people with disabilities is broken. It is difficult for her to adequately care for her son because she has her own disabilities and does not have many people nearby to help her out with running errands.

Full Story: Steven Morris, "We Feel a Little Forgotten": Welsh Mother, 93, on the Broken Care System, Guardian, Jul. 30, 2020, available at


1. Effects of Self-Advocacy on People of Color with Disabilities

Self-advocacy for people of color with disabilities often causes them to change their education or career path, because ableism is very common in academic settings. Self-advocacy means that students with disabilities have to deal with ableism on their own, which can make some disabilities worse. When ableism is combined with racism and sexism, the results are worse for people with disabilities who have to self-advocate while trying to get an education.

Full Story: Aparna R, The Burden and Consequences of Self-Advocacy for Disabled BIPOC, Disability Visibility Project, Jul. 19, 2020, available at

2. There Is Still a Lot to Do

The Americans with Disabilities Act itself has not been enough to make sure people with disabilities have equality and justice. Systems are put in place that keep people with disabilities poor, even when the rest of the country is doing well. This is embedded into American culture, which values people based on how much money they can make. These systems are also found in the limits on how much money people can have if they are receiving benefits from programs like Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance. However, the author also points to members of Congress who have disabilities and who work to make sure people with disabilities are thought of when laws are being written and passed.

Full Story: Rebecca Cokley, 30 Years Later, The American Dream Is Still Not ADA-Compliant, Refinery 29, Jul. 24, 2020, available at

See Also: Voices of Disability, Refinery 29, available at



  1. 2020 Mid-Atlantic ADA Conference (ADAcon)
    Date: September 9-25, 2020, virtual, ($499)


  1. First Call for Abstracts: Hierarchies of Disability Human Rights, new edited volume
    Deadline: August 31, 2020

  2. Disability Representation in Contemporary Media - Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) Convention in Philadelphia
    Deadline: September 30, 2020


  1. Dale M. Schoettler Scholarship
    Applications accepted year round
    Award Amount: $10,000
    Note: Only for California State University system

  2. Graeme Clark Scholarship
    Deadline: September 30, 2020
    Award Amount: $2,000


Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy
Edited by: Kelly Jensen
Release Date: August 18, 2020

Making Disability Modern
Edited by Bess Williamson and Elizabeth Guffey
Release Date: August 20, 2020

Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig
Release Date: August 25, 2020

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; and Lead Editor Aidee Campa Escorza.

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.