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
April 2, 2021
Volume 18, Issue 3
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. Main Event Entertainment Settles $40,000 Discrimination Lawsuit
Main Event Entertainment, Inc., failed to hire a qualified employee based on his disability and reasonable accommodation request. As such, Main Event Entertainment was alleged to have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against an employee based on a disability.
Federal law requires Main Event Entertainment to engage in ADA training, revise and distribute its reasonable accommodation policy, and revise their antidiscrimination statement on their job applications. Main Event Entertainment has also agreed to settle this case for $40,000.
Full Story: Press Release, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity. Coalition Main Event Entertainment Will Pay $40,000 to Resolve EEOC Disability Discrimination and Retaliation Charge (Mar. 24, 2021), available at
2. Valley Tool Settles $32,500 Disability Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit
An employee of Valley Tool, Inc., who was diagnosed with sickle cell disease requested time off because her blood disorder made her too sick to work. Instead of providing the employee with a reasonable accommodation, Valley Tool, Inc., removed her from the work schedule, placed her on an involuntary leave of absence, and eventually fired her.
Valley Tool violated the ADA by discriminating against an employee based on a disability. Valley Tool agreed to settle the EEOC's charges for $32,500. Additionally, Valley Tool agreed to train its supervisors, managers, and owners to spot and respond appropriately to disability discrimination and to annually report disability discrimination complaints to the EEOC.
Full Story: Press Release, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Coalition. Valley Tool to Pay $32,500 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit (Mar. 12, 2021), available at
1. Study Findings Suggest that Ending Subminimum Wage Benefits All
A new brief issued by the Center for American Progress (CAP) announced that states with "one fair wage" have lower poverty rates. States who are known as having "one fair wage" are those that pay all tipped, disabled, and temporary teenage workers the same minimum wage as all other workers. States that do not pay all workers the same are states that observe a subminimum wage, or a wage that legally allows employers to pay tipped, disabled, and temporary teenage workers less than other minimum wage workers.
This study from CAP also found that overall, businesses in tipped industries experience higher employment growth in states with one fair wage. Small businesses in these states also saw faster employment growth. More importantly, the study points out that marginalized people such as women and people of color are overrepresented in tipped industries. Additionally, disabled workers are paid less based on disability status under a subminimum wage. These facts suggest that social inequity resulting from poverty may also be partially addressed by abolishing the subminimum wage and ensuring that all states pay one fair wage to all their workers.
Full Story: Press Release, Center for American Progress, New CAP Analysis Shows that Ending the Subminimum Wage Will Benefit Workers (Mar. 30, 2021), available at
2. New Study Explores Effects of Adult ADHD
A new study found adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often have a harder time successfully engaging in the workforce. Persons with ADHD are known to have difficulty in schooling because of an ableist educational system. This study argues that these difficulties continue after graduation. The study noted that high school graduates with ADHD earn about 17% less than their peers without ADHD and are more likely to have stints of unemployment and to receive disability benefits because of their inability to work.
This study also explored factors that may contribute to difficulty in the workforce. It found that success in school is a possible explanation, but that it is not the only determinative factor. The study also offers the existence of behavioral abnormalities, which it cites as core symptoms of ADHD, as adding to workforce difficulty. Despite these findings, U.S. experts have found that effective treatment of ADHD in childhood often helps these children with ADHD to become more successful adults at home, in relationships, and on the job.
Full Story: Denise Mann, Adult ADHD Can Mean Fewer Jobs, Worse Pay, U.S. News & World Report (Mar. 18, 2021), available at
1. College Students with Disabilities Require Increased Communication for Success
The COVID-19 pandemic brought academic challenges to all students. Students with disabilities often experienced increased difficulty based on a lacking provision of services. Because much of the services students with disabilities receive are designed for in-person learning and interaction, the almost overnight shift to remote learning created extra adjustment challenges.
Results of a 340-student survey found that the shift worked, however. While the survey did take place in August and September, many months after the pandemic started, the results were positive for the survey respondents in that they felt supported by their institutions. Many responding students reported the private atmosphere of a remote world to be beneficial. No that this positive experience is not representative of all students. Researchers found that they key to a student's remote learning accommodations experience rested in communication; students who reported positive experiences also reported that the institutions they attended provided consistent, early, and proactive communication while students who reported negative experiences reported unclear and unstable communication from their institutions. The survey's research team plans to follow up on these findings for the 2020-2021 school year and also plans to distribute a survey regarding mental health.
Full Story: For College Students with Disabilities, Communication Is Key in Online Learning, University of Connecticut (Mar. 18, 2021), available at
2. White House Seeks to Prioritize Disabled Lives
President Biden is planning to shift his focus from COVID-19 to his campaign promises. With the vaccines quickly being rolled out, it seems that Biden is seeking to address disability rights. President Biden recently named a Disability Policy Director to sit on the Domestic Policy Council, a historic move. This Director, Kimberly Knackstedt, was selected based on a perceived wealth of experience that the President believes will allow her to better serve and advocate for the equitable treatment of the disability community.
One of Knackstedt's stated goals is to put people with disabilities at the beginning of policy development. Rather than retrofitting policies to the disabled community as an afterthought, disabled persons will now be at the forefront of conversation, with such issues as climate and education. This is especially crucial in rebuilding post-pandemic due to the disparate effects of COVID-19 on the disabled community. Additionally, with the lasting effects of the virus itself, the community may extend to even more Americans than before as these lasting effects can cause lifelong health concerns for those afflicted.
Full Story: Abigail Adams, One Year Into the Pandemic, the White House Aims to Prioritize People with Disabilities, Time (Mar. 11, 2021), available at
1. Vaccination Site Recognizes Importance of Sensory-Friendly Design
As states begin opening their vaccine eligibility restrictions to more citizens, the importance of protecting our vulnerable community members seeking to receive a vaccine is at an all-time high. A clinic hosted by the Eagles Autism Foundation and Divine Providence Village has recognized this need, designing its clinic operations to be inclusive of those people with enhanced sensory considerations. To respect these sensory needs, the clinic repurposed the luxury boxes at the Philadelphia Eagle's home stadium as quiet places filled with fidget toys, weighted blankets and light projections on the ceiling. These rooms were open for those recipients who became overwhelmed during the process to take a break, and in some cases the rooms doubled as vaccination sites for those recipients who needed extra support.
The clinic's existence was also of special note as Pennsylvania, the state in which the clinic was held, did not include persons with autism on their priority vaccination list. Despite this, the clinic itself was solely for people with autism and their family members. Executive Director of the Foundation stated that the choice to hold the clinic was simple--the autism community needed support, and the foundation sought to give it. A second sensory-friendly clinic is set to be held in late April at the stadium.
Full Story: Maddie Hauna, COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic Designed to Be Sensory Friendly, Philadelphia Inquirer (Mar. 30, 2021), available at
2. Stimulus Payments for SSI Beneficiaries Soon to Arrive
Despite a recent hold up in disbursement, stimulus payments for people with disabilities who receive SSI benefits are set to resume soon. The IRS and U.S. Department of Treasury both expect that these payments, most of which are to be sent electronically, will be received on April 7, 2021.
Recently, lawmakers have accused the Social Security Administration of delaying payment disbursement more than a week after the IRS began to issue payments. While Congress states that it will no longer tolerate delays to suffering Americans, the IRS has commented that its employees are working as fast as possible to get the payments to their recipients and blames funding issues for the delay. These disbursements are especially important for disabled adults as this round of checks is available to those who were claimed as dependents for tax purposes. Federal beneficiaries can check on the status of their payment on the IRS website.
Full Story: Michelle Diament, Delayed Stimulus Payments May Come Soon for Social Security, SSI Beneficiaries, DisabilityScoop (Mar. 30, 2021), available at
1. Technology Moves Toward Inclusivity
The pandemic has helped speed up developments in technology. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is now capable of helping describe surroundings for people who are visually impaired. Inclusive user interfaces are key to screen reader facilities. And the market for assistive technology is increasing.
A technology called 4IR has provided more opportunities for assistive technology. 4IR technologies such as AI, autonomous vehicles and extended/virtual reality devices, are now embedded in most products and services. Big technology companies like Microsoft have been using 41R technologies and is leading the way through its inclusive designed products.
Full Story: Ching-Shiuan Jiang, 3 Ways to Make Technologies More Inclusive for People with Disabilities, World Economic Forum (Mar. 31, 2021), available at
2. Darien Foundation Gifts $80,000 to Build State of the Art Group Home
The Darien Foundation awarded the STAR Group Residence $80,000 to create a smart home cottage, which provides its residents with disabilities assistive technology throughout the entire home. This aligns with the STAR Group Residence's goal of empowering individuals with disabilities as they become more self-reliant.
The Cottage will be equipped with an automatic door function, enhanced security surveillance, and automated control of lights and other electronics in their rooms through their personal devices. The Cottage is designed to provide the residents with greater independence and a safe space. All the technology installed is intended to be easy to operate to encourage the highest degree of independence for its users.
Full Story: David Gurliacci, Darien Foundation Awards $80K to Convert the Cottage, a STAR Group Residence, into a "Smart Home," Darienite.com (Mar. 31. 2021), available at
1. Grandma Lucy's Pet Food Provides Food to Service Dogs in Training
Grandma Lucy's, a popular pet food company, has a new partner in Little Angels Service Dogs. Lucy's will be providing dog food for their training dogs and puppies who, when they complete training, assist persons with disabilities. With the extensive program the dogs go through, this food will be welcome.
Grandma Lucy's food is considered especially healthy, which is crucial as training dogs need to stay in good health if they are to help to empower disabled lives. Grandma Lucy's founders were inspired by a story of a boy with a service animal and noted it changed his life because of his newfound freedoms. It is the company's hope that the partnership will assist Little Angels Service Dogs in empowering others for years to come.
Full Story: Grandma Lucy's Announces Partnership with Little Angels, petfoodindustry.com (Mar. 18, 2021), available at
2. COVID-19 Proves Especially Dangerous to Persons with Intellectual Disabilities
A new COVID-19 study raised an alarming concern. It found people with an intellectual disability are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than people with congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or lung disease. The study analyzed 64 million patient records. The study stated that people with intellectual disability are 2.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19, were about 2.7 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital, and 5.9 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
This shocking statistic can be explained by a number of factors. However, the authors contend that a main reason is society's failure to protect this vulnerable population. They also cite that persons with certain types of disabilities may not be able or willing to wear a mask or social distance and are more prone to other health problems. This study highlights the crucial need for members of this population to receive vaccinations as this will help to prevent more needless deaths.
Full Story: Robert Preidt, People with Intellectual Disabilities at High Risk for Fatal COVID-19, U.S. News & World Report (Mar. 15, 2021), available at
1. Taiwanese Society Proves Largest Barrier to Realization of Rights by Disabled Persons
Taiwan is an interesting case study of how a country treats persons with disabilities. While Taipei City is described as the "most accessible city in Asia," the country overall has multiple issues with family caregivers and poor allowance of subsidies. This contradiction can be explained by the treatment of people with disabilities. The country's values regard a disability as an personal issue, rather than one the government should help with.
While the country has disability laws and have ratified the Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities, simple ratification is not enough. As a nonUN member, the country is not required to submit a CRPD report. However, five independent experts conducted reviews of the country. These reviews cited multiple concerns. One issue is that the country reports that a person has a disability only if they are in the social welfare system. Therefore, those who do not apply or are not approved do not count. The country also uses the "medical model," an outdated way of viewing disabilities. If the country hopes to continue its reputation of accessibility, its government must put in work to ensure the adherence and implementation of their policies.
Full Story: Heng-hao Chang, How Well Does Taiwan Support People with Disabilities? News Lens (Mar. 16, 2021), available at
2. Bookshare.ie Provides Support to Disabled University Students
Persons with learning disabilities and physical disabilities alike often find trouble in pursuing an accessible education. Bookshare.ie, a resource from the National Council for the Blind of Ireland, is seeking to address some of the problems caused by an inaccessible education system.
The resource is important as it provides books in alternative formats, including Braille, large print, audio, and digital. A 2019 study by the Council found that lack of access to curriculum and learning materials is a major roadblock. The Department of Education provided the Council with a sizeable grant to try to fix the issue. Bookshare.ie is presently being used by 600 students. This is a miniscule number to the near 55,000 persons with a visual impairment, per the 2016 Census. These ableist restrictions are preventing persons with disabilities from moving on to higher education. This in turn prevents them from working better jobs. It is a hope that resources like Bookshare.ie continue to be utilized and expanded. However, it is also clear much more must be done.
Full Story: Peter McGuire, Breaking Barriers: Supporting Students with Disabilities to Progress to University, Irish Times (Mar. 2, 2021), available at
H. POP CULTURE
1. Disability Rights Activist Spurs Change Through Fashion
Stephanie Thomas, a disability fashion stylist and creative director, spent Women's History Month celebrating BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) females with disabilities. Thomas, who as a congenital amputee is also a member of the disability community, recreated well-known celebrity magazine covers by replacing images of celebrities with images of these iconic female history makers. This campaign also features Thomas herself as a model in which she recreates a look by Naomi Sims, a personal hero of Thomas's who spent her time after modeling creating products specifically for Black women.
This campaign was not Thomas's first experience in combining disability activism and inclusion with fashion. She began her fashion career win the early 90s hoping to solve dressing challenges for persons with disabilities. In 2004, Thomas developed a Disability Fashion Styling System, which she uses to guide the content she creates for Cur8able, an influencer enterprise of which she is the founder. Two years later, as an on-air personality, Thomas began a campaign that she hoped would draw attention to the injustice that brought multiple pet clothing options and very few options for persons with disabilities. This campaign spurred many others since, drawing attention to her activism.
Full Story: Press Release, Easterseals, Disability Fashion Advocate Recreates Celebrity Magazine Covers Using Models with Disabilities (Mar. 8, 2021), available at
2. "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" Works Toward Atypical Representation
Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, a popular children's cartoon spinoff of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, made news this month as the show announced plans to introduce a neurodiverse character to its cast. Producers plan to introduce this character in April of 2021, with the week of April 5 set as the premier and more episodes to follow.
Max, who will play the role of Teacher Harriet's nephew, will be the show's first character with autism. One of the show's supervising producers noted that the show has often received communication from the families of children with autism asking for representation. To ensure this representation was accurate and inclusive, the show worked with Associate Professor of Special Education Wes Doston from the University of Missouri. More importantly, Max will be voiced by voice actor Israel Thomas-Bruce, a 13-year-old with autism from Toronto, Canada.
Full Story: Shaunn Heasley, "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" Adds Character with Autism, DisabilityScoop (Mar. 29, 2021), available at
I. EVENTS AND FUNDING
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; and Lead Editor Aidee Campa Escorza.
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