The Burton Blatt Institute: Centers of Innovation on Disability 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

April 6, 2010
Volume 7, Issue 3

The Disability Law & Policy Newsletter is a bi-weekly 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: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Sections 504 & 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and state civil rights law
B. EDUCATION: Special education & youth transition to successful postsecondary outcomes
C. TECHNOLOGY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Assistive, information, and communication technologies
D. HEALTHCARE / BENEFITS: Social Security Income / Social Security Disability Income / Medicaid & Medicare
E. WORKFORCE: Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA), & Vocational Rehabilitation
F. INDEPENDENCE: News for and about the Independent Living Movement
G. EMERGENCY RESPONSE / PREPAREDNESS: Disaster mitigation and preparedness news
H. INTERNATIONAL: News for and about disability topics outside the U.S.

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1. McDonald's Franchisee Pays $90,000 in Settling Disability Discrimination Litigation

Alistrun LLP, a McDonald's franchisee in Philadelphia, reached a settlement agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to pay $90,000 to a former employee with an intellectual disability in early March. The complaint filed by plaintiff-employee Timothy Artis alleges that while employed as a lobby worker, his supervisors and coworkers harassed him because of his intellectual disability. Mr. Artis claimed that workers shouted offensive names, physically abused him, and threatened him.. Mr. Artis was forced to resign because of this harassment. A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania approved the settlement agreement, under which Alistrun will pay $90,000 to Mr. Artis as remuneration. Moreover, Alistrun will be enjoined from discriminating on the basis of disability in the future, will post EEOC remedial notice posters, and will train all supervisors about the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Full Story: McDonald's Pays $90K to Settle Disability Discrimination Lawsuit, Occupational Health & Safety, March 10, 2010, available at

2. Illinois Beverage Company Settles Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

A federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois signed a consent decree affirming a settlement agreement between Illinois-based Direct Wines, Inc., and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on February 26. Direct Wines was sued by its former employee Pamela Stokes. Ms. Stokes was terminated when she requested medical leave because of her disability. Direct Wines, which distributes beverages, had a company policy that allowed employees to take medical leave only between February 15 and May 15 or between July 15 and October 15, when business was slow. Ms. Stokes requested eight weeks of medical leave after she needed surgery for chronic back pain. The request was denied, and she was forced to resign in order to take the leave. Ms. Stokes sued alleging that Direct Wines violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to accommodate her (and a class of similarly situated employees). By the terms of the settlement agreement, Direct Wines will pay Ms. Stokes $50,000, revise company policy to comply with the ADA and prevent disability discrimination, provide yearly training to employees regarding disability law, and submit reports to the EEOC periodically.

Full Story: $50,000 Consent Decree Resolves EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Against Direct Wines, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, March 2, 2010, available at


1. Education Department Cracks Down on Violators of Disability Rights

The Secretary of Education announced on March 8 that the Department of Education will be sending out letters of guidance to school districts on restraint issues, seclusion, English Language Learning (ELL) students with disabilities, and students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because of the recent shift to inclusion of students with disabilities into mainstream classrooms, public schools have encountered problems with restraint and seclusion. Restraint problems in school are often encountered by children on the autism spectrum, where teachers do not know how to handle emotional or physical outbursts, and forcibly, physically restrain students. Seclusion refers to the placement of students with disabilities in seclusion rooms as a form of disciplinary confinement.

The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights has the power to issue policy guidance, compliance interviews, and ultimately withhold federal funding if violations are unresolved. A spokesperson for National Disability Rights Network stated that the Office of Civil Rights has not been as vigilant as they should be but is currently attempting to redouble their efforts to crack down on violators through participation in a dialogue between the Office of Civil Rights and the National Disability Rights Network.

Full Story: Michelle Diament, Education Department to Step Up Enforcement of Disability Rights, Disability Scoop, March 8, 2010, available at

See also Shawn Doherty, Should Schools Use Seclusion Rooms, Restraints?, The Cap Times, March 11, 2010, available at

2. Federal Judge Ends 26-Year Oversight of Baltimore Special Education Services

A federal judge agreed to end his oversight after a 26-year lawsuit that demanded equality for special education students in Baltimore on Monday, March 8, 2010. The lawsuit, filed by the Maryland Disability Law Center resulted in the monitoring of Baltimore City Schools for 26 years, with Judge Garbis's 1984 finding that special education students were not offered adequate services, ranging from ineffective evaluations, educational programming, and transportation.

If the city meets the conditions of the agreement, oversight will end in July 2010. To satisfy the agreement, Baltimore must continue to provide special education students with services, offer support needed to obtain a regular education, and work to reduce the numbers of special education students suspended. However, the state will still monitor the school system's performance until the lawsuit ends, which will be no later than September 2012.

Full Story: Liz Bowie, Judge to End Oversight of City Schools, The Baltimore Sun, March 9, 2010, available at,0,815575,full.story


1. iPhone Application Makes IEP Plans Available to Parents and Teachers

A new iPhone Application called 'IEP Checklist' may change the process of making individualized education plans. It will do this by organizing the plans into categories and allowing users to record notes and goals on the phone. The application also lists the applicable federal education laws and regulations. This application was developed in part by the Parent Educational Training Advocacy Center and can be downloaded from the online iTunes store, at the regular fee. This is the first iPhone app that directly addresses special education.

Full Story: Shaun Heasley, 'IEP Checklist' iPhone App Aims to Level Playing Field, February 12, 2010, available at

2. FCC Reports Progress on National Plan to Increase Broadband Accessibility

The FCC is continuing to implement a National Broadband Plan to achieve its goal of enhancing Americans' access to broadband Internet capabilities. Among other things, it recommends that the FCC establish a working group to ensure that the plan complies with the current statutory scheme for increasing access of persons with disabilities to telecommunication technology. In addition, it proposes an expansion of the statutory scheme to include the technological enhancements that enable persons with disabilities to communicate via telephone more easily. Accordingly, Representative Edward Markey has proposed "The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act" of 2009, which, if passed, would require Internet-enabled voice and video products to be made accessible to persons with disabilities.

Full Story: Paul Glist and Gregory J. Kopta, National Broadband Plan: Focus on Broadband Access for Persons with Disabilities, Lexology, March 16, 2010, available at


1. Chronic Health Conditions Poorly Addressed by the U.S. Healthcare System

According to a February 2010 update of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 2002 chartbook, Chronic Care: Making the Case for Ongoing Care, the current healthcare system does not meet the needs of people with chronic health conditions. With the number of people with chronic conditions rising, the struggle to provide access to health care and appropriate services across multiple providers and payers becomes increasingly difficult. Already, 85 percent of our nation's healthcare dollars are spent on people with chronic conditions. According to the update, our current healthcare system is not designed to meet the needs of people with chronic conditions. Individuals often receive conflicting advice from providers, and have difficulty paying out of pocket for healthcare. Broad-based reforms which reevaluate healthcare financing, training of healthcare providers, and better communications between multiple providers and payers is key to finding solutions within our system.

Full Story: Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, February 2010, available at

2. Veterans Affairs Initiates Review of Illness Claims Process

Veterans Affairs (VA) announced on March 9, 2010, that the proposed fast-track Veterans' claims process for service-connected presumptive illness due to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War will be reviewed by private-sector experts. With the 200,000 veterans expected to file for disability compensation, the VA hopes to create an accelerated process for processing these claims over the next two years. This expansion will now cover Vietnam veterans diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease, or B-cell leukemias. This presumption means that Vietnam veterans with one of these illnesses will no longer have to prove an association between their diagnosis and their military service to collect disability compensation. Private-sector businesses are being asked to propose automated streamlined solutions for the parts of the claims process that take the longest time. Implementation of the proposed solution is expected within 150 days.

Full Story: VA Secretary Seeks Improved Agent Orange Claims Process, Washington Air Force News Service, March 9, 2010, available at


1. Dispelling Workplace Stereotypes

According to a report published in the February 2010 edition of Training and Development Magazine, the number one barrier individuals with disabilities face when attempting to enter the workforce involves attitudes of supervisors and co-workers, at every corporate level. Although the report states that inclusion of employees with disabilities can reduce turnover, boost consumer loyalty, and qualify employers for financial incentives, individuals with disabilities in general are still experiencing a tremendously high rate of unemployment. Currently only about 21.8% of the total population of people with disabilities are employed. The report also discusses many misconceptions about workers with disabilities including those related to cost of accommodations, job performance, turnover, consumer awareness, and legal implications.

Full Story: Sam Ali, Myth-Busting: Hiring Workers with Disabilities, Diversity Inc., March 1, 2010, available at

The report is available at

2. Walgreens Launches Program to Hire Workers with Disabilities

On Tuesday March 9, 2010, Walgreens announced that it is implementing a program aimed at hiring people with disabilities to cover 10% of their service clerk staff openings in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. This program, which is being established in collaboration with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, is serving as a pilot program that Walgreens hopes to expand to other markets starting in 2011. Walgreens provides a four-week training program for new employees and has stated that its program goal is to create an inclusive workplace.

Full story: Ability in the Workplace: Walgreens Launches Pilot Program in Dallas/Fort Worth to Hire People with Disabilities in 10% of Openings at Stores, Walgreens, March 9, 2010, available at


1. New York Judge Orders Community Living for Thousands with Mental Illness

On March 1, 2010, a Federal District Court Judge in New York City ruled that the city must build 1,500 integrated residential units a year for the next 3 years for mentally ill patients who are currently receiving poor care in dozens of private adult care institutions. The lawsuit, which began in 2003, was brought by Disability Advocates, a legal non-profit, claiming that the institutions subjected residents to unnecessary medical treatment, poor overall care and isolated residents from the rest of society. In addition to issuing a mandate for residential units, the judge is also appointing a federal monitor to ensure that the state is properly following the court's order.

Full story: A.G. Sulzberger, Judge Orders New York to Move Mentally Ill Out of Large, Institutional Housing, The New York Times, March 1, 2010, available at

2. Tennessee Residents Sue Over Cuts to Home Based Services

Two men in Tennessee have sued the state's Medicaid provider for cuts to programs which will likely take both men out of home care programs and place them into nursing homes. They are seeking a court order to force the state to pay for their home care services. Under the new state program, individuals can select if they want home treatment or if they want to be treated in a nursing home. But to qualify, the cost of home treatment must be cheaper than the cost of treatment in a nursing home. The state contends that the two individuals filing lawsuits do not have the choice under the new program because the cost of residential care for them would exceed the cost of care at a nursing home. Both individuals, who are quadriplegic, maintain that their placement in a nursing home would severely restrict not only their individual freedom, but also their quality of life.

Full story: Clay Carey, 2 Sue over Health Cuts, The Tennessean, March 5, 2010, available at

3. New Texas Amusement Park Is Committed to Entertaining Children with Disabilities

Morgan's Wonderland--a theme park which is highly accessible for persons with disabilities--opened on March 3, 2010. It purports to be "the world's first ultra-accessible family fun park." Gordon Hartman, a philanthropist, founded the project, naming it after his daughter, who has a disability. Construction took three years and cost 32 million dollars.

Rides offered include an off-road track using vehicles that can accommodate wheelchairs and that can protect some persons with physical disabilities. There are also swings that are equipped for wheelchairs.

Full Story: Andrea Sachs, Coming and Going: San Antonio Opens Amusement Park for Special-Needs Children, The Washington Post, February 28, 2010, available at


1. Canada Forms Coalition on Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities

In February 2010, recognizing the recent disasters and the subsequent difficulties persons with disabilities have experienced, charities and non-profits across Canada including March of Dimes Canada, Canadian Red Cross, and the Inclusive Preparedness Center, have banded together to form the Inclusive Emergency Preparedness Canada (IEPC). The IEPC is working with the Ontario government to eliminate barriers to emergency relief, facilitate communication with rescue workers, and ensure that all persons have access to the basic critical services during a disaster. To further this goal, the IEPC is "developing training materials for emergency reception centres and shelter staff and volunteers on how best to assist people with disabilities during an emergency or disaster."

Full Story: Coalition on Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities, Newswire, February 26, 2010, available at

2. New York State Improves Fire Safety for People with Developmental Disabilities

Based on recommendations by a panel of experts in the fields of fire safety and developmental disabilities, self-advocates and parents, the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) has begun implementing programs in February 2010, which will increase fire safety and preparedness. Some of the measures taken include increased individualization, better defined evacuation plans, more drills to improve those plans, and enhanced "training in all aspects of fire prevention." The need for improvement in this area was sadly highlighted by a fire last year in which the lives of four individuals with developmental disabilities were lost at an Individual Residential Alternative Facility in Wells, NY.

Full Story: OMRDD Takes Steps to Enhance Fire Safety, New York Nonprofit Press, February 18, 2010, available at

The Fire Safety Report is available at


1. Dubai Conference Focuses on Creating Assistive Technology Solutions

Adam Wing, Vice President of AbleNet, Inc., presented at the 7th Dubai International Rehabilitation Forum on March 16, 2010, regarding assistive technology solutions for persons with disabilities. The event is being co-sponsored by the Dubai Autism Center and the Dubai International Rehabilitation Forum. The program focused on determining how to achieve higher levels of accessibility, communication, and environmental control using assistive technology. It showcased worldwide assistive technology solutions, both at the conference and online.

Event organizers accepted video and written submissions. Examples of this year's work include a Japanese educator's work that assisted children with disabilities in gardening and weeding. Two Spanish educators also created an innovative assistive technology that helps persons with disabilities to throw a bowling ball.

Full Story: Kris Sundberg, AbleNet International Business VP, Adam Wing Is Presenting Latest Assistive Technology Solutions at REHAB Dubai 2010 Conference and Dubai Autism Center, MarketWatch, March 9, 2010, available at

2. Number of Disability Pensions in Finland Declines in 2009

In Finland, the number of disability pensions in 2009 saw a sharp decrease from a previously growing trend. Twenty-four thousand Finnish workers retired on disability pensions in 2009, which is 1,700 fewer than did last year. Before the trend turned last year, government and labor market organizations had agreed that this trend may be the result of employees who take disability pensions at increasingly earlier ages. But now, a member of the Finnish Center for Pensions argues that the decline in pensions is a result of better health among employees. Others argue that the recession has caused workers to avoid taking pensions because of the fear that, if they do, they may lose their jobs.

Finnish residents with a illness or impairment who have not reached the age of 64 are eligible to receive a disability pension. If the illness or impairment leaves them unable to perform at more than 60% of their prior work capacity, but they still maintain the ability to work part time. Then they may claim a part-time pension, half of the amount of the full pension.

Full Story: Disability Pensions Falling, YLE News, March 9, 2010, available at

For more information on the Finnish Disability Pension System:
Finnish Centre for Pensions, available at
About Kela, Disability Pension, available at, available at

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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 William N. Myhill, M.Ed., J.D., Managing Editor Deepti Samant, M.S. (Rehab), M.S. (ECE); Senior Editor Elizabeth Ribet, Ph.D., J.D.; and Associate Editors Jeffrey Davenport, B.A., Kenneth Hunt, B.A., Dara Lenoff, B.S., Eric Moll, B.A./B.S, and Paris Peckerman.

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