July 23, 2014
We post our bi-weekly bulletin to keep you up to date on disability-related resources, news, and other items of interest. This information is being provided solely for non-commercial, nonprofit educational purposes, including news reporting and research. It is not intended for commercial purposes. Further, we understand that our readers generally read the articles and information online, at the Web sites provided in the hypertext links, rather than relying solely on our synopses or copies. We are not responsible for the accessibility or the content of other Web sites. Please be aware that some links provided are time sensitive, and may become inactive at any time.
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Saturday, July 26, 2014
1:30 - 4:00 p.m.
Cultural Arts Center at Montgomery College
Join the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD) to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Ricardo Thornton, disabilities advocate, will be the keynote speaker. A leader of the District of Columbia's self-advocacy coalition, Project ACTION!, and Co-Chair of the District of Columbia Developmental Disabilities Council, Ricardo spent many years as a child and young adult at Forest Haven, an institution for people with developmental disabilities located in Laurel, Maryland (Forest Haven closed in 1991). In 1980, Ricardo left Forest Haven to begin a new life in a group home, with a job at the Martin Luther King Library; he has held that job for more than 35 years.
The 2014 ADA Celebration is free and open to the public. The event will begin with a reception in the theatre lobby; light hors d'oeuvres and desserts will be served. The Cultural Arts Center is located at 7995 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland, 20910. Sign language interpreters and CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) will be provided. For other accommodations or to RSVP for the event, please call the Maryland Department of Disabilities at 410-767-3660 or 1-800-637-4113, or send an email to Maryland Department of Disabilities no later than July 24, 2014.
July 2014 marks the 24th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In honor of this important event, the U.S. federal government website for information on disability programs and services has shared an article in the newsletter “Disability Connection,” which highlights several facts you may not be aware of regarding the ADA (check out the final bullet under item number 2 - Breaking Down the ADA - the link to "Title V" links you to our website!)
Disability.gov connects people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers to helpful resources on topics such as how to apply for disability benefits, find a job, get health care, or pay for accessible housing. You can also find organizations in your community to help you get the support you need.
To commemorate the upcoming 25th anniversary of the historic passage of the ADA (ADA25), the long-anticipated ADA Legacy Tour will kick off at Abilities Expo Houston on July 25, 2014 at NRG Center (formerly Reliant Center). Lex Frieden, renowned disability rights activists and one of the chief architects of the ADA, will lead a press conference beginning at 11:30 a.m. During the conference, the Office of the Mayor will issue a proclamation to memorialize the occasion.
As we celebrate the 24th anniversary of the signing of the ADA it is not too early to start planning for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Held each October, NDEAM raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is "Expect. Employ. Empower." The 2014 National Disability Employment Awareness Month poster is now available, both for order in hard copy and online, along with several other tools that can assist organizations in planning for this year’s observance, including sample articles, proclamations, and press releases.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has advanced a treaty promoting equal rights for people with disabilities around the world. The July 22, 2014 Committee vote was 12-6 in favor of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Among Republicans, treaty backers John McCain and John Barrasso joined Democrats in voting yes. Among GOP senators who've previously stated their opposition, none switched sides.
Approval by two-thirds is needed for passage in the full Senate; the treaty fell five votes short in December 2012. Supporters say many of the treaty's provisions are modeled after the U.S. ADA, and would not be binding. But critics have claimed the treaty could override some U.S. laws and caution against portions of the text that they assert could affect abortion and homeschooling in the United States.
The treaty, which has been signed by 146 countries, was initially negotiated by former President George W. Bush and signed by President Obama during his first term.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), which reauthorizes the Workforce Investment of 1998 (WIA) and amends the Rehabilitation Act, was signed by President Obama on July 22nd. In his comments, the President stated that WIOA “will help workers, including workers with disabilities, access employment, education, job-driven training, and support services that give them the chance to advance their careers and secure the good jobs of the future.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched a video consumer support service, the ASL Consumer Support Line, specifically designed to enable consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing to engage in a direct video call with a Consumer Specialist at the FCC. The service will allow deaf and hard of hearing consumers to communicate in their primary language, American Sign Language (ASL). Until now deaf and hard of hearing consumers only had the option to communicate using relay services or by filing a complaint form online.
The ASL Consumer Support Line, operated by the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s Disability Rights Office, gives consumers using videophones direct access to the FCC through a ten-digit telephone number connecting them to an ASL Consumer Specialist between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The ASL Consumer Specialist will be able to assist consumers with filing informal complaints. In addition, the Specialist can help consumers obtain information in response to inquiries on a wide range of disability-related matters, such as telecommunications relay service (TRS), closed captioning and access to emergency information on television, and general telecommunication matters, such as slamming, Do-Not-Call telemarketing violations and broadband services.
Disability Related Inquiries Should be Reviewed for ADA and GINA Compliance in Light of EEOC Informal Letters
The EEOC issued two informal discussion letters critiquing policies and forms used by unidentified public employers when making disability related inquiries of employees. Although informal discussion letters are not “official” EEOC opinions, they provide guidance on an employer’s legal obligations. In these informal letters, the EEOC reviewed the agencies’ fitness for duty exam forms and sample reasonable accommodation policy and accompanying questionnaires and found that they contained language that violated both the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
Fact Sheet for Small Businesses and Question and Answer Document Also Released
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, along with a Q&A document about the guidance and a Fact Sheet for Small Businesses.
This is the first comprehensive update of the Commission's guidance on the subject of discrimination against pregnant workers since the 1983 publication of a Compliance Manual chapter on the subject. This guidance supersedes that document and incorporates significant developments in the law from the past 30 years. In addition to addressing the requirements of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the guidance discusses the application of the ADA as amended in 2008 to individuals who have pregnancy-related disabilities.
Plans are in the works at the U.S. Department of Justice to roll out law enforcement training focused on people with disabilities. The Justice Department’s Community Relations Service — a division that steps in to help communities address tension stemming from civil rights issues — is currently working on the effort, Attorney General Eric Holder said.
The move follows the introduction of a similar training program in March designed to address law enforcement relations with the transgender community. “Earlier this year, you launched groundbreaking transgender law enforcement cultural professionalism training. And I know a similar training initiative, focused on the needs of individuals with cognitive disabilities, is being developed as we speak,” Holder said at a gathering of the Community Relations Service recently. Justice Department officials did not provide details about the plans. Holder’s comments, however, come over a year after disability advocates called on the federal agency to address the need for better police training.
Drugstore giant Walgreens has agreed to pay $180,000 to a longtime employee with diabetes and to implement revised policies and training to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC's lawsuit charged that the former cashier, who has Type II Diabetes, was fired by a South San Francisco Walgreens because of her disability after she ate a $1.39 bag of chips to stabilize her blood sugar level during a hypoglycemic attack. The employee had worked for Walgreen for almost 18 years with no disciplinary record, and Walgreens knew of her diabetes. Yet the company security officer testified that he did not understand nor did he seek clarification when the former employee wrote, "My sugar low. Not have time," in reply to his request for an explanation of why she took the chips before paying.
Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the ADA. The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer.
Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS), which operates an inpatient hospital and several outpatient medical facilities, will pay $1,350,000 and will undertake significant remedial measures to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC's suit alleged that PHCS's fixed leave policy failed to consider leave as a reasonable accommodation, in violation of the ADA. According to the EEOC, since PHCS's leave policy merely tracked the requirements of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employee leaves were limited to a maximum of 12 weeks. PHCS's policy meant that employees who were not eligible for FMLA leave were fired after being absent for a short time, and many more were fired once they were out more than 12 weeks. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
EEOC Sues Genesis Healthcare / Mount Olive Care & Rehabilitation Center for Disability Discrimination
Genesis Healthcare, LLC, d/b/a Mount Olive Care & Rehabilitation Center, a Delaware limited liability company that operates a nursing home in Mount Olive, North Carolina, violated federal law by firing an employee because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in an employment discrimination lawsuit it filed.
According to the EEOC's complaint, Genesis Healthcare hired a person to work as a cook and dietary aide at its Mount Olive facility in June of 2013. The individual has a physical impairment that limits her use of the left side of her body. Shortly after she began working for Genesis Healthcare, her supervisor asked her what was wrong with her left arm. The employee explained that she did not have the full use of her left arm, but that she was still able to perform her job duties. A few weeks later, the supervisor informed the employee that she did not believe she could perform her job duties without the full use of both arms, and shortly thereafter the employee was fired.
A female employee just wanted a break from heavy lifting on her job at United Parcel Service (UPS) because of her pregnancy, but her boss told her to take unpaid leave instead. Now, eight years later, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up her case when it reconvenes this fall.
The question before the Court is whether, and in what circumstances, an employer that provides work accommodations to non-pregnant employees with work limitations must provide work accommodations to pregnant employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” In other words, should employers have to give pregnant workers a break?
The employee’s position is that the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act says you have to treat pregnant women the same as others with short-term disabilities. UPS says its policy, which allows accommodations (or “light duty” assignments) for employees injured on the job, employees with a disability as defined by the ADA, and injured employees ineligible for commercial driver’s licenses, is “pregnancy blind” and does not constitute discrimination.
On June 12, 2014, the United States filed a Statement of Interest in the case of Smith v. Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In Smith, the plaintiffs alleged that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania put them at serious risk of institutionalization by reducing funding for Act 150, a state-funded program providing attendant care services in the community.
The Statement of Interest highlights the legal principles governing ADA claims, including the fact that individuals who are at risk of entering an institution because of a state policy need not wait until they enter the institution in order to assert an ADA integration claim. The Statement of Interest also addresses what constitutes a request for a reasonable accommodation for the purposes of bringing such a claim.
Lawyers representing a disabled man who filed a federal discrimination suit against the Smithsonian Institution last year after the National Air and Space Museum allegedly refused to allow him on its flight simulators because he was in a wheelchair say their client has settled with the Smithsonian—in an agreement, they say, that will make the museum more friendly to disabled visitors.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling clarifying what constitutes intellectual disability also marked a major milestone in efforts to put an end to use of the term “mental retardation.” For the first time ever, the nation’s highest court used the term intellectual disability in its decision last week in a case known as Hall v. Florida.
“Previous opinions of this court have employed the term ‘mental retardation.’ This opinion uses the term ‘intellectual disability’ to describe the identical phenomenon,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court’s majority opinion. In explaining the court’s change, Kennedy pointed to use of the updated language in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Kennedy also cited Rosa’s Law, a 2010 act requiring “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” to be used in lieu of “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” in federal health, education and labor policy. The Supreme Court’s move to follow suit marks what may be the last major national institution to adopt language that self-advocates have been urging for decades.
NFB Applauds Historic Iowa Supreme Court Decision: Decision Affirms Right of Blind People to Enter Chiropractic Medicine Field
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) applauded the Iowa Supreme Court for its decision in the landmark case of Aaron Cannon and Davenport Civil Rights Commission v. Palmer College of Chiropractic. In a five to two ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court reinstituted the decision of the Davenport Civil Rights Commission, which found that Palmer College of Chiropractic violated student rights under the ADA and Iowa law by requiring that chiropractic students possess sight and by not providing the student the reasonable accommodation of a sighted reader. The Commission also ordered that Palmer reinstate the student and pay economic damages.
Trainings and Opportunities
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
3:00 - 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time
The LEAD Center, which is funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and managed by the National Disability Institute, will host “Customized Employment: Beyond the Basics.” Targeted at workforce development professionals, disability service providers, individuals with disabilities and other stakeholders, this webinar will address how to use the information gathered during discovery to connect hard-to-serve job seekers, both with and without disabilities, to a range of employment opportunities.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
2:00 - 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time
ADA In Focus Webinar Series, presented by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center
From guide dogs that help individuals who are blind navigate their surroundings, to cats that provide emotional support to people with depression, there are numerous types of assistance animals available to people with disabilities. However, federal laws governing the right to be accompanied by these animals in various settings can be confusing. This free session will help unravel the puzzle of what types of assistance animals are allowed in what settings. We will focus on the federal laws that address assistance animals in public accommodations and housing. Presenter: Kat Taylor, Disability Rights Program Manager, The Equal Rights Center.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon Eastern Time
Twenty-four years ago, the ADA was signed into law, guaranteeing equal opportunity and providing civil rights for people with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
Please join us for this interactive training where attendees will receive an overview of the 2008 ADA Amendments Act, an overview of the employment regulations, and obtain informative guidelines that can be implemented and shared immediately. This session will be presented by Karen Goss, Assistant Director at the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center.
Emergency Management and Preparedness
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Webinar Series:
It's Not about the List!
Thursday, September 11, 2014
2:00 - 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time
The whole community approach to emergency management requires an informed and shared understanding of a community's risks, needs, and capabilities. Communities often consider using Emergency Assistance Registries as a strategy for gaining such an understanding of their populations with communications, medical, independence, support, or transportation access or functional dependencies.
Drawing on recent research, this talk will not focus on "the list"; rather, it will focus on four concepts critical to making registries about the people: registry purpose, inherent contract, location vs. hazard, and contract fulfillment. These concepts will be explained by showing how they played out in one community's registry operation.
This webinar series is produced by the Pacific ADA Center with technical support by the Great Lakes ADA Center. The Pacific and Great Lakes ADA Centers are both members of the ADA National Network. Register for this free session through ADA Conferences.
The Southwest ADA Center is collecting stories for the ADA StoryTeller project, highlighting people who have been successful at removing barriers to employment, education, transportation, and housing, including the right to live at home in one's own community. People with disabilities, families experiencing disability, and businesses that employ people with disabilities are encouraged to submit success stories via the ADA StoryTeller online form or by calling 713-520-0232 to schedule an interview with Center staff.
Learn the latest information on the ADA at our 21st annual conference featuring representatives from:
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- U.S. Department of Justice
- U.S. Access Board
- Federal Transportation Administration