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

January 6, 2021
Volume 18, 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.

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. Interconnect Cable Technologies Agrees to Settle $35,000 EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

An employee at Interconnect Cable Technologies Corporation (ICTC) was hospitalized for her major depressive disorder. When the employee returned to work after being hospitalized, her pay was cut, and she was demoted then fired.

ICTC has been found to have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by demoting and firing an employee based on their disability. The ADA does not allow any discrimination based on a disability. ICTC agreed to pay $35,000 to settle and agreed to hire an ADA coordinator to implement a written policy to help prevent discrimination. ICTC agreed to provide anti-discriminatory training to all employees. Additionally, ICTC has informed everyone in the company about the lawsuit and submitted written reports to the EEOC.

Press Release: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Interconnect Cable Technologies to Pay $35,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit (Dec. 18, 2020), available at

2. City of Hammond Agrees to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit for $80,750

The city of Hammond required their employees to submit to medical exams. The city used the results of the medical exam to fire at least one individual. The EEOC found that the medical exams should not have been allowed because they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA does not allow employers to terminate an employee based on a disability. The ADA does also does not allow for employers to retaliate against an employee who files an EEOC charge or does not agree with the discrimination. Additionally, the ADA does not allow for an employer to intimidate, coerce, threaten, or otherwise restrict an individual to exercise their ADA rights, or help another person exercise their ADA rights. The city voluntarily settled with the EEOC. The settlement required the city to provide relief to those employees who were forced to the medical exam and to the person who initiated the change with the EEOC. The city is also required to provide a written policy and training to supervisors and other staff.

Press Release: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, City of Hammond to Pay $80,750 to Resolve EEOC Disability Discrimination Finding (Dec. 15, 2020), available at


1. Remote Work Encourages Employment Accommodation

Persons with disabilities are often unemployed, even in times where a pandemic is not a factor. Forbes reports that while an estimated 12.4 percent of persons aged 35 to 64 in the United States have a disability, only about 20 percent of individuals with a disability were working or seeking to do so. In comparison, persons without disability are employed at 69 percent.

Recently, there has been some improvement as some employers have tapped into the remote work population, which often includes persons with disabilities. Remote work has allowed persons with disabilities more access to employment. Many employers still insist on in-person work, despite the ADA's accommodation requirement. Since March 2020, many employers found themselves forced to allow work from home because of pandemic-related concerns. Remote work has now become an equalizer, which has opened opportunities for employers to restructure typical job requirements. This has improved employment prospects for persons with disabilities. However, there is still much to be done to make employers more committed to accessibility and hiring disabled persons.

Full Story: Marcy Klipfel, How the New Normal of Remote Work Evens the Playing Field for Workers with Disabilities, Forbes (Dec. 28, 2020), available at

2. Cincinnati Project Encourages Access to Employment

Even though the nationwide employment rate for 2019 was 63 percent, only 19 percent of persons with a disability had a job. A Cincinnati program is seeking to change that. Project SEARCH is a one-year internship program for high school graduates with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The internship focuses on providing work skills, job training, and independent living skills. 71 percent of program graduates gain employment.

Part of the reason the program works is its dedication to promoting inclusivity. The program's internships increase the possibility that persons with disabilities will get hired, which in turn is good for both the individual and employer, as studies have proven that inclusivity pays off. The program is also successful because of its focus on independence. The graduates of Project SEARCH learn independence at their internship, which then translates to their place of employment. While there still is a need for improvement in disability inclusivity in employment, Project SEARCH provides a framework for other agencies to address the issue across the nation.

Full Story: Northwest Center, Disability Inclusion in the Workplace Creates Opportunities for All, Seattle Times (Dec. 23, 2020), available at


1. North Carolina to Provide Better Services for Students with Dyslexia

Raleigh, North Carolina, is working to improve services for children with dyslexia. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) discovered that several North Carolina school districts are not compliant with federal standards. As a response to this lack of support, DPI is making those districts improve access to services.

Literacy Mom's N.C. has been advocating for these changes as well and caused the investigation by filing 18 complaints against the state of North Carolina and individual systems. The cofounder, Virginia Sharpless, says that the state is undercounting students with learning disabilities. She also stated that schools do not tell parents that their child can be evaluated for special education services at any time. The group believes that the issue of lacking support is actually a result of the schools' tiered support system, which requires students to move through three separate tiers of support before receiving special education services.

Full Story: T. Keung Hui, Dyslexic Advocacy Group Forces N.C. Changes: Schools Ordered to Do More to Help Kids. Raleigh News (Dec. 27, 2020), available at

2. Congress Passes Disability Positive Legislation

Both the Veterans Benefits Fairness and Transparency Act of 2020 recently passed both houses of Congress. The Veterans Benefits Act seeks to assist Veterans with disabilities, as well as those who are looking to attend college. It also targets the Veteran homeless population.

The Act allows Veterans to seek treatment outside of Veteran's Affairs (VA). The Act also gives an extra 9 months to post-GI Bill Veterans. Both of these measures are expected to help Veterans. Veterans can now seek medication, such as those that are not approved by the VA. The Act also seeks to improve education opportunities by improving access to education. This will help Veterans, especially Veterans with disabilities, who often struggle when seeking employment.

Full Story: WKYT TV, Legislative Package Passed by Congress Targets Veterans Affairs Aspects like Healthcare, Education, Wave 3 News (Dec. 28, 2020), available at


1. Social Security Income and Benefits to Increase

Per its announcement in October of this year, the Social Security Administration's benefits are set to increase by 1.3% in 2021. This increase is to account for the rising cost of living. Most recipients should have received notification about their benefits, but all recipients can view their information online.

Full Story: Allsup, Cost-of-Living Adjustment Will Benefit Individuals with Disabilities During Pandemic, According to Allsup, GlobeNewswire (Oct. 14, 2020), available at

See also: Shaun Heasley, SSI, Social Security Benefits Will Increase in 2021, disabilityscoop (Oct. 14, 2020), available at

2. New Survey Hopes to Enhance Pregnancy Decision-Making Experience for Women with Physical Disabilities

Researchers have published positive findings about the use of a new survey for pregnant women with disabilities. Researchers decided to create a survey after they identified the need for interventions that would help ease the effects of barriers that pregnant women with physical disabilities experience in making pregnancy decisions and receiving pregnancy care.

Researchers worked with the population to make sure that their survey was easy to understand and asked questions that were relevant to describing the population's experience. Over 100 women participated in the survey's creation. After an intense revision period, the survey's final version contains six subsections to fully capture the experience of pregnant women with physical disabilities. The survey is believed to be effective based on its performance, which supports its use as viable way to gather relevant information. The knowledge gained from the survey will help healthcare providers increase accessibility for pregnant women with physical disabilities.

Full Story: Claire Z. Kalpakjian et al., Development of a New Pregnancy Informational and Decisional Needs Survey for Women with Physical Disabilities, Disability and Health Journal (Dec. 24, 2020), available at


1. iCub Humanoid Robot to Help Treat Kids with Autism

The Italian Institute of Technology has built a human-like robot called iCub. It was developed to help treat cognitive impairments in children with autism. Currently, there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, and there is also discussion as to whether the disorder is something that requires treatment at all. The iCub robot is meant to be used in therapy to help promote behavioral treatment that can reduce problems with social behavior and communication.

The iCub robot will be used in a clinical setting. The robot includes a special table with tools that allows children to interact with the robot while playing with objects like foam cubes. The goal is to help children with autism to interact with a simplified version of a human, which is thought to be less overwhelming than an actual person when learning communication skills.

Full Story: Emily Henderson, Humanoid Robot iCub Enters Rehabilitation Facility to Treat Children with Autism, News-Medical (Dec. 22, 2020), available at

2. Abilitech Assist to Help Individuals with Daily Activities

Abilitech Medical has developed new technology to help with daily activities for individuals who have neuromuscular weakness. Individuals who live with Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury, Muscular Dystrophy, and other neuromuscular disorders often have trouble independently performing simple tasks like eating, opening doors, and brushing their teeth.

Abilitech Medical designed Abilitech Assist to help people gain control of their arms by mutually supporting the shoulder and elbow. Abilitech Assist provides options to customize the spring tension to lift objects that weigh up to 12 ounces. Abilitech Assist has provided individuals with physical, social, and economic independence.

Full Story: New Assistive Technology Restores Independence to Those Living with Neuromuscular Weakness, Business Wire (Dec. 8, 2020), available at


1. Department of Transportation Changes Emotional Support Policy

The Department of Transportation has a new policy regarding animals. Airlines no longer have to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as they do for service animals. This means that a person may no longer be able to claim any pet as an emotional support animal, and allows airlines to decide whether they want to accommodate the animal.

DOT made the policy shift to accommodate others. They stated that they received many complaints regarding emotional support animals. These included fraudulent claims and animal misbehavior. One such alleged example is when a woman claimed the accommodation for her peacock. DOT also decided against allowing miniature horses and Capuchin monkeys as service animals. This change has the potential to harm many individuals with disabilities.

Full Story: Dustin Jones, Grounded: Emotional Support Animals No Longer Guaranteed Free Flights, NPR (Dec. 2, 2020) available at

2. San Jose Airport Introduces Assistance Program

The San Jose Airport introduced its Sunflower Lanyard Program, which allows an airline to easily identify passengers that may need more assistance. Passengers with increased need are to wear a lanyard, which the Airport hopes will allow persons to receive assistance more discretely and efficiently. Any person can request the free lanyard, and no verification is necessary.

The service offers more time to check in, an escort, assistance finding sensory-sensitive areas, as well as other tailored accommodations. While there are no guarantees with the program, it is anticipated that it will support those with "invisible disabilities." Allowing for more discretion will protect people's privacy and is believed to increase the number of people who will request services, now without fear of judgment.

Full Story: Harry S. Johnson, Mineta San Jose International Airport Introduces Sunflower Lanyard Program, World Tourism Network (Dec. 22, 2020), available at


1. Oman Recognizes International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Oman celebrated the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3. This year's theme for the Day was "Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world." To embrace this theme, Oman has taken preventive measures at local levels to stop the spread to persons with disabilities, including the suspension of schooling and rehabilitation programs and translating awareness programs and official statements into sign language. Oman also honored outstanding persons with disabilities for volunteerism, athleticism and artistic talent.

Full Story: ONA, Oman Marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Times of Oman (Dec. 28, 2020), available at

2. Rwandan Dance Group Counters Industry's Barriers

A Rwandan dance group is showing that dance is for everyone. The group, Kubasha, is comprised of 12 persons with various disabilities. Often persons with disabilities are excluded or persuaded against dancing. The organizer, Amani Kiwembe, saw the need for the group. He noticed how much of an impact it has had to the group and to other persons supporting them.

In addition to dancing, the group also raises money to keep their group running, which has been crucial because of the economic barriers persons with disabilities often face. Kiwembe states that group members experience increased confidence and happiness in their own lives while spreading their message of an inclusive dancing world.

Full Story: Hudson Kuteesa, Kubasha Group Proves That Disability Is Not Inability Through Dance, New Times (Dec. 24, 2020), available at


1. Portrayal of Disability in Pop Culture Spreads Stereotypes

The release of the film The Witches, which featured a villain with just two fingers and a thumb on each hand, has served to stir conversation about disability misrepresentation in the media. While Anne Hathaway's depiction of limb differences may not have been meant as offensive, Paralympians and others with limb differences took direct offense, responding by posting pictures of themselves with the caption #NotAWitch.

This type of misrepresentation and negative representation is not new to the disability community, with pop culture, especially films, using non-normative bodies to represent villains and other undesirable persons. As such, many activists are once again demanding that the film industry do the work to represent disability in a positive manner by hiring disabled actors and by creating characters that are not so easily reduced to stereotypes.

Full Story: Rachel Knight, Misrepresentation in Pop Culture, Texas A&M University Liberal Arts (Dec. 16, 2020), available at

2. Interabled YouTube Couple Marries

YouTube sensations Charisma Jamison and Cole Sydnor recently tied the knot. Sydnor, a C5/C6 quadriplegic, met Jamison at a rehabilitation center where she worked. The two instantly hit it off and began a relationship shortly after. The pair have gained popularity on YouTube because of their disability-positive blogging, which began with the two answering common questions they often received from family and strangers regarding the experience of interabled couples. Now, the couple's channel "Roll with Cole and Charisma" has 530,000 subscribers, and they have given a TEDx Talk about their story. Sydnor has also given a speech at Google regarding the importance of universal design.

Full Story: Robbie Spencer, Interabled YouTubers, "Cole and Charisma," Celebrate Wedding, nytimes.com (Dec. 4, 2020) available at



  1. Interior and Exterior Accessible Routes
    January 7, 2021, 2:30 PM - 4:00 PM EST

  2. Top ADA Cases of 2020
    January 13, 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM EST

  3. ADA National Network Learning Session: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody: Colorado's Development of a Statewide Access & Functional Needs Program
    January 14, 2021, 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM PST

  4. Special Session: Morphic-Making access to computers easier
    January 15, 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM EST

  5. Advancing the Full Participation of Persons with Disabilities in All Areas of Society
    January 19, 2021, 2:00 PM -3:30 PM EST


  1. Workshop A: Autism: A Foundational Review
    February 5, 2021, 1:00-4:00 ET

  2. Institute #1: An Autism Academy: Building Systems that Work
    February 8 and 10, 2021
    11:00-2:00 ET & 3:00-5:00 ET

  3. Institute #2: Introduction to Disability Law for DS Professionals and ADA Officers
    February 8, 10, and 12, 2021
    12:00-1:30 & 3:00-4:30 ET

Call for Papers

  1. OAH Call for Proposals
    Deadline: December 1, 2020 - February 1, 2021


  1. Caroline Kark Award
    Deadline: 4/15/2021

  2. Christopher Mark Pitkin Memorial Scholarship
    Deadline: 6/28/2021

  3. CSU Dale M. Schoettler Scholarship for Visually Impaired Students
    Deadline: 12/1/2021

  4. GLHF Education Scholarship
    Deadline: 3/1/2021


Wong, A. (Ed.). (2020). Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century. Penguin Random House

Lehrer, Riva. (2020). Golem Girl: A Memoir. One World.

McDonnell, Kara. (2020). One Way or Another. Scholastic Press.

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.