Friday, December 19, 2014

New Olmstead Guidance for Consumers and Advocates As States Implement the New Home Care Rule

as shared by American Association of People with Disabilities

American Association of People with Disabilities
New Olmstead Guidance for Consumers and Advocates As States Implement the New Home Care Rule

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights released a joint letter this week offering guidance on the Department of Labor’s new Home Care Rule. The letter describes states’ obligations under Olmstead and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as they move forward with implementation of the rule in relation to minimum wage and overtime protections for home care workers. Read the letter here:   

AAPD has been working with other disability and aging groups to ensure that states implement the Home Care Rule in a way that doesn't cause unintended harm to consumers. The letter helps support that goal by making clear that states planning to comply with the rule by issuing blanket caps on workers' hours or travel time will be at risk of violating the ADA. Please read Advocacy Steps for Consumers and Advocates Regarding the Home Care Rule: Update on Requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead to help inform people with disabilities, seniors and advocates in taking action using this new guidance. 

Please pass this material along to any interested advocates and consumers, and we thank you for your time on this issue.  
Mark Perriello
President and CEO 

American Association of People with Disabilities
2013 H Street NW, 5th Floor | Washington, DC 20006

Retiring U.S. Senator Tom Harkin Leaves Four Challenges for Congress

very nice article to share.


December 12, 2014; Office of Senator Tom Harkin
This is part of the text of Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s final speech from the floor of the U.S. Senate. NPQ doesn’t often draw on press releases or reprint speeches, but in this case, given Harkin’s 40 years in Congress, Harkin’s beautiful and moving statement is worth a detailed read. It’s about a man’s faith in the institutions of American democracy and his appreciation of what this country has given to him and his family, particularly his mother, who came to the U.S. after 25 years living in a small house with a dirt floor and no running water in Suha, Yugoslavia (now Slovenia), and his father who, at the age of 53, with only a sixth-grade education and five children (with Tom Harkin himself on the way as the sixth), received a WPA card in 1939, giving him a job, income, meaningful work, and hope for a better future.
Just as moving were Harkin’s four challenges for his successors, four overriding issues that he thinks need to be addressed for this country to progress—and to rectify longstanding injustices. Because all four of Harkin’s concerns have been addressed extensively in NPQ’s writing, we are reprinting excerpts from his speech here:
“There are four overriding issues that I hope this Senate will address in the coming session. Number one, as I mentioned, the growing economic inequality in America. It is destructive of lives, it slows our progress as a nation, and it will doom broad support for representative government. When people at the bottom of the economic ladder feel the government is not helping them and in fact may be stacked against them, they will cease to vote, or will turn to the siren song of extreme elements in our society. History proves this to be true.
“I don’t have a cookie-cutter answer or solution, but it must include more fair tax laws and trade laws, more job training and retraining, rebuilding our physical infrastructure, and manufacturing. And I believe it must include some things, seemingly unrelated, like quality, free, early education for every child in America.
“The answer to closing the inequality gap must include rebuilding labor unions and collective bargaining. If you trace the line over the last 40 years of our growing economic inequality and put that over another line showing the loss in the number of union workers, they are almost identical. I do not believe it is a stretch to say that organized labor, unions, built the middle class in America, and they are a part of the answer in strengthening and rebuilding our middle class.
“Another part of the answer is raising the minimum wage to above the poverty line and inflation indexing it for the future. We also need new flex-time laws especially for women in the workforce. We need to strengthen Social Security as in Senator Brown’s bill. We need a new retirement system for all workers. Not another 401(k), but a system in which employers and employees contribute, which can only be withdrawn as an annuity for life after one retires, like the Netherlands has. Lack of a reliable retirement is one of the most under reported, unexamined crises on our national horizon, and is a big part of our growing inequality.
“Finally, we must continue to build on the Affordable Care Act. The cost and availability of good health care has in the past widened the inequality gap. We are now starting to close that element of inequality. We need to add a public option to the exchange as another choice for people. And we must continue support for prevention and public health—moving us more and more away from ‘sick care’ to real ‘health care.’
“The second overriding issue is the destruction of the family of man’s only home—planet Earth—through the continued use of fossil fuels. We know what’s happening. The science is irrefutable, the data is clear, the warning signs are flashing in bright neon red: ‘stop what you are doing with fossil fuels.’ We must shift massively and quickly to renewable energy, a new smart electric grid, retrofitting our buildings for energy efficiency, and moving rapidly to a hydrogen-based energy cycle.
The third issue I commend to the Senate for further development and changes in existing laws is the under employment of people with disabilities.
“As you all know, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities has been the major part of my work in the Senate for the past 30 years. We have made significant strides forward in changing America to fulfill two of the four goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These two are full participation and equal opportunity.
“The other two goals—independent living and economic self-sufficiency—need more development. I ask you all in the next Congress to do two things to advance these two goals of independent living and economic self-sufficiency.
“First, help states to fully implement the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, to more rapidly de-institutionalize people with disabilities and provide true independent living with support services. This will save money, and individuals with disabilities lives will be better and more truly independent.
“Secondly, we must do more on employment of people with disabilities in competitive, integrated employment.
“We get the monthly unemployment figures. Last month unemployment held steady at 5.8 percent officially, but Leo Hindery has better calculations to show the real rate is twice that figure. Also, we know that unemployment among young African-Americans is 11.1 percent.
“But how many of us know that the unemployment rate among adult Americans with disabilities who want to work and can work is over 60 percent?! Yes, you heard me right: almost two out of three people with disabilities cannot find a job. That is a blot on our national character.
“Thankfully, some enlightened employers have affirmative action plans to hire more people with disabilities. Employers are finding that many times these become their best employees—they are more productive, the hardest working, most reliable workers.
“I ask you to meet with Greg Wasson, CEO of Walgreens, and Randy Lewis, who was Senior V.P., now retired. Walgreens has hired many people with disabilities in Walgreens’ distribution centers, and now has set a goal of 10% of their store employees will be people with disabilities. There are others making strides in this area: Best Buy, Lowes, Home Depot, IBM, and Marriott—to mention some other large companies moving forward in hiring people with disabilities. We need to learn from them what we—the federal and perhaps state government—can do to help in this area. We also need to implement policies to help small businesses employ more people with disabilities.
“I dwell on this because perhaps I feel I haven’t done enough on this issue of employment for people with disabilities, and we just have to do better. I will say, however, that our HELP Committee passed this year and President Obama signed into law, a new re-authorization of the old Workforce Investment Act, now named the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act. In the law, there is a new provision I worked on to get more intervention in high school for kids with disabilities to prepare for the workplace through summer jobs, job coaching, and internships…
“The fourth issue concerns the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
“I don’t think anything has saddened me more in my 30 years here than the failure of the Senate to ratify the CRPD. This convention was modeled after our own Americans with Disabilities Act. It has been ratified by 150 nations. It has broad and deep support in our country, supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, veterans groups, every disability organization, every former living President, every former Republican leader of the Senate: Senator Dole, Senator Lott, and Senator Frist. In November, we received a letter of support from the National Association of Evangelicals. I also want to point out that Senator Dole has worked his heart out on this. I hope the next Senate will take this up and join with the rest of the world in helping make changes globally for people with disabilities.”
Speeches by American politicians—no offense—are generally staff-written PR statements, lacking the authentic voice of the politicians themselves. Harkin’s final speech feels like a heartfelt statement of a great statesman whose top priorities were core issues for much of the nonprofit sector.—Rick Cohen 

Home-Caregiver Alert! You Need a Break!

wanted to share this wonderful article.

HuffPost Impact | by Linda S. Noelker, PhD | Dec. 17, 2014

If you're one of the 65 million Americans caring for an elderly relative or younger person with a disability, you need regular breaks to help protect your health and well-being. During the holiday season, you may have family and friends around to help. But what do you do the rest of the year?
Respite services give caregivers a break. Yet, research consistently shows that caregivers require time, education and encouragement to understand and use respite. When they do, they experience less stress and improved quality of life. They also are less likely to neglect or abuse the person in their care.
Organizations like the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, a nonprofit agency in Cleveland, Ohio, offer respite to caregivers of older adults through adult day, home care and other programs. Phil* contacted the agency when he began caring for his elderly mother with Alzheimer's disease. His physician wisely advised him to make sure he got time away from being a caregiver. His mother attends the agency's adult day program and has a Senior Companion volunteer come to their home to stay with her several times a week. Phil believes he gets the most out of respite services by using his breaks to rest, go to the mall, or work on home improvement projects.
Janet* lives with and cares for her elderly mother with dementia. She knows if her mother did not live with her, the only alternative would be nursing home placement. She wanted desperately to avoid this because her mother's dementia makes her combative. Janet feared that nursing home staff could not care for her mother without keeping her sedated. The home health aides who provide assistance to her mother also provide respite for Janet, who is able to continue working during the day and caring for her mother at night.
Unfortunately, respite services are not available and affordable in all communities. To improve the situation for America's caregivers, federal legislation was passed in 2000 to supply respite to eligible caregivers under the National Family Caregiver Support Program through each state's Area Agencies on Aging. Funds are limited though, and the need for respite services exceeds what is available under this program. The federal Lifespan Respite Care Act was passed in 2006 and funds state agencies to work with coalitions and develop statewide respite systems for all caregivers. Progress toward this goal varies widely across the states.
We can hope more progress will be made through the upcoming White House Conference on Aging in 2015. One of its priorities for the next decade, strengthening long-term services and supports for older adults and people with disabilities, recognizes the vital importance of the health and well-being of family caregivers. New policies may be proposed such as grants to caregivers to pay for respite, tax credits for families who pay out-of-pocket for respite services, and long-term care insurance coverage for respite.
If you are caring for an older person and interested in respite services, you can try contacting your Area Agency on Aging, 2-1-1 call center, or the Aging and Disability Resource Center in your area. If you are caring for a younger person, you can also contact Easter Seals or your local board of developmental disabilities. Another option is to seek out faith-based organizations in your community that offer volunteer respite services. 

Whether or not you are a caregiver, you can become an advocate for respite services by contacting your state's respite coalition. Currently, 33 states have lifespan respite coalitions. The members include organizations representing individuals of all ages with disabilities or chronic conditions, family caregivers, community- and faith-based organizations, and respite, social service and health care providers. Add your voice to the growing chorus seeking to make this much-needed service a staple in communities throughout the country.
If you are not a caregiver but know someone who is, consider volunteering your services to give them a break from caregiving. Especially during the busy holiday season, the gift of respite is likely to be gratefully accepted.
This blog was co-authored by Miriam Rose, a Senior Research Policy Analyst at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.

* Names have been changed

When Obesity 'could be a disability' - European Court rule

BBC News | Dec. 18, 2014

Obesity can constitute a disability in certain circumstances, the EU's highest court has ruled.
The European Court of Justice was asked to consider the case of a male childminder in Denmark who says he was sacked for being too fat.
The court said that if obesity could hinder "full and effective participation" at work then it could count as a disability.
The ruling is binding across the EU.
Judges said that obesity in itself was not a disability - but if a person had a long-term impairment because of their obesity, then they would be protected by disability legislation.
The case centres around childminder Karsten Kaltoft who weighs about 160kg (25 stone).
He brought a discrimination case against his employers of 15 years, Billund local authority, after he was sacked four years ago.
The authority said a fall in the number of children meant Mr Kaltoft was no longer required.
But Mr Kaltoft said he was dismissed because he was overweight.
'No problems'
Earlier this year, he told the BBC that reports that he was so fat he was unable to bend down to tie children's shoelaces were untrue.
Describing his work with children, he said: "I can sit on the floor and play with them, I have no problems like that.
"I don't see myself as disabled. It's not OK just to fire a person because they're fat, if they're doing their job properly."
The Danish courts asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to clarify whether obesity was a disability.
The ECJ ruled that if the obesity of the worker "hinders the full and effective participation of that person in professional life on an equal basis with other workers", then obesity can fall within the concept of "disability".
Rulings from the European Court of Justice are binding for all EU member nations.
The courts in Denmark will now have to assess Mr Kaltoft's weight to see if his case can be classed as a disability.
Analysisby Clive Coleman, BBC's legal correspondent
Today's ruling was of great interest to employers across Europe. The judgement makes no direct link between Body Mass Index and obesity, but is a powerful statement that an obese worker whose weight hinders their performance at work is entitled to disability protection.
That will mean employers must, on a case by case basis, make reasonable adjustments such as providing larger chairs or special car parking, and protect such employees from verbal harassment.
But there are wider implications. Providers of goods and services such as shops, cinemas and restaurants will also have to make reasonable adjustments for their customers, which might include things like special seating arrangements.
The key concept here is that adjustments must be "reasonable" - so it may be deemed reasonable for a Premier League football club to make two seats available for someone disabled through obesity, but not for a small, non-league club.
Obesity, particularly what is sometimes known as morbid or severe and complex obesity, can be a particularly sensitive subject.
Employers and service providers will have to take care not to make assumptions about the needs of an obese worker or customer.
'Wider seats'
Jane Deville Almond, the chairwoman of the British Obesity Society, said obesity should not be classed as a disability.
She told the BBC: "I think the downside would be that if employers suddenly have to start ensuring that they've got wider seats, larger tables, more parking spaces for people who are obese, I think then we're just making the situation worse.

"[It is] implying that people have no control over the condition, rather than something that can be greatly improved by changing behaviour."
Paul Callaghan, head of employment law at international law firm Taylor Wessing, said the ruling does not change UK law.
"The European Court of Justice has ruled that obesity itself is not a disability, but that the effects of it can be.
"As such, workers who suffer from, for example, joint problems, depression, or diabetes - specifically because of their size - will be protected by the European Equal Treatment Framework Directive and cannot be dismissed because of their weight."
Employers' responsibility
Audrey Williams, employment law partner at Eversheds, said the mere fact someone is obese is not enough to make them disabled.
"What the court are saying is that obesity is not protected unless it hinders professional life."
She said the ruling would increase awareness among employers of their responsibility towards obese employees in the workplace.
This could include making reasonable adjustments to working arrangements, seating arrangements or making access to the office easier.
However, Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said the ruling had opened a can of worms for UK employers.
"They will be required to make adjustments to their furniture and doors and whatever is needed for very large people.
"I believe it will also cause friction in the workplace between obese people and other workers."
One in four people in the UK is classified as obese.

ABLE Act Accounts for People with Disabilities: 10 Things You Must Know

as posted by The National Disability Institute

For first time in nation's history, federal government recognizes added costs associated to living with a disability
(Washington, D.C. - Dec. 17, 2014) - Last night, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 by a vote of 76 to 16. First introduced in 2006, and subsequent sessions of Congress, the ABLE Act will allow people with disabilities (with an age of onset up to 26 years old) and their families the opportunity to create a tax-exempt savings account that can be used for maintaining health, independence and quality of life.
"Today marks a new day in our country's understanding and support of people with disabilities and their families," Michael Morris, National Disability Institute (NDI) Executive Director, said. "A major victory for the disability community, ABLE, for the very first time in our country's policy on disability, recognizes that there are added costs to living with a disability." He continued. "For far too long, federally imposed asset limits to remain eligible for critical public benefits have served as a roadblock toward greater financial independence for the millions of individuals living with a disability." 
NDI has long championed the ABLE Act as a critical strategy to providing a pathway to a better economic future for all people with disabilities. As the nation's first nonprofit dedicated to improving the financial health and future of all people with disabilities, the organization has extensively documented and called attention to the daily reality and extra expenses associated with living with a disability, and the challenges of navigating the complex web of government rules to maintain public benefits eligibility.
In recognition of this unprecedented legislation, NDI has created a list of 10 items about ABLE accounts that individuals with disabilities and their families should know:
ABLE Accounts: 10 Things You Must Know
  1. What is an ABLE account?
ABLE Accounts, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families, will be created as a result of the passage of the ABLE Act of 2014. Income earned by the accounts would not be taxed. Contributions to the account made by any person (the account beneficiary, family and friends) would not be tax deductible.
  1. Why the need for ABLE accounts?
Millions of individuals with disabilities and their families depend on a wide variety of public benefits for income, health care and food and housing assistance. Eligibility for these public benefits (SSI, SNAP, Medicaid) require meeting a means or resource test that limits eligibility to individuals to report more than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds and other items of significant value. To remain eligible for these public benefits, an individual must remain poor. For the first time in public policy, the ABLE Act recognizes the extra and significant costs of living with a disability. These include costs, related to raising a child with significant disabilities or a working age adult with disabilities, for accessible housing and transportation, personal assistance services, assistive technology and health care not covered by insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
For the first time, eligible individuals and families will be allowed to establish ABLE savings accounts that will not affect their eligibility for SSI, Medicaid and other public benefits. The legislation explains further that an ABLE account will, with private savings, "secure funding for disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurance, Medicaid, SSI, the beneficiary's employment and other sources."
  1. Am I eligible for an ABLE account?
Passage of legislation is a result of a series of compromises. The final version of the ABLE Act limits eligibility to individuals with significant disabilities with an age of onset of disability before turning 26 years of age. If you meet this criteria and are also receiving benefits already under SSI and/or SSDI, you are automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account. If you are not a recipient of SSI and/or SSDI, but still meet the age of onset disability requirement, you would still be eligible to open an ABLE account if you meet SSI criteria regarding significant functional limitations. The regulations to be written in 2015 by the Treasury Department will have to explain further the standard of proof and required medical documentation. You need not be under the age of 26 to be eligible for an ABLE account. You could be over the age of 26, but must have the documentation of disability that indicates age of onset before the age of 26.
  1. Are there limits to how much money can be put in an ABLE account?
The total annual contributions by all participating individuals, including family and friends, is $14,000. The amount will be adjusted annually for inflation. Under current tax law, $14,000 is the maximum amount that individuals can make as a gift to someone else and not pay taxes (gift tax exclusion). The total limit over time that could be made to an ABLE account will be subject to the individual state and their limit for education-related 529 savings accounts. Many states have set this limit at more than $300,000 per plan. However, for individuals with disabilities who are recipients of SSI and Medicaid, the ABLE Act sets some further limitations. The first $100,000 in ABLE accounts would be exempted from the SSI $2,000 individual resource limit. If and when an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, the beneficiary would be suspended from eligibility for SSI benefits and no longer receive that monthly income. However, the beneficiary would continue to be eligible for Medicaid. States would be able to recoup some expenses through Medicaid upon the death of the beneficiary.
  1. Which expenses are allowed by ABLE accounts?
A "qualified disability expense" means any expense related to the designated beneficiary as a result of living a life with disabilities. These include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services and other expenses which will be further described in regulations to be developed in 2015 by the Treasury Department.
  1. Where do I go to open an ABLE account?
Each state is responsible for establishing and operating an ABLE program. If a state should choose not to establish its own program, the state may choose to contract with another state to still offer its eligible individuals with significant disabilities the opportunity to open an ABLE account.
After President Obama signs the ABLE Act, the Secretary of the Department of Treasury will begin to develop regulations that will guide the states in terms of a) the information required to be presented to open an ABLE account; b) the documentation needed to meet the requirements of ABLE account eligibility for a person with a disability; and c) the definition details of "qualified disability expenses" and the documentation that will be needed for tax reporting.
No accounts can be established until the regulations are finalized following a public comment period on proposed rules for program implementation. States will begin to accept applications to establish ABLE accounts before the end of 2015.
  1. Can I have more than one ABLE account?
No. The ABLE Act limits the opportunity to one ABLE account per eligible individual. 
  1. Will states offer options to invest the savings contributed to an ABLE account?
Like state 529 college savings plans, states are likely to offer qualified individuals and families multiple options to establish ABLE accounts with varied investment strategies. Each individual and family will need to project possible future needs and costs over time, and to assess their risk tolerance for possible future investment strategies to grow their savings. Account contributors or designated beneficiaries are limited, by the ABLE Act, to change the way their money is invested in the account up to two times per year.
  1. How many eligible individuals and families might benefit from establishing an ABLE account?
There are 58 million individuals with disabilities in the United States. To meet the definition of significant disability required by the legislation to be eligible to establish an ABLE account, the conservative number would be approximately 10 percent of the larger group, or 5.8 million individuals and families. Further analysis is needed to understand more fully the size of this market and more about their needs for new savings and investment products.
  1. How is an ABLE account different than a special needs or pooled trust?
An ABLE Account will provide more choice and control for the beneficiary and family. Cost of establishing an account will be considerably less than either a Special Needs Trust (SNT) or Pooled Income Trust. With an ABLE account, account owners will have the ability to control their funds and, if circumstances change, still have other options available to them. Determining which option is the most appropriate will depend upon individual circumstances. For many families, the ABLE account will be a significant and viable option in addition to, rather than instead of, a Trust program.
About National Disability Institute
National Disability Institute (NDI) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building a better economic future for people with disabilities. The first national organization committed exclusively to championing economic empowerment, financial education, asset development and financial stability for all persons with disabilities, NDI affects change through public education, policy development, training, technical assistance and innovative initiatives. NDI and its Real Economic Impact (REI) Network have helped more than 2.3 million people with disabilities receive nearly $2.3 billion in tax refunds and credits. To learn more, visit Engage with NDI on Facebook: RealEconImpact or follow NDI on Twitter:@RealEconImpact.
# # #
Dominic Manecke
National Disability Institute
(202) 296-2040 /

Webinar Jan 8th: Emergency Management and Preparedness-Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

as shared by Pacific ADA Center.

ADA National Network/FEMA Webinar Series:

Emergency Management and Preparedness-Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

The following is provided by the
Pacific ADA Center

Announcing a new webinar - "FEMA Promising Practice: Whole Community Inclusion Emergency Preparedness Planning at the State Level"

January 8th, 2015

Webinars begin at 2.30pm ET/1.30pm CT/12.30 pm MT/11.30am PT/9.30am Hawaii.
Registration: Free on-line at
The webinar will cover two state efforts. Utah will summarize the new model of planning resulting from a taskforce of trusted leaders of CBO's that advocate for People with Disabilities, local leaders of refugee communities, and representatives from public health and Emergency Management. The taskforce considered the problems of how to locate and communicate with the whole community during a disaster.
The Georgia Emergency Preparedness Coalition for Individuals with Disabilities and Older Adults has developed a network and preparedness resources not only for individuals with disabilities and older adults but for the emergency preparedness and response planning agencies throughout the state.
Speakers will provide information on how the coalition strives to integrate key concepts of inclusion, integration, equal access, self-determination, physical access, effective communication and reasonable modifications in all preparedness planning.
Rich Foster, Utah State Department of Health. Rich Foster retired from teaching and joined VISTA where he was assigned to work on the preparedness program for Salt Lake City. He was later employed by the Utah Department of Health as Preparedness Coordinator for People with Disabilities and other Access and Functional Needs. He has been in public health and emergency management for 6 years.
Betsy Kagey, Georgia Emergency Preparedness Coalition. As the Academic and Special Projects Liaison in the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section of the Office of Health Protection in GDPH, Dr. Kagey's work entails emergency planning for vulnerable and special needs populations, public health emergency preparedness collaboration with academic institutions in Georgia and environmental health issues associated with disaster response and recovery. Dr. Kagey is a member of the Georgia Coalition for Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities and Older Adults.
Jennifer Hogan, Georgia Emergency Preparedness Coalition. As the Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for the Georgia Division of Aging Services, Jennifer Hogan works with older adults, the 12 Area Agencies on Aging, State and local partners to coordinate disaster preparedness planning for older adults and people with disabilities. Jennifer has over ten years of experience preventing fraud, abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults and people with disabilities. She is a certified Mental Health First Aid Trainer. She is also a member of the Emergency Preparedness Coalition for Individuals with Disabilities and Older Adults.
These 90 minute webinars are delivered using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. Collaborate downloads files to your machine 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 all of the sessions for the coming year, or to see previous sessions, go to
Copyright © 2014 Pacific ADA Center, All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kansas City, Mo. school takes away 8yr old blind child's cane, replaces it with pool noodle as a punishment

FOX4 News  BY MOLLY BALKENBUSH | Dec 17, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two North Kansas City parents are outraged after they say their blind son’s cane was taken away from him at school by a bus driver.

Eight-year-old Dakota Nafzinger attends Gracemor Elementary School. Rachel Nafzinger said school staff took away her son’s cane as punishment for bad behavior on the bus and then gave him a swimming pool noodle to use as a substitute.
The school wouldn’t go on camera, but North Kansas City School District Spokeswoman Michelle Cronk confirmed taking away Dakota’s cane, calling it school property that was given to him when he enrolled. They said they took it away after he reportedly hit someone with it and wanted to prevent him from hurting himself or others.
His family said it was a way to humiliate him for misbehaving.
They say Dakota is like any other 8-year-old, only he was born without eyes — something in the medical world known as Bilateral Anopthalmia. Still, Dakota loves to sing, fish and swim — despite the extra work those activities require from someone who is blind.
“It’s a lot harder with this,” he said, indicating the swimming pool noodle he’s now having to use. He said it’s not doing much good.
“Why would you do that? Why would you take the one thing that he’s supposed to use all the time? That’s his eyes,” his mother said.
Cronk said Dakota hit somebody with his cane on Monday while riding the bus. When asked why a pool noodle was given to him as a substitute, Cronk said Dakota fidgets and needed something to hold.
“They said they were going to give me this for the next two weeks,” Dakota said.
Dakota’s mother said he was written up for misbehaving on the bus, but she said she doesn’t understand why his punishment was to take away the thing he needs the most.
“He’s gone through so much in his life already, 8 years, 8 years, and I just don’t like someone else putting my son in that position,” she said.
Dakota’s father, Donald Nafzinger, said his son simply lifts his cane sometimes and the bus driver thought he was using it violently.
“All around, he’s a good little guy, and he shouldn’t be treated the way he’s being treated,” he said.
On Tuesday Dakota attended his sister’s concert with nothing but a pool noodle to guide him around.
“Can’t feel things,” he said.
“If I don’t stand up for him, who is going to?” his mother asked.
After Dakota’s story aired, a viewer immediately called and expressed an interest in buying Dakota his very own cane. In the hours following, hundreds more expressed an interest in helping Dakota.
Fast forward to Wednesday. The North Kansas City School District released a statement that read in part:
“The District has reviewed the situation. We regret that a mistake was made in making sure the student was in possession of his cane when he boarded the bus Monday evening.
The District has apologized to the family and is working to rectify the situation.”
Dakota mother said school officials actually made a surprise visit to their home Wednesday morning and returned the cane that was taken away from him.
“I’m so grateful, grateful to FOX 4, grateful to Facebook and social media,” Rachel said. “It’s spread like wildfire, and it’s all for my son, and so he got what he wanted and hopefully more, so thank you … thank you to everybody.”

Tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve - NORAD Tracks Santa Journey

in the spirit of the Holiday Season, Ability Chicago wishes the best of the season and happy to share...

The NORAD Tracks Santa program has been around for a long time--since 1955 to be exact! We believe that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of people throughout the world.
Starting December 1st, countdown to Santa's flight at Beginning at 2:00a.m. MST on December 24th, you can track Santa live as he takes his historical journey around the world and watch videos from NORAD Santa Cams of Santa and his reindeer!

Don't forget to check NORAD's page on Christmas Eve to track Santa's journey. 
You can  give NORAD a call at 1-877-HI-NORAD for updates. 
Follow NORAD as they track Santa during his test flight prior to Dec. 24! Satellites, radars, fighter aircraft and more!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Justice Dept. Guidance for Schools of “auxiliary aids and services” for students with disabilities

New Justice Department Guidance Provides Useful Roadmap for Public and Private Schools on Their Effective Communication Obligations

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Education (DOE) issued a joint guidance Under Title II of ADA (the “Guidance”) explaining the obligation of public schools to provide “auxiliary aids and services” to ensure effective communication with students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Although this Guidance applies to state and local government entities under Title II of the ADA, private schools have very similar obligations under Title III of the ADA. Thus, the Guidance is useful for all educators and administrators of both public and private schools.  Below are some highlights from the Guidance.    
  • Effective communication must be provided to any member of the public who seeks out the school’s services, programs, or activities (e.g., for parent-teacher conferences, open houses, performances).  In addition, the effective communication obligation is not limited to the classroom, but extends to all of a student’s school related communications, including school sponsored extracurricular activities. 
  • case-by-case analysis must be made in determining an appropriate auxiliary aid or service.  Schools must consider “the communication used by the student, the nature, length, and complexity of the communication, and the context in which the communication is taking place.” 
  • Any interpreter must be “qualified,” meaning able to interpret both receptively and expressively.  Schools cannot rely on staff who are not “qualified” interpreters, nor on students to provide their own interpreter (unless the student makes such a request or in specified emergency situations). 
  • Schools must give “primary consideration” to the student’s requested auxiliary aid or service, and are “strongly advised” to make clear in discussions with the student/parent that the school will bear the complete cost.  “Primary consideration” means that the school must honor the student’s request, unless the school can “prove that an alternative auxiliary aid provides communication as effective as that provided to students without disabilities.”  This is one instance where the rules for public vs. private schools are different.  Under the ADA Title III regulations that apply to private schools, the school is only required to consult with the individual requesting the service about his or her preferred method of communication but “the ultimate decision as to what measures to take rests with the public accommodation.”
  • To the extent a school believes that the provision of a particular auxiliary aid or service would “fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity” or result in “undue financial and administrative burden,” it is the school’s burden to establish such defenses.  The school must explain its reasoning in writing to the student and must still provide an alternative auxiliary aid or service that ensures effective communication to the maximum extent possible.  The Guidance expressly cautions that “[c]ompliance  . . . would, in most cases, not result in undue financial and administrative burdens.” 
  • Auxiliary aids and services must be provided in “accessible formats, in a timely manner (“as soon as possible”), and in such a way to protect the privacy and independence of the student.”  Schools are “strongly advise[d]” to keep students/parents informed of the status of any request or delay in compliance. 
Edited by Minh N. Vu and Kristina Launey