Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Friday, February 17, 2017


CHICAGO - The Neo-Futurists troupe has done it again. In an accessible 8-week introductory class, students will explore core Neo-Futurist tenets of honesty, brevity, chance and audience interaction in order to create and perform short plays in our unique, non-fiction aesthetic. The class will culminate in a public performance at Victory Gardens Theatre on May 1st, 2017 as part of ‘Crip Slam’ in the Richard Christensen Theater.

Artists with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply, and will be given preference in acceptance into the workshop. (The class is open to everyone; however we will strive to maintain a majority of artists with disabilities in the class.)

MONDAYS, 6:00PM - 9:00PM
MARCH 13TH - MAY 1ST, 2017

YouTube published by The Neo-Futurists channel

Since the troupe’s inception in 1988, The Neo-Futurists have grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in America. To view a gallery of the ensembles past and present, go here.

Webinar March 9th:"Communications Approaches During and After An Emergency" for People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

March 9th, 2017

It is well known that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can experience communication issues during emergency announcements. It is also well-known that meetings need communications accommodations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In the emergency world, there are crucial meetings that people in the community need to be involved in after an emergency.

The webinar highlights two efforts to bridge those gaps. First, the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH), along with the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA), Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management (MCDEM), Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM), and the American Red Cross-Arizona/New Mexico/El Paso Chapter collaborated to create the "Emergency Response Interpreters Credentialing Program" (ERIC) for ASL Interpreters and CART providers wishing to provide services during emergency and disaster response situations. As a result of this program, trained and qualified interpreters and captioners are available to work in a variety of high-pressure settings, such as evacuation shelters, press conferences, active wildfire camps, and community meetings. The inaugural training for the ERIC program was hosted in November of 2016 and organizers have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. This webinar will discuss the role of each agency in the training and implementation phases of the program, as well as training content and participant requirements.

In the second presentation, the North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (DSDHH) will share its experience in organizing events for Hurricane Matthew survivors who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing with assistance from FEMA and NC Emergency Management Recovery. They will review the obstacles survivors who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing face when they attend local community meetings or events that were provided to public even when communication access (ASL interpreters, CART) are being provided? DSDHH will describe how the event for survivors was set up with FEMA's and NC Emergency Management's participation.

Learning objectives:
  • Identify potential gaps in accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing community members during emergency/disaster response.
  • Understand the importance of multiple agency partnerships in addressing identified gaps
  • Understand the participation and training requirements necessary for professionals providing accessibility during emergency/disaster response
  • Strengthen awareness on the importance of having a separate event for disaster survivors who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing in order to meet their needs for more depth access to information that will impact how much they receive during the recovery process.
  • Develop tools in organizing an event for disaster survivors who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing.
  • Recognize the importance of working collaboratively with FEMA and local emergency responders in the event of a federal disaster declaration.
  • Vicki Bond is the Interpreter Outreach and Development Coordinator at the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, where she provides outreach and education to interpreters and providers working with interpreters throughout the state of Arizona. She helped to create and pilot the ERIC program, ensuring that the training content and support systems created by the team would be sufficient to sustain the professionals providing access during emergency response events in Arizona. Vicki has been an ASL/English interpreter for 13 years, having earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Arizona in Educational Interpreting, and a Master of Arts degree in Interpretation from Gallaudet University. She holds the NIC Advanced certification, and the State of Arizona Legal A Interpreting License.
  • Judy Kioski is the Administrator for the Arizona Emergency Information Network (www.azein.gov), the State's source for real-time emergency bulletins, preparedness information and related resources. This website is a nationwide model for emergency response agency partnerships and social media interaction. Judy has been working in emergency public information and crisis communication since 2003. Over the past 13 years, she has been responsible for coordinating a "single governmental voice" when responding to an emergency that requires state assistance and coordinates the state Joint Information System. She works with state agencies, tribes, counties and volunteer organizations in coordinating public awareness campaigns, emergency messaging and preparedness issues.
  • Donna Platt is Emergency Preparedness Coordinator with North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. She has over 17-year experience providing support, training, and consultation to 9-1-1 telecommunicators and emergency responders on effective communication access to Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing individuals in Washington State and North Carolina as well as education and resources on 9-1-1, emergency notification and preparedness to those consumers. Donna was one of four co-organizers in coordinating Disaster Preparedness Skills Building Training for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing in Seattle for two years. She was one of subject expert matters for the development of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc.'s Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN) training manual for both emergency responders and community members who were Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing. She is currently NENA Accessibility Committee Co-Chair to ensure that 9-1-1 technologies and services are communication accessible for individuals with disabilities when calling 911 directly. Donna has served on three national committees; National Association for the Deaf's Emergency Communication Subcommittee, FCC Emergency Access Advisory Committee, and Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center National Advisory Committee-University of California-Berkeley.
These 90 minute webinars are delivered using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. Collaborate downloads files to your device in order to run. We recommend that you prepare your technology prior to the start of the session. You may need the assistance of your IT Staff if firewalls prevent you from downloading files.

To view upcoming sessions, go to http://www.adapresentations.org/schedule.php

To see previous sessions, go to http://www.adapresentations.org/archive.php

The information presented in this webinar is intended solely as informal guidance, and is neither a determination of legal rights or responsibilities by NIDILRR or FEMA.
SOURCE: Press Release

Save our Schools! Students with Disabilities Will Suffer As Congress Is Trying To Weaken ESSA

The National Disability Rights Network has shared the following info:
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a critical component in our fight to ensure students with disabilities are held to high standards and have access to a high quality education. ESSA was a successful bi-partisan effort passed last year to improve education for all students and built upon the framework of accountability. 

Now, Congress is trying to weaken ESSA by rescinding important regulations that are critical for meaningful implementation of ESSA. If they succeed, students with disabilities will suffer.

Click here to tell your Senators to preserve these critical protections for students with disabilities.

The regulations clarify the statutory language in ESSA, build upon ESSA’s flexibility for school improvement and provide a clarified role for families, educators and stakeholders to share in the implementation process. 

Perhaps, most importantly, the final regulations maintain the civil rights legacy of the law by meaningfully including all students, including students with disabilities.

Thank you for all you do in the fight to protect and advocate for people with disabilities.
National Disability Rights Network

SOURCE: Press Release National Disability Rights Network

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium

2016 Annual Report

The 2016 Disability Statistics Annual Report is a companion volume to the 2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium & Supplement. The Compendium presents many tables of data, including state and national values and trends over time. The Annual Report presents statistics from the 2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium tables to address the following types of questions:
  • How many people with disabilities live in the United States?
  • What is the percentage of people with disabilities in different age groups?
  • What is the percentage of people with disabilities for different types of disability?
  • To what extent are people with disabilities employed?
  • What are the earnings for people with and without disabilities?
  • What is the poverty percentage for people with and without disabilities?
  • Is disability status associated with percentages of smoking, obesity, and binge drinking?
The Annual Report highlights state and trend data, and complements the detailed tables available in the Compendium Supplement. There is a great deal of variability in disability rates by state and the Annual Report includes maps to highlight this information; each map is related to a specific table from the Compendium.

Download the 2016 Annual Report

Download the 2015 Annual Report

2016 Annual Report on Disability-Related Air Travel Complaints

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), 49 U.S.C. 41705, prohibits discriminatory treatment of persons with disabilities in air transportation. The Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21; Public Law 106-181) requires, among other things, that the Secretary of Transportation “regularly review all complaints received by air carriers alleging discrimination on the basis of disability” and “report annually to Congress on the results of such review.” 

These annual reports to Congress, which cover disability-related complaints that U.S. and foreign passenger air carriers operating to, from, and within the U.S. received during the calendar year, as reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation (Department or DOT) by those carriers.

U.S. Access Board Webinar March 2: Medical Diagnostic Equipment Final Rule

laptop with Access Board sealThe next webinar in the U.S. Access Board's free monthly series will take place March 2, 2017 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and cover new standards the Access Board recently issued for medical diagnostic equipment. Presenters will review requirements of the standards which address transfer surfaces and supports, armrests, compatibility with lift devices, and other access features. Attendees can submit questions in advance or during the webinar. 

Visit www.accessibilityonline.org for more information or to register. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits (CEUs). Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site. The webinar series is made available in cooperation with the ADA National Network.

SOURCE: Press Release U.S. Access Board

Victory in Illinois After Two Days of Protests Delay Controversial Vote on Disability Services

Springfield and Chicago protests raise alarm about unfair overtime policy that undercuts independence for seniors and people with disabilities, as activists mount wider challenge to governor’s harsh austerity agenda at annual State of State address.

CHICAGO–February 15, 2017. Two days of protests against Gov. Bryce Rauner’s austerity policies have forced a delay on a controversial vote on proposed limits to overtime for home services workers — a critical victory for people with disabilities and other Illinois residents who depend on home care to live independent lives with dignity.

On Valentine’s Day, dozens of people with disabilities, their caregivers and union allies hand-delivered valentines to Rauner in downtown Chicago with a simple message: Have a heart! Drop harmful overtime rules and negotiate a FAIR budget that supports human services and the workers who provide them.

Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s efforts were coordinated by the Alliance for Community Services, a broad coalition of Illinois residents and their caregivers, community groups and public service unions, united to put the “human” back in human services, stop privatization and threats to Medicaid and other public services, and promote accountable, accessible services that Illinois can be proud of.

Alliance member and ADAPT co-chair Susan Aarup participated in both days’ actions — and cheered the delay in a vote on harsh new overtime rules. Aarup is one of tens of thousands of Illinois residents who rely on caregivers to allow her to work, pay taxes, go to school, live independently and play an active role in her community. “Governor Rauner’s heartless policies could destroy the ability of my caregivers to work with me,” she said from her wheelchair Wednesday in the State capital. “My caregivers make it possible for me to go to school, to hold down a job, to live independently with dignity and to be a valuable member of society. But Rauner’s outrageous overtime rules could literally get my caregivers fired — and force me into a nursing home at a much higher cost to Illinois taxpayers like me. Today’s delayed vote is a positive development — but we won’t stop until this scheme and others like it are shut down permanently.”

Rauner’s proposed new overtime rules for personal assistants, the caregivers who provide daily assistance to people like Susan, have particularly outraged people with disabilities and others who rely on them. Rauner’s overtime scheme would see PAs banned from caring for clients if they accrue more than three ‘unauthorized’ instances of overtime — essentially forcing these low-wage workers to work for free when their clients need extra help.

Aarup and her allies condemned Rauner’s privatization agenda, his push to close public service offices, his strategy of engendering “assembly-line” bureaucracies and his attacks on caregivers and other low-wage frontline workers — all policies that Alliance members charge increasingly threaten services at a time when Illinois residents from low-income families to the elderly need them most.

Rauner’s policies have locked out growing numbers of the state’s neediest residents from programs at a time when their families and communities can least afford barriers to service — while state service workers struggle with growing caseloads and community-based care-givers have wages and benefits that leave them squarely in the economic ranks of their impoverished clients.

Alliance members and their allies are calling on Rauner to:
  • Drop his harmful overtime policy that threatens people with disabilities and penalizes workers for putting in the hours that their patients need.
  • Negotiate, don’t dictate — keep public services offices open and serving human needs by returning to the bargining table
  • Support a FAIR budget where big banks and billionaires pay their fair share, and fully and fairly funds vital human needs that include health care, paratransit/public transit, affordable housing, $15/hr for service workers and properly accessible public aid offices.
  • Close corporate loopholes that benefit the 1% at the expense of the rest of us.
  • End the outsourcing of Medicaid public services to greedy private contractors.
  • Save and improve Medicaid and Medicare, which serves hundreds of thousands of middle and working class Illinois seniors, children and families.
  • Explore options like a Lasalle Street tax, which is dominated by the nation’s wealthy elites — and where the nation’s richest 20% own more than 90% of stock traded.
Members of the Alliance for Community Services include the elderly, low-income families, people with disabilities, frontline caregivers and service workers, and public sector workers. Participating organizations in Tuesday’s action included ADAPT, Northside Action for Justice, AFSCME Local 2806, AFSCME Local 2858, AFSCME Local 3506, IMPRUVE, STOP: Southside Together Organizing for Power, SEIU-Health Care, Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice, Democratic Socialists of America, Chicago Jobs with Justice, and the Movement for the 99%.

Source: Alliance for Community Services

U.S. Dept of Education Issue Resource Guide for Parents and Educators on Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities

ED sealThe U.S. Department of Education has issued a resource guide for parents and educators on how requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act apply to public education. The 47-page document, "Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools," reviews section 504 requirements, describes responsibilities school districts have under the law, and outlines steps parents can take to make sure their children receive the services that they are entitled to. Under section 504, students with disabilities in public elementary and secondary schools must be provided regular or special education and related aids and services to meet individual educational needs. The guide also covers available services and complaint processes and discusses requirements of the ADA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Visit the Education Department's website for further information.

DOJ Proposes Updates to its Section 504 Regulations; Comment Period Till March 20, 2017

DOJ sealThe U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued for public comment a proposed rule updating its regulations implementing section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs and activities that are conducted or funded by Federal agencies. Each Federal agency is responsible for ensuring that the programs and activities it funds are accessible as required by Section 504.
The proposed update incorporates amendments made to the Rehabilitation Act as well as several Supreme Court decisions interpreting section 504 requirements. In addition, revisions are proposed to promote consistency with DOJ's ADA regulations and to update accessibility standards for new and altered facilities by applying standards implemented under the ADA. The rule also includes various organizational and editorial changes to make the regulation clearer and easier to follow.

Further information, including instructions on submitting comments, is available on DOJ's website. Comments are due March 20, 2017.

Health Care Town Hall Meeting in Chicago Feb. 17th - Disabled, Advocates on Proposed Medicaid Cuts

Access Living's Health Care Team is hosting a Town Hall to raise awareness about Federal Legislation that would wipe out Medicaid as we now know it and offer less money to states to use Medicaid Services.

WHEN: February 17, 2017 from 1:00 to 4:00

WHERE: Access Living at 115 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL

WHO: You are invited and we welcome guests

WHY: Only action by people with disabilities and our
allies is likely to prevent the severe cuts
proposed to Medicaid

WHAT ELSE: We will have policy experts explain the threat, we will have consumers tell their Medicaid stories and we will have an update on regulations making it easier to get tires and batteries for wheelchairs.

ACCESS LIVING is wheelchair accessible. We will have a sign language interpreter. Please refrain from scented personal care products. We will have PA services. SNACKS will be served. For more information contact Tom Wilson @ 312.640.2125 or tomas@accesliving.org
Here is a link to an online listing of the Town Hall. Click Here

#SOURCE: Press Release
 Access Living of Metro Chicago (Center for Independent Living)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Illinois Gov. Rauner ‘Have a Heart, Support Vital Services’ Valentine’s Day Message from Disabled Caregivers, Clients to Rally Feb. 14th

On eve of Rauner’s budget address, and the vote on controversial overtime rule, people with disabilities, home caregivers and union members to call on governor to end policies that threaten thousands of Illinois residents and the workers on whom they rely.

CHICAGO—February 9, 2017.  Thousands of people with disabilities in Illinois live vibrant independent lives as workers, students, parents and participants in their communities — because they have the support and assistance of caregivers. But those workers and the clients they serve are now threatened by heartless new work rules being pushed by Illinois’ governor as part of a broad campaign to undercut labor rights — including for these low-wage workers. Caregivers are fighting back with the clients whose independence is grounded in their work — and they’re joining union workers, public employees and allies to send that message to Rauner on the eve of his annual budget address.
This Valentine’s Day, they’ll gather to deliver valentines to Rauner with one clear message: Have a heart, Governor, and safeguard the rights of caregivers, public workers, union members and the Illinois residents who rely on their services. Participants will gather at 11 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at the Thompson Center — the local administrative seat for the State of Illinois — in the public square outside the main doors at Clark and Randolph, for a press conference and picket before delivering their valentines to the governor’s office.
Among the issues participants are challenging are Rauner’s proposed new overtime rules for PAs or personal assistants, caregivers who make it possible for people with disabilities to live independently instead of inside institutions like nursing homes — and who could be fired for working overtime for their disabled clients. Speakers will talk about the dire consequences of Rauner’s heartless attacks on people with disabilities and other recipients of public servants, the critical need for home services and fair overtime rules, Rauner’s broad effort to undermine public services throughout Illinois, and his agenda to break the back of workers’ rights and public unions across the state.
Many of Tuesday’s participants will also be traveling to Springfield the following day for Rauner’s third annual budget address, where they’ll raise concerns with their legislators over the harm Rauner’s ‘turn-around’ agenda causes for Illinois residents — from low-income working parents to people with disabilities — who rely on public services and the workers who provide them.
Tuesday’s action is sponsored by the Alliance for Community Services and its members: low income families, people with disabilities, front-line workers, unions and community residents, fighting to put human need before corporate greed.
Source: Alliance for Community Services

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Justice Dept Reaches Agreement with City of Philadelphia to Resolve Disability Discrimination Complaint

Feb. 6, 2017 - The Justice Department filed a proposed consent decree today to resolve a complaint that the city of Philadelphia discriminated against an employee with a disability when it terminated the employee rather than reassign him to a vacant position for which he was qualified, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
According to the department’s complaint, the employee, who worked for the city as a sanitation worker, was terminated from his position after he had a heart attack and his doctor placed him under a 20-pound lifting restriction, which prevented him from continuing as a sanitation worker.  Although the employee made several requests for reassignment and the city had numerous vacant positions, the city failed to consider the employee for reassignment to a different position for which he was qualified.  Instead, the city terminated the employee because of his disability.    
The proposed consent decree, which is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, requires the city’s streets department to revise its policies to ensure that reassignment is considered as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities, train relevant employees on the ADA and report to the Justice Department on implementation of the decree.  The city will also offer to reinstate and reassign the employee to an open position for which he is qualified and will pay the employee a total of $90,000 for back pay, accrued interest and compensatory damages.  This matter was based on a referral from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Philadelphia Area Office, which completed the initial investigation of the facts. 
“Firing an employee because of a disability in these circumstances constitutes discrimination and violates the ADA,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “Just because an employee’s disability prevents them from working in one position does not disqualify them from working successfully in a different position.  We commend the city of Philadelphia for agreeing to revise its policies and offering to reinstate the former employee.”  
For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt.  For more information on the Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.
SOURCE: Press Release DOJ

EEOC Sues Pioneer Health Services for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation of A Disabled Employee

Mississippi Health Care Company Failed to Accommodate and Fired Disabled Employee, Federal Agency Charges
JACKSON, Miss. - Pioneer Health Services, Inc., a Mississippi company focused on rural health care, unlawfully discriminated against a social worker/therapist because of her disability when it refused to provide her with a reasonable accommodation, fired her and then retaliated against her by refusing to re-hire her after she complained, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, in July 2012, Joyce Dumas became ill and was hospitalized as a result of liver failure. During that same month, she sought, and Pioneer approved, her request for leave to cover her absence while she underwent a liver transplant. Dumas had a successful liver transplant on Aug. 2, and was slated to return to work in mid-September 2012. However, prior to her anticipated return date, Dumas requested an additional four weeks of leave to allow for her recovery from post-operative complications. Despite Dumas having more than four weeks of available sick leave, Pioneer denied the request and subsequently fired her after her company-approved leave was exhausted, according to the suit. Further, Pioneer refused to re-hire Dumas for an available social worker position after receiving notice that Dumas had filed a discrimination charge.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees and applicants from discrimination because of their disabilities. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Pioneer Health Services, Inc., Case No. 1:17-cv-00016-GHD-DAS) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi after an investigation was completed by the EEOC's Jackson Area Office and after the agency first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.
"The ADA and Family and Medical Leave Act operate independently of each other," said EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas. "Where an employee has exhausted her FMLA leave and she requests additional leave, the employer must engage in the interactive process to determine whether additional leave under the ADA is warranted."
EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker added, "The EEOC will continue to scrutinize instances where an employer terminates its employee with a disability immediately upon expiration of that employee's medical leave. Often such employees can be reasonably accommodated with a short extension of leave that allows them to return to work."
Pioneer Health is a Mississippi corporation that provides inpatient and outpatient health care services to citizens in the communities of Aberdeen, Magee, Forest, Madison, Byram and Flowood, Miss.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
SOURCE: Press Release on Feb. 3, 2017

Pres. Trump's Executive Order Discriminates Against Immigrants with Disabilities - The Arc's statement

The Arc On Leaked Draft Executive Order That Would Impact People with Disabilities Legally Residing in the US and Seeking to Legally Immigrate

Press Release on February 2, 2017 by The Arc

Washington, DC – In light of a recently leaked draft Executive Order that would impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who are legally residing in the United States as well as people with I/DD who are hoping to legally immigrate, The Arc released the following statement:

“We are facing a civil rights crisis in our nation and people with disabilities are in the crosshairs with the latest draft Executive Order being circulated in the White House. The Executive Order, if finalized and signed by the President, would discriminate against immigrants with disabilities, making it harder to legally enter or remain in the country. To deport individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in our country legally or prevent them from immigrating, goes against the values of our nation.

“At The Arc we believe people should have a fair opportunity to legally enter and reside in the United States and become a citizen, without restrictions based on disability. This includes those needing protection as refugees, asylees, and victims of human trafficking.

“Focusing on an individual’s need for support is a form of discrimination against people with disabilities we have seen before. But Congress, in the past, addressed the problem by ensuring that people with intellectual disability are provided accommodations as they try to enter our country legally, become citizens, and achieve the American dream like their peers without disabilities. Broadening the criteria for excluding or deporting immigrants based on need for support will harm people with disabilities and their families who have much to contribute to our society.

“If a family is otherwise eligible to enter or remain in our country, they shouldn’t be turned away or turned out because their child or another family member has a disability and may need to access government services to live and participate in the community.

“We urge President Trump to reject this Executive Order. We also call on Members of Congress, as they have done in the past, to stand up for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families as they seek inclusion in America,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.
# # #

Fir The Arc, visit: http://www.thearc.org/

Monday, February 6, 2017

Jewish Disability Activists Lobby Against Changes to Medicaid, and the Americans with Disabilities Act

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Close to 200 Jewish disability activists lobbied against proposed Republican changes to Medicaid and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The activists lobbied in Washington on Thursday under the aegis of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and the Jewish Federations of North America.

In a summary statement, the groups were careful not to single out the two major initiatives they opposed as Republican-backed. However, the likelihood of the proposed bills passing has increased with both chambers of Congress under GOP control and with President Donald Trump in the White House.The activists targeted changes proposed to Medicaid, the health insurance plan for low-income Americans, by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker, and backed by Tom Price, the health secretary, that would convert much of Medicaid funding into block grants to the states.

Disability advocates say the change would decrease the influence of the federal government in how the money is spent, and could adversely affect funding for items such as nursing, transportation and occupational therapies, among other needs currently paid for by the program.

A U.S. House of Representatives bill backed by Republicans and initiated by Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, would, by amending the Americans with Disabilities Act, add hurdles to disabled people seeking redress for businesses that fail to provide adequate access.

The legislation could make “it more difficult for people to enforce their legal rights when they encounter an architectural barrier when attempting to patronize a business,” said the statement issued by the JFNA.

Among the lawmakers the activists met were Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., David Joyce, R-Ohio, Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., and Pete Sessions, R-Texas.

SOURCE: press release Feb. 5, 2017 | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Super Bowl 2017 National Anthem and “America The Beautiful” in American Sign Language (ASL)

On behalf of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), actor Kriston Lee Pumphrey will perform in American Sign Language both the National Anthem and “America The Beautiful”.

Kriston Lee Pumphrey, an anchor at sign language channel DPAN-TV, performed both the National Anthem and "America The Beautiful," at the Super Bowl LI (51), alongside country music superstar Luke Bryan Feb. 5 in Houston.

YouTube published by BennettASL | Feb. 5, 2017

"One of the reasons why DPAN-TV was established is because we feel deaf people should have access to information," In s statement  Pumphrey said. "People don't realize the deaf community misses out on a lot of things going on in the world and in the news. And, to be on a national stage, this is a huge deal for us".    

Kriston Lee Pumphrey is a performing artist who is working as a news anchor at the Deaf Professional Arts Network (DPAN-TV). Kriston Lee graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2009 with a degree in business and communication. Kriston Lee co-founded ColorFest, a Deaf LGBT leadership conference for college students that is hosted both at Gallaudet University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Kriston Lee is involved in various community related advocacy work and currently serves on the board of a D.C. based nonprofit organization that strives to end sexual assault and domestic violence within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. (source: National Association of the Deaf (NAD) )

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Neil Gorsuch Nominee for Supreme Court Has a Troubling History When Ruling on Disability Rights Cases

Feb. 3, 2017 -- On Tuesday night, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge, as his nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court. As journalists and activists scour through Gorsuch’s judicial record, they would do well to pay attention to his decisions on disability rights.

article by Claudia Center, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU 
Two cases stand out during Judge Gorsuch’s time at Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Assistant Professor Grace Hwang worked at Kansas State University – with great success – for 15 years. After a cancer diagnosis, she requested and received a six-month leave of absence covering the fall 2009 semester while she recovered from a bone marrow transplant. As she was preparing to return to teaching in January, the campus erupted in a flu epidemic. Because a flu infection would have been dangerous, given her compromised immune system, Professor Hwang asked for further short leave, during which she could have worked from home.

The university denied her request, and Hwang sued.

Under established disability rights laws, a request for leave due to a disability must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to decide whether the request would present an undue hardship to the employer. This is a factual determination. Yet, before any evidence could be presented in the case on whether such an accommodation might present a problem for KSU — a federally funded, multi-million-dollar employer — Judge Gorsuch ruled that Professor Grace Hwang’s request for an additional leave of absence was simply unreasonable.

In his ruling, Judge Gorsuch asserted that “showing up” was an essential job function and opined that the Rehabilitation Act should not “turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work.” But this was an error of both fact and law. Of course, it is important that an individual report to work. But Grace Hwang had demonstrated her ability to “show up” for 15 years, and she was even able to telecommute during the flu epidemic. There was no question that she could report to work on campus and that she would be able to do so again. What was at issue was whether the university should allow her a short additional leave as a reasonable accommodation to enable her to return to her full duties.

Judge Gorsuch’s ruling contravened Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance, every other circuit decision on the issue, and reasoning from the Supreme Court in U.S. Airways, Inc v Barnett. In Barnett, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a reasonable accommodation may require the modification of a neutral employer rule, even if this functioned as a “preference” for the disabled employee. If Gorsuch followed Barnett’s reasoning in Hwang, the only thing required of the university would have been allowing the professor to work from home for a limited time.

A safety net it is not.

In a second disability rights case, an impartial hearing officer, an administrative law judge, and a federal district court judge all agreed that a young autistic boy, Luke, needed placement in a residential school program due to his total lack of progress in “generalizing” skills — applying skills learned at school to other environments. Judge Gorsuch wrote the opinion reversing. He found that because Luke was making “some progress” toward his education goals in the public school — even though it was undisputed there was no progress outside of school –the school district had met its obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). But Congress had made it clear that the IDEA should help students make progress toward independent living. Generally, not just in school. The narrow and outdated standard used by Judge Gorsuch is now under review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the primary principles underlying disability rights laws is the idea that there will be times when we need to level the playing field to give people with disabilities an equal opportunity — an opportunity to get an education, to get or keep a job, to be productive members of society. The Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability rights laws recognize financial, practical, and administrative burdens. But the laws also emphasize the individual nature of each situation. An accommodation that works for one person might not work for another. Similarly, what would be required for one employer might be a hardship for another. The court needs to look at the facts, not draw arbitrary, bright-line rules.

Judge Gorsuch rulings on the disability cases in front of him thus far raise important questions about his recognition of the rights of individuals with disabilities, and his willingness to ensure that we receive individualized justice.

For more from the ACLU, visit: https://www.aclu.org/

Friday, February 3, 2017

Solid Start for Employment in New Year for Americans with Disabilities

nTIDE January 2017 Jobs Report:
Solid Start to New Year for Americans with Disabilities

Kessler Foundation & University of New Hampshire release nTIDE Report – Monthly Update
DURHAM, NH – Momentum carried employment gains into the new year, extending the longest upward trend for Americans with disabilities since the Great Recession, according to today’s National Trends in Disability Employment – Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD). In transition programs for jobseekers with disabilities, a multi-level approach to job training can improve employment outcomes. Developing the placement skills of disability service providers, as well as the job skills of the individuals they serve, creates a sustainable framework for optimal transitions to the workplace.
National Trends in Disability Employment: Comparison of People with & without Disabilities (January 2016 & January 2017)
In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, February 3, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 26.6 percent in January 2016 to 27.1 percent in January 2017 (up 1.9 percent; 0.5 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 71.9 percent in January 2016 to 72.4 percent in January 2017 (up 0.7 percent; 0.5 percentage points). The employment-to-population ratio, a key indicator, reflects the percentage of people who are working relative to the total population (the number of people working divided by the number of people in the total population multiplied by 100).
“The proportion of people with disabilities working continues to improve,” according to John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “Ten consecutive months of employment growth is very encouraging and shows people with disabilities are striving to work as they move toward pre-Great Recession employment levels,” he added.
SOURCE: Press Release

Disability Advocates Protest 11,000-Person Waiting List for Virginia Services

With her 14-year-old son Danté Herrera bundled up in his wheelchair next to her, Marlo Dean asked a couple of hundred people to put their fists in the air as they protested an 11,000-person waiting list for disability services.

By SARAH KLEINER for the  Richmond Times-Dispatch | 01/31/2017
“What do we do?” Dean asked the crowd gathered outside the Virginia Capitol in the cold morning air on Tuesday.

“We fight,” they said in reply.

“We fight to have what?” Dean said to cheers. “A life like yours.”

Dean was among a long line of parents, advocates and lawmakers who implored the crowd to keep fighting for services for people with disabilities. Herrera, who has Batten disease, a rare and fatal brain disease, has been on the waiting list since he was 3 years old, Dean said.

The government “should be helping people that have problems, that have challenges, that have difficulties,” said Del. Timothy D. Hugo, R-Fairfax. “We’re all God’s children and government has an obligation and a necessity to step up and try to help everybody, to make sure everybody can live life to the best of their capabilities.”

Virginia has for far too long relied on institutionalized care for people with disabilities, said Jamie Liban, executive director of the Arc of Virginia, an advocacy organization.

Even after the federal government required the state to provide care in the least restrictive settings possible — at home, if possible, rather than in institutions — the waiting list for services has been growing. Advocates have urged the state to spend more money on disability waivers, or slots, which provide a variety of services to families in need, such as respite care or home modifications.

Caroline Conner, 7, has been waiting for a waiver slot to get adaptations in her home, additional nursing, a case manager and extra therapy to keep her muscles from stiffening in certain positions, her mother Marta Conner told the crowd. Caroline has Rett Syndrome, a brain disorder that makes it impossible for her to walk, talk, sit without assistance or use her hands.

Marta Conner said her daughter wears diapers and her food is pureed. She had 85 seizures last year.

Caroline has a lower level waiver that pays for respiratory equipment, but a more intensive waiver would “improve the length and quality of Caroline’s life and also allow us to continue to care for her in our home,” Marta Conner said.

Sen. Barbara A. Favola, D-Arlington, said it’s “shameful” that the waiting list is so long, and she vowed to reduce it.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, a pediatric neurologist in Norfolk, said 70 percent of the children he cares for have disabilities. He said they should have the same educational opportunities as other students in school, and they should be educated in the least restrictive environments possible.

Adults with disabilities should have the same opportunities for employment and access to affordable housing, he said, as he put in a plug for his run for governor.

“I can tell you as the next governor of the commonwealth of Virginia, I’m going to stand up for all of you with disabilities,” Northam said. “I will be your friend, and I hope you will be my friend.”

2017 US Women’s Wheelchair Basketball National Team Named

Rose Hollermann (C) of the USA and Johanna Welin (L) of Germany in action during women's wheelchair basketball final between Germany and USA at Olympic Arena on day 9 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. © • 2016 Getty Images

The National Wheelchair Basketball Association in the USA (NWBA) has announced its 2017 women's wheelchair basketball national team, following a three-day selection camp at the US Olympic Training Centre.

Three returning 2016 Paralympic gold medallists will lead Team USA toward the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) Americas Zonal Qualifier this summer. The final selection of 12 athletes for the Americas Qualifier will occur later this summer.

The path to Tokyo 2020 starts this year with the Americas Zonal Qualifying tournament, where Team USA must place in the top four to qualify for the 2018 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. In 2019, the US Team will compete at the Para Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. The quadrenium will roll to an end at Tokyo 2020.

Rolling the team of 16 athletes towards the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is two-time Paralympian Desi Miller, who was a significant contributor to the gold-medal success in Rio. Miller, a three-time Para Pan Am gold medallist, also played on two World Championships teams, winning gold in 2010.

Abby Dunkin and Vanessa Erskine – both also competed at Rio 2016 – begin their journey toward Tokyo 2020. Dunkin also was a member of the gold-medal winning team at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. Erskine currently plays professional wheelchair basketball in Germany.

Emily Oberst and Brittany Gustafson join the team and currently play for the University of Alabama. Josie Aslakson and Molly Welfe all play college basketball for the University of Texas at Arlington and will look to contribute to the team this year.

Kaitlyn Eaton and Shelby Gruss, both coming from the University of Illinois, made the team.

Lindsay Zurbrugg will join from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, along with Sarah Heinzl from the University of Arizona.

The depth of women's wheelchair basketball in the USA is prevalent as four high school athletes were selected: Josie DeHart, Jordan Kozloski, Riley Ljungdahl and Zoe Voris.

NWBA Hall of Famer Trooper Johnson will serve as the women’s head coach. Johnson, a 15-time US national team member and two-time Paralympic medallist, will be assisted by Amy Spangler and Adam Kramer. Athletic Trainer Karla Wessels and team leader Kearstin Gehlhausen return for a second term.

"After three days of intense testing and evaluations, we are confident that we have selected the athletes with the best potential for growth and development leading into the new quad," said Johnson. "This is a young team and our coaching staff is excited about the growth potential that is in front of us. We have confidence in this team, and it is starting to fall into place for another successful run to the podium in 2020."

Team USA returned to the top of the podium at the Rio Paralympics, marking the third Paralympic gold medal in the last four Games (2004, 2008 and 2016). The US women's team dominated in Rio going undefeated, 7-0, and maintains the medal count lead with seven Paralympic medals, including four gold medals.

2017 US women's wheelchair basketball national team
Josie Aslakson / Josie DeHart / Abby Dunkin / Kaitlyn Eaton / Vanessa Erskine / Shelby Gruss

Brittany Gustafson / Sarah Heinzl / Jordan Kozlowski / Riley Ljungdahl / Desiree Miller

Emily Oberst / Zoe Voris / Molly Welfe / Morgan Wood /Lindsay Zurbrugg

SOURCE: National Wheelchair Basketball

Thursday, February 2, 2017

5 Years After Autistic Teen Stephon Watts Was Killed by Two Calumet City Illinois Police Officers, The Family Still Want Answers

On a parking lot on Pulaski and Torrence Avenues on Wednesday, Renee Watts read from a slip of notebook paper with confidence and poise: Her idiosyncratic, autistic brother should never have been shot and killed by two Calumet City police officers five years ago.

Danelene Powell, mother of Stephon Watts, speaks on Feb. 1, 2017
photo: (Kyle Telechan / Daily Southtown)

Article by Matt McCall for the Daily Southtown | Feb. 1, 2017

About 50 people — political activists like Eric Russell, mothers of teens killed by area cops, families with small children, disabled men and women — stood still and listened as the sun set and the sky turned dark blue above them in Calumet City.

"(The police) knew exactly what they were dealing with and exactly who he was," she said.

Her father, Steven Watts Sr., spoke next. He said he never accepted the death of his son, a gifted African-American child who had taught himself to read and who wanted to make computer games.

Steven Watts said he watched two police officers fire fatal shots in the family's basement, a scene he relives daily.

Stephon Watts' uncle Wayne Watts said he pictures what his nephew would look like today, how his voice would sound.

The boy's mother, Danelene Powell-Dickens, told the crowd that they must make their elected officials care, that her son was only a child with a disability. Before the rally, she was seen yelling at two police officers, asking them to leave.

"You willfully murdered my son!" she said. "How can you insult the name of my son?"
Stephon Watts

Carrying signs and a banner taken from a back of a white hatchback with the license plate "Stephon," the protesters marched on the anniversary of the teen's death past a frozen marsh from the restaurant to the police station two blocks away, two flashing squad cars tailing them.

From the steps of the police station, demonstrators demanded State's Attorney Kim Foxx prosecute the officers that shot and killed Stephon Watts, a Justice Department investigation of the Calumet City Police Department, disability training for all first responders, the establishment of an Independent Civilian Review Board in the area and an annual mental and emotional evaluation for police officers.

"Those of us kissed by the sun have targets on our back," Russell said.

Tom DiFiori, Calumet City assistant chief of police, said the department maintains use of force was justified, but supports the protesters' right to demonstrate. He confirmed that officers involved in the shooting are still with the department.

A hearing for a civil suit the family filed against the city and the two officers that shot Stephon was denied last year.

The rally and march came amid national debate over police brutality and racial profiling with several high-profile killings of African Americans inspiring protests nationwide during the past two years. The names of Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and others have become a rallying cries and calls to action for Black Lives Matter activists across the country.

Stephon Watts' story is relatively obscure, but stands out because he was not only a black male teen, but autistic, diagnosed at 9 years old and killed at 15 by police who knew of his disability and had handled him in the past, activists said. For Stephon's parents and the local activists, the killing raises questions of racial profiling and law enforcement's capability to handle calls involving developmentally disabled people and how the two factors combined contributed to his death.

National statistics suggest people with autism spectrum disorders are seven times more likely to encounter police and that people with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police, according to news reports.

Lorrell Kilpatrick, a member of the Gary chapter of Black Lives Matter and the Northwest Indiana-based disability advocacy group Everybody Counts, said it is impossible to disentangle Stephon's death from his identity as a young black man and a disabled person. Black men and people with disabilities are seen as threats officers are trained to react aggressively to, she said. Activists can demand sensitivity training, but Fitzpatrick questions how much sensitivity can be expected in a system where armed officers are sent to perform health checks.

"They're not health professionals, they're not disability professionals," she said. "When you have someone who has an impairment or disability, that person's reactions can run the gamut. They could scream or yell as a symptom of their disability."

On the morning of Feb, 1, 2012, Stephon Watts told his father that he didn't want to go to school on what would have been his third day at Easter Seals Autism Therapeutic School in Tinley Park, according to the family. To punish his son, Steven Watts locked Stephon Watts' computer in a basement bedroom, the family said.

About 8:30 a.m., he caught his son jimmying open the door with a butter knife. They fought over the computer, tugging it back and forth between them, until, frustrated, Steven Watts Sr. called police, the family said. In 2012, Steven Watts told the Chicago Tribune that he was following instructions from social workers and doctors who recommended that the teen should be handled by the authorities when agitated, advice the family had taken many times.

Police had been called on Stephon Watts 10 times in the two years before his death and the address had been flagged with a code alerting officers a person with a developmental disability lived there, the former Calumet City Police Chief Edward Gilmore told the Tribune in 2012. In Dec. 2011, police Tased Stephon after he punched his mother in the face and fled home with a kitchen knife.

On the night Stephon died, officers allegedly found Stephon Watts in the basement with a kitchen knife, which the family maintains was a non-lethal butter knife. When Stephon Watts struck one officer's forearm with the knife, officers fired twice. One officer shot hit Stephon first, under the right armpit. Another officer's bullet pierced Stephon's back, officials said.

Stephon Watts was later pronounced dead at Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Hammond.

Camiella Williams, a Black Lives Matter affiliate and teacher at an alternative high school running for trustee in Chicago Heights, said it is shameful that many of the elected officials that service the suburban areas have not become vocal about the Watts' story and this issue. At her school, she is trained three times a year on how to handle children with developmental disabilities, she said. Officers are only required to attend training once a year and are responsible for the safety of disabled people in the public, she said. The year before Stephon Watts was killed, all 84 Calumet City police officers attended an annual class about dealing with people with autism disorders, authorities told the Tribune in 2012.

"For me to know that this happened to him, I know it can happen to the students under my watch," she said.
Copyright © 2017, Daily Southtown

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