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

November 9, 2020
Volume 17, Issue 7

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. EEOC Files Charges Against Scottsdale Healthcare Hospitals/Honorhealth for Disability Discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Scottsdale Healthcare Hospitals, doing business as Honorhealth, alleging they have failed to provide an accommodation to qualified employees with disabilities. Honorhealth is accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for forcing employees to quit or firing employees who requested accommodations, which ranged from modified work schedules and reassignments to assistive devices.

Employers who fail to provide or consider reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with a disability violates the ADA . The EEOC is seeking lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discriminatory practices in the future.

Press Release: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC Sues Scottsdale Healthcare Hospitals/Honorhealth for Disability Discrimination (Oct. 1, 2020), available at

2. PML Agrees to Settle $60,000 EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

An employee at IHG Army Hotel had a seizure while at home. The employee asked for two days off to recover from her seizure. The employee's supervisor fired the employee because she took off during her trial period at work.

IGH violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating based on disability status. The ADA does not allow discrimination at any stage of employment, including the employee's trial period. The EEOC is seeking $60,000 in money relief for the employee, as well as injunction prohibiting disability discrimination. In addition, the EEOC is making the company consider accommodations that would better assist employees with disabilities in successfully doing their jobs.

Press Release: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, PML Services to Pay $60,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit, (Oct. 1, 2020), available at


1. New Brief Calls for Reevaluation of Disability Policy Based on Increased Cost of Living for Adults with Disabilities in the United States

Individuals with disabilities are often faced with greater challenges than their abled colleagues when searching for employment. However, once a job is secured, challenges do not become easier. A new study shows that a person with a disability requires 28% more income to obtain the same standard of living as a person without a disability. The increased costs come from a number of sources, including out-of-pocket healthcare expenses that are much higher for people with disabilities. This study states that these costs may be more than twice as high for disabled persons as they often include, among other costs, delivery fees, building fees to create accessible entrances on their home, and costs associated with special diets.

Given this inequality, those with disabilities are more likely to miss monthly payments and are not able to save as much money. To ensure an equitable standard of life to all its citizens, the government must step in. While it is unclear whether intervention will be with decreased medical costs or tax breaks, it is clear something must be done.

Full Story: New Brief Highlights the Extra Costs of Living for Adults with Disabilities in the U.S., CISION, Oct. 14, 2020, available at

2. National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This year's theme was "Increasing Access and Opportunity." The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) through the U.S. Department of Labor put together resources and materials to spread awareness around employing disabled persons and to share ways to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness. ODEP has also maintains an "ADA webpage" and has created a Job Accommodation Network to assist disabled workers.

These and other materials are available at


1. Preschool Teachers in Special Needs Classes Work to Make Up for the Deficiencies Caused by the Pandemic

COVID-19 has made providing equitable education increasingly difficult. Along with emphasizing those issues that already existed within education, COVID-19 has created new obstacles. One such obstacle has been the created need for many schools to transition to online instruction. This has proven especially difficult for preschool teachers, who in addition to reworking how to do their jobs on a new platform must also assist in transitioning students with special needs.

Some teachers in South Bend, Indiana, have gotten creative. Teachers have found that their facial expressions are an important technique. Smiling, laughing, and other expressions can put a child at ease. This new emphasis on facial expression will undoubtedly need to be reworked as schools transition to in-person instruction, as masks that cover the face will make it difficult for students to engage in this way. Teaches also emphasize that while student-to-student interaction is crucial to development, it is restricted because of the pandemic. These teachers have found that going outside and interacting with a student on a peer level has helped. Still, difficulties persist, and those in education continue to adapt.

Full Story: Howard Dukes, Schools Get Creative in Serving Preschoolers with Special Needs, disabilityscoop, Oct. 9, 2020, available at

2. Reflection During Learning Disabilities Month Highlights Racial Inequities

October was Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, a time to reflect upon past and present challenges associated with the education of those with learning impairments. In that reflection, it is important to highlight the statistics pertaining to such. Learning disabilities are very common; one in five students has a language-based learning disability. However, learning disabilities also seem to be more commonly diagnosed across certain ethnicities; American Indian and Alaska Native students receive special education services at twice the rate of the general population, and Black students are 40% more likely to be identified as having a disability.

As has been evident throughout this pandemic, communities of color have also been most disproportionately affected by the virus. The pandemic has also forced students online, which has proven a substantial barrier to students with disabilities, who have found increased difficulty in obtaining individualized instruction. Online learning is also a barrier to those without the funds for internet service and computers. Interactions with other students increase social skills, such as sharing. However, because of the risk of virus spread, these interactions have also been limited.

Experts believe that all these factors combined will serve to create even further disparities across these communities of color and fear that students will face great difficulty in even just catching up to where they were prePandemic.

Full Story: Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Learning Disabilities Awareness Month Sheds Light on New Disparities Faced in the Classroom and the Voting Booth, Changing America, Oct. 1, 2020, available at


1. Georgia to Leave Federal Marketplace

The Trump administration has approved Georgia's submitted plan to exit the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This will make Georgia the first state to exit the federal marketplace and to not set up a state marketplace, forcing state residents to engage with private brokers in obtaining healthcare coverage. Georgia is anticipated to fully withdraw from the ACA Exchange by 2023.

Georgia's plan also includes a shrinking of Medicaid coverage, as opposed to the ACA-required expansion, and mandates a work requirement of 80 hours a month for those residents seeking insurance who make below the federal poverty level.

Critics of the plan expect its implementation to trigger legal challenges because of the work requirement as other states that have obtained permission from the Trump administration remain in court regarding the requirements' conflict with the goals of Medicaid. Critics also expect challenges to the private broker system as a whole, based on a violation of the ACA if the system serves to decrease overall healthcare enrollment.

Full Story: Jeff Amy, Feds Approve Georgia Health Insurance Changes Sought by Kemp, ABC News, Oct. 15, 2020, available at

2. Supreme Court May Gut the ACA

With the death of U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speculation as to the future of the ACA was in large supply. With Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation, the speculation, and in many circles the suspense, mount.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the ACA shortly after November's presidential election. With Judge Coney Barrett's confirmation, the balance within the court will become 6-3 conservative, leaving much about the ACA's future unknown. While speculation is wide and much is inconclusive, there seems a consensus about one thing--whatever decision SCOTUS comes to will have lasting effects regarding coverage, cost, and protection for many Americans.

Full Story: Greg Iacurci, The Supreme Court May Gut the Affordable Care Act. What's Next?, CNBC, Sept. 25, 2020, available at

See also: Julie Rovner, The Future of the Affordable Care Act in a Supreme Court Without Ginsburg, NPR, Sept. 21, 2020, available at

3. Aetna Broadens Medicare Advantage Plans' Availability

Earlier last month, Aetna announced its 2021 plans, which feature Medicare Advantage plan options that are both expanded and differentiated and include HMO and Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan options in new states, as well as prescription drug plans with lowered premium standalones. Also new are Aetna's Medicare Eagle plans, those that are designed specifically for Veterans.

Aetna placed great importance on expanding their plans to Americans that they believe are in need, adding 115 new counties to their Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans' coverage areas and providing access to 1.9 million more beneficiaries. Aetna has also expanded its Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan, a plan for those who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare benefits, to select counties in 9 new states. Aetna also plans to roll out its Medicare Eagle plans in 27 states.

For more information regarding these and other Aetna plans, you can visit www.aetna.com.

Full story: Aetna 2021 Medicare Plans Focus on Total Health and Making Care More Affordable and Convenient, CVS Health, Oct. 5, 2020, available at


1. Consumer Testing Tool that Helps Websites Test for Accessibility

Fable, a crowdtesting platform for accessibility, connects website creators directly with remote users with disabilities to help reach Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility compliance for viewers with disabilities.

The website provides testing and development help from disabled people on demand. Any potential design will be sent to different people with different disabilities that will help website creators consider if their website accommodates a range of disabilities. Website creators can pick and choose which disabilities they want to target and test on their website.

Most companies do not take into account the experience of disabled persons with their websites. Fable allows an opportunity for companies to get feedback in areas they may not have normally thought to research. Fable also helps provide jobs for people with disabilities, which in times of pandemic can be a great service to those disabled persons worried about employment.

Full Story: Devin Coldewey, Fable Aims to Make Disability-Inclusive Design as Simple as a Service, TechCrunch, Jul. 27, 2020, available at

2. Use of Apps in Occupational Therapy on the Rise

Researchers in the United States have found that the use of apps in occupational therapy offices is on the rise. In a recent study published on October 21, 2020, researchers report that an overwhelming majority (71.9%) of the respondents in their research say they use apps in their practices, most commonly as ways to provide treatment. These respondents reported that they consider the use of apps equal to, if not better than, traditional occupational therapy treatment methods in terms of effectiveness. Researchers noted that the most common barriers to using apps in therapy were lack of knowledge and familiarity with specific apps.

Full Article: Rhonda Davis-Cheshire, Carly Cogar, Dayna Collier, Whooby Deriveau, Elizabeth Kunkel, Hunter Mouser, & Julia Newhouse, Occupational Therapy Utilisation of Apps in Practice in the United States, Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology (2020), available at


1. Outdoor Dining Perpetuates Inaccessibility

Restrictions from COVID-19 have left many restaurants to adapt the way they serve the public, with many locations moving outside to designated parts of sidewalks. With patrons and workers now occupying much of the sidewalks, the already crowded New York City sidewalks have made life for those with ambulatory disabilities much more difficult. Wheelchair users have a difficult time navigating tables, waiters, and other pedestrians, and makes maintaining the mandatory six-foot separation distance even more difficult. As the weather worsens, it is likely that these challenges will worsen.

This new outdoor dining trend has not created a new problem. Instead, it has highlighted an existing one. There are several non-ADA compliant restaurants, with varying issues, and New York City has narrow sidewalks and ramps. With outdoor dining likely becoming a permanent fixture, this issue must be addressed.

Full story: Sam Bloch, People with Disabilities Fear that Permanent Outdoor Dining Will Make Inaccessible Cities Even Worse, The Counter, Oct. 12, 2020, available at

2. Fostering Health-Related Independence in Young Adults with Autism

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is often a mark of independence. This transition is full of uncertainty and great amounts of learning and adjustment even for abled persons. However, for individuals with disabilities this transition is made even more difficult. Nancy Cheak-Zamora, who has a disability herself, believes that key to easing this transition and encouraging independence in young adults with autism is providing increased support in healthcare-related services.

Cheak-Zamora, partnering with autism clinics in the United States, has created the world's first transition readiness assessment specifically for adolescents with autism to use while navigating their healthcare transition. Based on findings in her study, Cheak-Zamora focused the program upon the following: providing better understanding of medication management, insurance policies, and health care finances; developing skills like scheduling a doctor's appointment and filling a prescription; and educating on sexual health, relationship needs, and interactions with law enforcement. While education is a crucial part of this program, the ultimate goal is allowing those with autism the ability to leave an independent life.

Full Story: Study Proves Health-Related Independence for Young Adults with Autism, Disability Insider, Oct. 16, 2020, available at


1. Public Transportation in Australia Proves Inaccessible

The trams in Melbourne, Australia, are likely in violation of anti-discrimination laws. Australia has a law that states "meaningful public transport access" must be afforded to those living with disabilities, However, an audit found that many of the trams are in violation. In 2002 a target was set that all trams meet this standard by 2022, but the trams will likely not meet the target, and this violation will likely open the city to litigation. Related to this issue are allegations that the State has not done enough to address this problem. While trying, and failing, to accommodate, the state has also failed to fix the problems. With levels far below the target and only 15% of trams meeting the audit's standard for accessibility, meaningful access is being denied to Victorian citizens.

Full Story: Melbourne Trams Provide Poor Access for People with Disabilities and "Likely Breach Discrimination Laws," The Guardian, Oct. 14, 2020, available at

2. COVID-19 Creates Disparate Impact in Special Needs Education Throughout England

While COVID-19 has created difficulties across all communities and professions, childhood education is no exception, as the pandemic has made it much less accessible. This inaccessibility is multiplied for those with disabilities. England's rigid rules are actively keeping students with disabilities out of schools. According to the English government, one-fifth of students with special education needs are absent. Adding concern to this absence is that often the parents of these children rely on provisions from the school, which are now being reduced or removed.

Children whose abilities require specific medical attention have also found it difficult to get their needs met in the school setting. For example, those students who require "oral sanctioning" to clear their airways are rejected from attending class. With strict reopening requirements that many schools cannot meet, students cannot attend school, leaving parents and children frustrated. These families believe that the schools are not helping, with one family stating that they have not had contact with their child's school for weeks. With education already difficult to access, the reaction to the pandemic has become yet another barrier to accessibility.

Full Story: Special Needs Children "Shut Out" of School in England Due to Covid-19 Rules, The Guardian, Oct. 14, 2020, available at



1. International Paralympic Committee Holds Meeting Regarding 2020 Paralympic Games

Meetings continue to be held for the planning of the 2020 Paralympic Games to be held in Tokyo, Japan. Participants focused on protocol for athletes at competition venues and in the Village as well as testing approaches for athletes in the Village and codes of conduct. The first Olympic-discipline international sports events to be held since the COVID-19 pandemic will be held on November 8, 2020. Athletes from Japan, China, Russia, and the USA are slated to compete at the one-day event.

Full Story: Information for Para Athletes and IPC Members on COVID-19, International Paralympic Committee, Oct. 29, 2020, available at

2. Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games Updates Emblem to Match International Paralympic Committee's New Brand

The International Paralympic Committee has revealed its new branding. The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Game has adjusted its emblem so that it includes the following changes: three new swooshes in the place of the former Agitos, exclusion of the words "PARALYMPICS GAMES," and insertion of the text "Beijing 2022," into the emblem.

Full Story: Beijing 2022 Update Paralympic Winter Games Emblem, Disability Insider, Sept. 23, 2020, available at

3. US Open Men's Wheelchair Title Winner Named

Shingo Kunieda of Japan is the winner of the 24th US Open Men's Wheelchair title. Kuneida, who is the No. 1 seed in the World, prevailed over defending champion Alfie Hewett in a nearly three-hour match. While Kuneida was happy with his accomplishment, he could not help but think of the gold medal he could have won had the event not been cancelled in this year's Tokyo Paralympics.

Full Story: Japan's Shingo Kunieda Wins 24th US Open Men's Wheelchair Title, Disability Insider, Oct. 14, 2020, available at


1. Grace Strobel Named Face of Obagi Skincare Line

Grace Strobel, a model who has taken the modeling industry by storm by breaking the mold as a model with Down syndrome made history in October with the announcement of her appointment as an Obagi representative. With this partnership, Strobel becomes the first American model with Down Syndrome to represent a skincare line. Strobel is now Obagi's "skinclusion" Ambassador and is considered the face of New Obagi Clinical Cleanser.

Full Story: Missouri Model Is First American with Down Syndrome to Represent a Skincare Line, wavy.com, Oct. 12, 2020, available at

2. Disability's Representation in 2020's Popular Culture

Emma West, a woman with Kniest Syndrome who worked at the BBC for years reflects on her experiences as a disabled person and as a person working in television. In her reflection, West writes that while there are certainly great examples of natural inclusions of disabled characters without disability as a major or sole focus, this inclusion is usually in television series, and there is still a long way to go.

One of the main issues to be addressed, West argues, is at the casting stage where casting directors need to make the conscious choice to cast disabled actors to play disabled characters rather than nondisabled actors. West also points out the observations of those she interviewed highlight the trend that coverage of disabled people, and the disabled community, is generally only ample during the Paralympics. This coverage, she argues, is a drastic difference from the reality of the daily life of a disabled person. West also believes that contributing to this separation of abled/disabled lives is making disabled content a season of its own (as seen in the "Exploring Disability Through Art" season to celebrate the passing of a disability anti-discrimination legislation). West writes that the true path to proper representation of disability in popular culture is through proper representation in the field actually creates the media-- from the actors, to the makeup staff, to the writers, and everywhere in between.

Full Story: Representation of Disability in Popular Culture in 2020 -- Where Are We Now? Disability Horizons, Sept. 29, 2020, available at



  1. ADACC Virtual State Conference 2020
    October 30, 2020 - November 20, 2020

  2. Online: Abilities Virtual Experience 2
    November 20-22, 2020
  1. Supporting Disabled Students in Virtual STEM Courses
    November 3, 2020, 3:00 PM ET

  2. Accommodating Students with Disabilities in On-Campus Jobs
    November 5, 2020, 3:00 PM ET

  3. Technology Tools to Support Time Management and Organization
    November 24, 2020, 3:00 PM ET

Call for Papers

  1. Accessing Higher Ground (AHG)
    Deadline: April 20, 2020
  1. ACF Robby Baker Memorial Scholarship
    Deadline: April 17, 2021

  2. AG Bell College Scholarship Awards
    Deadline: March 8, 2021

  3. American Council of the Blind Scholarship
    Deadline: February 14, 2021

  4. Candice's Sickle Cell Disease Scholarship
    Deadline: April 14, 2021

Ableism in Academia: Theorising Experiences of Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses in Higher Education. Nicole Brown and Jennifer Leigh, eds. UCL Press, 2020.

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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; and Lead Editor Aidee Campa Escorza.

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