Friday, February 12, 2016

How Much Longer Will People with Disabilities Work For Pennies Per Hour in Sheltered Workshops


The era of the "sheltered workshop" is on the way out
photo: The Chimes, a facility in Baltimore employs people with disabilities to do low-skilled tasks.
Most factory production disappeared long ago from the warehouses on the outskirts of Baltimore. There is at least one remaining, however — and it’s a little different than what you might imagine.

article by Lydia DePillis for The Washington Post | February 12, 2016
At the Chimes, a no-frills building with lofty ceilings and little heavy equipment, hundreds of workers are relaxed and smiling, sometimes approaching visitors to say hello and introduce themselves. The tasks at hand seem more like group art projects than assembly lines, with people chatting amiably while placing bottles of beer into six-pack cartons, or cutting up drop cloths for use by cabinetmakers. Some are cleaning up from breakfast in a bright cafeteria, who others help prepare lunch at the building’s industrial-size kitchen.

Here’s the difference between the Chimes and your typical manufacturing facility: The workers there have a broad range of physical and mental impairments, from cerebral palsy to autism to Down’s syndrome. The non-profit takes on contracts for low-skilled manual labor, paying some program participants less than minimum wage under an exemption from federal labor law for employment of people with disabilities.

How little do participants make? Rates may go as low as less than a dollar per hour, according to individual measurements of a person’s productivity, on the philosophy that it’s better for those who couldn’t get a job on the open market to work and earn even a token paycheck. In Maryland, workers in these types of jobs make $66 on average every two weeks for 17 hours of work. Chimes works with about 2,000 people, 25 percent of whom are paid less than minimum wage. It received $2.7 million in state and federal funding to support just the 240 people who work in the Baltimore facility, along with income from the contracts it fulfills; Lampner says the employment program still operates at a loss.

According to the Department of Labor, 228,600 disabled people across the country work in what’s known as “sheltered” employment; disability advocates estimate that number may be on the low-side due to under-reporting. But the practice has fallen increasingly out of favor in policy circles, and in could soon end entirely in Maryland: A bill is advancing through the state legislature that would phase out the practice by 2019.

Chimes’ CEO, Marty Lampner, thinks that’s way too hasty a move in isolation. “We don’t have the alternatives that are suggested are out there,” Lampner says. "I don’t think you can just slam the door and tell people to go elsewhere, or that the market will pick them up.”

For years now, disability rights organizations have opposed that line of Chimes’ business on the grounds that it creates low expectations for people who should be able to hold traditional jobs at competitive wages. In the past, most notably in the case of Henry’s Turkeys, sheltered workshops have been faulted for exploiting the low-cost labor the exemption enables without providing the services it also requires.

“There are lots of strategies out there to assist with individuals with disabilities,” says Rose Sloan, government affairs specialist with the National Federation of the Blind. “With the proper training and support, I don’t care what disability they have, they can do a job that’s worth at least the minimum wage.”

Until recently, those advocates hadn’t made much headway. A bill that would wipe out the sub-minimum wage exemption was introduced in 2013 and hasn’t gone far; a wave of media attention to the issue was short-lived. About 3,400 organizations hold the certificates, and their lobbying organization —ACCSES — has fought to preserve the status quo. One of ACCSES’s most well-known members, Goodwill Industries International, has been particularly influential in persuading lawmakers that the exemption is the only way to provide work opportunities to disabled adults.
“THE PROVIDERS THAT WANT TO MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO ARE FIGHTING PARTICULARLY HARD RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE THEY’RE TRYING TO DEFEND A DYING INDUSTRY, BUT THE TIDE HAS REALLY TURNED IN THE LAST TWO YEARS ON THIS ISSUE.” 
— Association of People Supporting Employment Director Allison Wohl
“Eliminating or phasing out the special minimum wage would likely result in many individuals with significant disabilities receiving no wages instead of earning special minimum wages,” reads a 2013 Goodwill position paper on the issue. "Furthermore, they would be denied the tangible and intangible benefits of work: independence, participation, dignity, self-esteem and sense of accomplishment, among others."

Nevertheless, defenders of the practice are now losing on a host of fronts.

A non-exhaustive list: In 2014, Congress passed a new workforce investment law that places a number of restrictions on the use of sub-minimum wages, requiring that disabled people be counseled about their vocational options before being referred to a sheltered workshop. The law also called for a committee to make recommendations on the future of the program, and the resulting report recommended that it be phased out entirely, which the federal National Council on Disability had already endorsed. Meanwhile, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez has stated his opposition to the sub-minimum wage exemption, and last year New Hampshire became the first state to ban the practice.

“The providers that want to maintain the status quo are fighting particularly hard right now, because they’re trying to defend a dying industry, but the tide has really turned in the last two years on this issue,” says Allison Wohl, director of the Association for People Supporting Employment First, which argues that disability service providers should adapt to support people in jobs on the open market rather than concentrating them all in one place. “The way that systems are funded, and the way that funds are distributed, is just not going to hold up in the future."

In hearings at the Maryland legislature this week, disabled people and their guardians argued passionately for the exemption to be phased out. Some disability services providers agreed, saying they had already managed to transition all of their clients to regular jobs in the community. Their trade association, the Maryland Association of Community Services, argued for a longer time frame and higher reimbursement rates for what could be a more expensive model of supporting the most impaired people.

Lampner, of Chimes, is more troubled by the Maryland bill. He doesn’t think that everyone can win competitive work, pointing to the high rate of unemployment among people with much more mild disabilities than the people he serves; he says the market could never absorb all of them. Out of its several hundred charges at any one time, Chimes is able to place around five per month in the open job market. And there’s merit, he says, in allowing people to experience higher-skilled professions in which they might never be fully productive.

“We are obliged to be competitive in the marketplace to get the work,” Lampner says. "And if I don’t pay 14(c), I need to bring in a different class of jobs that are going to be less skilled. One of the reasons I think 14(c) has value is that not everybody wants to be a janitor or a stocker.”

Still, Lampner says he recognizes that times are changing, and is trying out new business models that might fit with where policy is headed. For example, over the past few months he’s created space in the cavernous Baltimore warehouse for internet retailers to locate their entire operations, in exchange for putting disabled people to work.

One of the first pilots is with a company called Cyberspa, which sells kits that rejuvenate the hard drives of aging PCs. It’s starting to sell directly through Amazon, and expects that a team of five to ten Chimes employees could assemble and package 25,000 kits per month. With a sticker price of $99 each, that would even allow the workers to be paid the full minimum wage, even if they couldn’t move as fast as someone without a disability.

“Ten years ago, to launch this product, we would have contracted offshore,” Cyberspa’s CEO, Allen Shay says. "Have someone do this in China and ship them over in big boxes and that would be that.” But remote production is a little riskier these days, Shay says, with the risk of intellectual property theft. A partnership with Chimes made keeping those jobs in Baltimore possible.

So far, it’s worked out for Gary Ragins, 24, who’s confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy. He’s been at Chimes for two and a half years, and had worked for a while at TJ Maxx, but took a liking to the part of the job with Cyberspa that involved working with computers. The idea of learning more about technology, Ragins says, made him finally abandon his dream of going to Hollywood to become an actor. “Right off the bat, I really got attracted,” he says.

Lampner — who made $453,000 in total compensation in 2013 — says his goal is for the businesses to employ fully-abled people as well, to provide something more like an integrated experience. Down the road, he figures Cyberspa might get big enough to move into its own facility and take the disabled workers along. Meanwhile, the revenue from Cyberspa’s operations could finance improvements to the building, like a mezzanine level to put more workshop space.

“It’s a not-for-profit. It’s not a non-profit,” Lampner says, explaining his attitude towards earning money.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/12/disabled-people-are-allowed-to-work-for-pennies-per-hour-but-maybe-not-for-much-longer/

Target's Groundbreaking Changes - New Shopping Carts for Kids with Disabilities

Big-box store Target has taken the lead in unveiling some groundbreaking changes to the way their customers shop — like doing away with sex-specific toy labels and launching a kids’ home decor line that relies on more gender-neutral colors rather than pink and blue.
nice article by Esther Crain for YahooParenting | Feb 11, 2016

Now comes a move inspired in part by the parents and caregivers of special-needs kids. Beginning next month, Target will roll out new shopping carts engineered to accommodate kids (and adults too) with physical disabilities.

The carts, called Caroline’s Carts, were named after the daughter of an Alabama couple who realized that their daughter, who has Rett syndrome, would soon outgrow the seat of a traditional shopping cart.

Eight years ago, they designed a cart with some genius disability-friendly features, such as a wider seat, adjustable harness safety straps, three brakes to keep the cart from rolling away with someone in it, and six wheels instead of four for better maneuvering.

The seat of the cart tilts forward, so people with low muscle tone have an easier time sitting up, says Alice Little, sales and marketing coordinator for Technibilt (the company that manufactures the carts), in an interview with Yahoo Parenting. “Caroline’s Carts have slowly caught on with retailers, including national giants like supermarket chain Kroger.”

Target execs heard about the carts from customers as well as a Target employee at corporate headquarters in Minneapolis who is the parent of a special-needs child, Target spokeswoman Kristy Welker tells Yahoo Parenting.

The company began testing them in February 2015. The response from parents and caregivers was overwhelmingly positive, says Welker. “We’re always looking for ways to make shopping more fun and easier, and we realized that having the carts would alleviate stress for caregivers,” she says.

Disability rights activists see the carts as a win-win for Target and its customers. “They help make people with disabilities more visible, which sends the message that they’re part of the community and reminds people that they can have a normal life,” Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, tells Yahoo Parenting. By opening up access to their stores, retailers boost their revenue, he says.

“The carts are an extension of other efforts stores have been making to increase accessibility, from widening and clearing aisles to offering motorized carts,” says Decker. “With little investment, they increase their customers.”
https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/why-target-is-rolling-out-new-shopping-carts-222801667.html

Social Security Targets Disabilities Fraud, James W. Smith of Minnesota Convicted

Federal and state investigators plan to make it a lot harder for people like James W. Smith to defraud the government out of disabilities benefits.
article by Dan Browning for the Star Tribune | Feb. 10, 2016
Smith, a former IT supervisor from Hermantown, Minn., feigned early-onset dementia to collect more than $264,000 in monthly disabilities payments from the Social Security Administration and a private insurer before he was caught in 2012 and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.

Social Security officials launched a specialized investigative unit called Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) in 1997 to head off and prosecute people like Smith, and they have been expanding it since with a goal of establishing offices in every state.

On Wednesday, the agency announced that a CDI office in St. Paul would join 36 others across 31 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The seven-person Minnesota unit is a joint initiative by the Social Security Administration, its Office of Inspector General, Minnesota Disability Determination Services and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Michael D. Robinson, Social Security’s assistant inspector general for investigations, and Nancy Berryhill, deputy commissioner for Social Security operations in the Chicago office, said the CDI program has saved $3.3 billion in Social Security benefits and $2.25 billion in other benefits, such as Medicare.

Yet disability fraud has continued to rise. Robinson said that in 2014, 75 percent of the Social Security inspector general’s caseload involved disabilities fraud. In 2015, it climbed to 86 percent.

Many people need and deserve those disabilities benefits, Robinson said. “So when you see someone out there taking advantage of the system … we want to make sure they are properly held accountable.”

People try all kinds of ways to get benefits they’re not entitled to, Robinson said. They provide bogus information on applications. They fail to report information that would disqualify them. And they work with others who provide bogus documents in an effort to substantiate their claims for benefits.

“When you think you’ve seen it all, you probably haven’t,” Robinson said.

People can report disability fraud by calling 800-269-0271.
http://www.startribune.com/social-security-targets-disabilities-fraud-in-minnesota/368410171/

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Marlee Matlin disappointed by Super Bowl TV snub of National Anthem in American Sign Language


article written & published by SFGate on February 9, 2016
Deaf actress MARLEE MATLIN was “genuinely surprised” to discover her stint signing for LADY GAGA at the Super Bowl was cut from the TV broadcast.

The Oscar winner took on the job of translating the singer’s performance of the U.S. National Anthem into American Sign Language on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf during the football extravaganza in Santa Clara, California on Sunday.

However, Matlin later found out her role had not been featured in the TV broadcast, and she fears millions of hearing-impaired viewers missed out.

“(I had a) huge number of responses on social media by fans – thousands of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing alike – who were disappointed in the decision to not show me signing during the TV broadcast,” she tells Etonline.com.

“Interestingly, in the stadium, the video of me signing was visible 100 per cent of the time… but for whatever reason, it was not visible during the TV broadcast.”

Matlin goes on to insist organisers of events such as the Super Bowl should do more to include deaf viewers.

“With 35 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the U.S., their families and friends, and a focus on diversity that’s been a hot topic in the news, I was genuinely surprised that the broadcast didn’t feature me in a split screen or square,” she adds. “But ultimately, that decision was not mine to make. I’m just so sorry for the millions of people watching who would’ve benefited from seeing the national anthem and America the Beautiful signed, just as it was visible in the stadium.”

However, the actress has nothing but praise for her co-performer Lady Gaga, and has even offered to teach the singer sign language.

“She was so lovely. When she finished the national anthem, I turned to her and signed, ‘I love you,’ and she signed it right back,” Matlin explains. “Later in her dressing room, she and I had a chance to speak, and I told her my kids were big fans of hers. She couldn’t have been nicer. I told her anytime she wanted to learn to sign to give (me) a call, and she said, ‘Yes!'”
http://blog.sfgate.com/dailydish/2016/02/09/marlee-matlin-disappointed-by-super-bowl-tv-snub/
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also you can follow Marlee Matlin on Twitter at @MarleeMatlin

Social Security Compassionate Allowances Speed Help to People with Severe Disabilities

The following article is shared from Social Security Matters.    
by Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Disability can happen to anyone. If you suffer from a serious medical condition that prevents you from working, time is of the essence when it comes to applying for Social Security disability benefits. Although Social Security is committed to processing disability claims as quickly as possible in all cases, our initial claims process typically takes three to five months.
Because compassion is a cornerstone of our public service commitment, in some cases, we’re able to expedite the application process through our Compassionate Allowances program. Social Security uses Compassionate Allowances to identify people whose medical condition is so severe, they obviously meet our disability standards. Under the Social Security Act, we consider you disabled if you can’t work due to a severe medical condition that is expected to last at least one year, or result in death.
Social Security pays benefits under two programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Our disability program provides benefits and Medicare eligibility to workers with disabilities who paid into the Social Security trust fund through payroll taxes. Under some circumstances, children and family members can receive disability benefits. SSI pays benefits to disabled persons of all ages with limited income and resources. SSI benefits are not paid out of the Social Security trust fund.
Farber’s disease and Tay Sachs disease in children, and advanced pancreatic and ovarian cancer in adults are examples of the 223 conditions on the Compassionate Allowances list. Others include Huntington’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which cause rapid brain deterioration in otherwise healthy adults. For a complete list of the Compassionate Allowances conditions, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
The Compassionate Allowances initiative also provides grants to medical researchers to identify other conditions that may qualify for this list. This initiative is just one of many ways Social Security works to help provide you with peace of mind when disability happens. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov
http://blog.socialsecurity.gov/compassionate-allowances-speed-help-to-people-with-severe-disabilities/

University of Alabama at Birmingham agrees in settlement agreement to ensure equal access for people with disabilities

Associated Press | Feb. 11, 2016
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The University of Alabama at Birmingham has reached a settlement to ensure equal access for people with disabilities to the university's facilities.

U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said in a news release Wednesday that the agreement was reached after a UAB student filed a complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act, saying that various building and parking lots were inaccessible to individuals with mobility impairments.

Vance says UAB has agreed to develop a pilot program in which it will conduct architectural reviews of several facilities and submit the reports to the Justice Department to review the plans.

Vance praised the university, saying it had been quick to respond to the complaint and collaborate with authorities, avoiding litigation costs.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A researcher’s advice to families of adults with disabilities: Plan…plan…plan

WE WANTED TO SHARE SOME SOLID ADVICE FROM THE "JEWISH UNITED FUND/JEWISH FEDERATION OF METROPOLITAN CHICAGO".

Your Eldercare Consultants, CJE SeniorLife’s team of geriatric care managers, are often called by family caregivers to help navigate the evolving needs of their older parents. But sometimes, the situation can be reversed. This Jewish Disability Awareness Month, we’re reminded of a startling statistic: Over 71% of adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) live with their families, and of those roughly 3.5 million individuals, 24% live with caregivers aged 60 or older*. 
In light of policy changes directly affecting long-term and community supports for this vulnerable population, we touched base with Tamar Heller, Ph.D., who is well-known for her expertise on this issue. Heller currently heads the Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago and its University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Her research interests include life transitions faced by individuals with a disability and their families and later life family caregiving. She’s also been an invaluable resource to CJE’s Linkages program, which assists older adults caring for adult children with disabilities.
We asked Heller to address a few questions for families at the initial planning stage.
Q: Why is planning for the future so important for families of individuals with disabilities?
A: There are many reasons why planning for the future of an individual with disabilities is so important, and why families with aging caregivers are so anxious about it. Most people don’t really want to think about their own mortality, or about what it’s going to be like when they become frailer. Certainly, there are also many fears that no one will love their child like they do, and they don’t want to burden their other children or family members. However, siblings often become the primary caregivers, and communicating intentions for financial, healthcare, residential, and social arrangements with other family members as well as the individual with disabilities is important.
Q: Planning for the future can be a long and challenging process. As a family, what are some things we can do to make the transition easier?
A: Meet as a family to initiate a conversation about the future even if you might not be ready to make decisions yet. If possible, speak with the person with a disability first to understand what he or she wants in life. Also, ask all family members what they envision for the future. Many family caregivers report that they are the sole providers of social and recreational support to their family member with disabilities. Planning ahead can expand the “network of care” so that the person with disabilities is not only dependent on family members, particularly aging parents.
Q: Is there a checklist of items we should discuss together?
A: Limited access to financial and legal information and a lack of understanding about local health and human services can make planning ahead a challenging undertaking for many families. Legalities can vary from state to state, but a general guideline is to:
  • Ask your family member with a disability what he or she would like for the future.
  • Ask other members of the family (parents, siblings, aunts or uncles, etc.) what they envision for the future.
  • Identify a health care proxy agent and have a health care proxy form signed for your family member with a disability.
  • Appoint a successor caregiver or multiple caregivers sharing the responsibility.
  • Identify the eligibility requirements for services your family member with a disability currently receives.
  • Explore residential options and secure a future residence for your family member with a disability.
  • Create a will, stipulating a Special Needs Trust, if applicable. Tell all family and friends in the care network about the trust so they are aware of assets to be left behind.
  • Discuss supported decision-making options, including power of attorney, partial or full guardianship, or financial counseling for your family member with a disability.
  • Develop a Letter of Intent detailing your family member with a disability’s wishes for the future.
Q: What is a Letter of Intent?
A: While it’s not a will, a Letter of Intent details the optimal and acceptable conditions of living for the family member with a disability and can be a road map for families as they plan for the future. It should be updated yearly, and can include such information as:
  • Emergency information.
  • Expressing wishes for the future.
  • Deciding where to live.
  • Financing the future.
  • Employment, retirement and daily activities.
  • Supporting daily and major life decisions.
  • Making social connections.
  • Healthcare and wellness.
To find out more about Linkages, call the Linkages Line at 773.508.1106 or email Linkages@cje.net
CJE’s fourth annual Policy, Advocacy and You event for professionals and community members, arranged in partnership with several local organizations, is coming up on February 25 at UIC College of Nursing. Join us to discover how families with disabilities can sustain meaningful lives in the community. Online registration is open until February 18: http://bit.do/policyadvocacy2016
Our team of geriatric care managers, Your Eldercare Consultants, is an excellent resource for older adults with children with disabilities and for families exploring options during life’s transitions. We’re available for consultation about all of your caregiving needs. Visit us at www.YourEldercareConsultants.com or call 773.508.1015.
*Braddock et al., 2015; Fujiura, 2012; Larsen et al., 2001.
http://www.juf.org/news/blog.aspx?id=438186&blogid=414361
FOR THE "JEWISH UNITED FUND/JEWISH FEDERATION OF METROPOLITAN CHICAGO": http://www.juf.org/news/default.aspx

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Valentine Day Twitter Chat Feb 18th 3 p.m. est - Because love doesn't come with instructions for Dating with a Disability

Easter Seals will be collection questions on Dating with a Disability, Tweet your questions using the #AskEasterSeals. The following information is shared from Easter Seals post.

Romantic Relationships with Autism

#AskEasterSeals Q&A

WHAT: #AskEasterSeals live Q&A on finding love with autism or other disabilities
WHEN: February 18, 2016 at 3 p.m. CST
WHERE: Twitter with #AskEasterSeals 
#AskEasterSeals Q&A
February is about love. We’re seeing the signs everywhere, making us confront our relationship status. Are you feeling positive about your love life but want to take it to the next level, or are you drowning yourself in a quart of ice cream as you avoid rom-coms and heart-shaped chocolates? Either way, we’re here to support you on your quest for connection as a person with autism or another disability.
We have people who have been through it all and are ready to chat with you on February 18 (with or without that ice cream), including Lindsey Nebeker from the acclaimed documentary "Autism in Love" and her husband.
Do you struggle with communication or other barriers while dating? Wonder where to go to find the right person? Curious about ways to keep the sparks flying in a current relationship?
Tweet your questions using the #AskEasterSeals tag now – we’ll collect them for our LIVE Q&A with two couples with autism who have been through ups and downs to find their perfect match. Ask your question and then check back on February 18th at 3pm to share your experiences too and see if your question was answered!

Featuring…

Lindsey Nebeker and Dave Hamrick
Lindsey Nebeker and Dave
  • Known For: Their fascinating love story in the recent PBS documentary “Autism In love”
  • They met at: a conference in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Lindsey is: a development specialist, musician, and disability rights advocate –writing and speaking about love and sexuality
  • Dave is: a meteorologist and public speaker, making more than 60 presentations about autism across the nation.
  • Fun Fact: They both enjoy traveling, presenting at autism conferences, and checking out exciting weather events.
Anita Lesko and Abraham Nielson
Anita and Abraham
  • Known For: being the 1st couple to get married at an all-autistic wedding.
  • They met at: their support group and it was “love at first sight.”
  • Anita is: a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist who has been working full time for 26 years. She has written and been featured in books about autism, including Dr. Temple Grandin’s “DIFFERENT....Not Less.”
  • Abraham is: a full time AutoCAD Draftsman at a large land surveying company. He, along with Anita, wants to change the world’s view of autism.
  • Coming Soon: They will be featured in a documentary by Joey Travolta's Film Company, to be released on Feb 16th!
Remember: Ask your questions about love, relationships, and autism using the #AskEasterSeals tag on Twitter before Valentine’s Day!
Looking for more love? Check out Easter Seals Love & Relationships series.
http://www.easterseals.com/explore-resources/living-with-disability/askeasterseals-love-and-autism.html
For more from Easter Seals, visit: http://www.easterseals.com/

Wisconsin schools still restrain students with disabilities : Report cites seclusion and restraint tactics

Students with disabilities are restrained and secluded in Wisconsin's public schools at an alarming rate, despite a 2011 law intended to curb the practices, according to a report released Tuesday by three disability-rights groups.
By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel | Feb 9, 2016
They are calling on legislators to strengthen the law on a number of fronts, from requiring the state Department of Public Instruction to collect data on incidents to expanding it to cover police officers working in schools.
"We know that these incidents can be traumatic for children," said Sally Flaschberger, an advocacy specialist with Madison-based Disability Rights Wisconsin, which issued the report along with Wisconsin Family Ties and Wisconsin Facets.
"Overall, the goal is to be doing de-escalation for these students...And we think school districts can be looking at their data and talking about how they can reduce the use of these techniques," she said.
According to the report, nearly 3,600 students in 381 districts, 80% of them with disabilities, were restrained or isolated for disruptive or "challenging" behaviors in public schools across the state in 2013-'14, the most recent data available.
In all, it says, there were more than 20,000 incidents, although advocates could not say for certain that some incidents weren't counted twice, because of inconsistencies in district reporting methods. Of the districts that provided information, the report says, 43 reported more than 100 incidents, six reported more than 500.
Wisconsin lawmakers passed Act 125 in 2011 limiting when school employees can physically restrain students or isolate them in rooms away from their classmates, in response to a 2009 report by the disability-rights groups.
The law banned some restraints altogether, including mechanical and chemical restraints; allowed the techniques only when it is necessary to ensure safety; and required schools to report incidents to their school boards annually.
Disability advocates called it a good first step but say problems persist, including inconsistent reporting and lack of a statewide database that would allow parents and advocates to monitor districts' progress.

Report findings

According to the report:
■ Families continue to report instances in which children are being secluded and restrained repeatedly, sometimes daily across a span of time.
■ Parents report lapses in notification and are not made aware that written reports are available.
■ Incidents involving police officers, who are not covered under the law, appear to be on the rise.
■ Elementary school students and students with disabilities are disproportionally restrained and secluded. Families are being urged to consent to the practice on their disabled students' individualized education plan documents, "thereby increasing the likelihood that the techniques will be used again," according to the report.
"The practices can have a devastating effect on children," said Amy Puccio of Madison, who moved her son from the school he had attended since 4-year-old kindergarten after she said he was repeatedly restrained and secluded at the beginning of the school year.
"In a span of 16 days, he was secluded or restrained 31 times," said Puccio, whose son has been diagnosed with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorder and is considered to be on the autism spectrum.
"Most of the time, they did not reach out to me. He spent 21/2 hours in the seclusion room the one day," she said. By the time she arrived, she said, "he had been screaming for almost two hours straight. He was exhausted. When I got there, he was laying on the floor in an empty room. He had lost his voice."
The disability advocates are asking lawmakers to revisit the law to require districts to report incidents to the state Department of Public Instruction.
The groups are also asking the state to eliminate the state statute that requires inclusion of seclusion and restraint in individualized education plans created for disabled students and to expand the law to cover incidents in private schools that accept students through state-funded voucher programs.
The report offers an incomplete and sometimes unclear picture of the scope of the problem. The data were collected through open records requests to 450 individual districts. However, 40 did not respond and 29 of those that did refused to provide information citing confidentiality concerns.
The report also does not include enrollment data for the 2013-'14 school year, so a per capita analysis of incidents is not possible.
The shortcomings in the data, disability rights advocates say, only reinforce the need for the state to collect and maintain the data in a consistent format.
http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/report-cites-seclusion-and-restraint-tactics-in-schools-despite-2011-law-b99666517z1-368212441.html?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=hs

Improving Access to Mental Health Services - President’s FY 2017 Budget proposes new investments to increases access

Summary: 
The President’s FY 2017 Budget proposes new investments to increases access to mental health care.
As part of his January announcement of new Executive Actions to reduce gun violence and make our communities safer, the President announced that his Fiscal Year 2017 Budget would propose $500 million in new investments to increase access to mental health care. The President’s announcement builds on the Administration’s efforts over several years to increase access to mental health services. 
The Affordable Care Act has expanded behavioral health coverage for millions of Americans in three critical areas.  The law ends insurance company discrimination based on pre‐existing conditions.  It requires coverage of mental and substance use disorder services in the Health Insurance Marketplace. It also expands behavioral health parity. As a result, more than 60 million Americans have better coverage for, and improved access to, mental health and substance abuse services.
The Now is the Time initiative launched by the President and the Vice President in 2013 has expanded access to training and supports to help teachers and others learn the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and connect young people to treatment.  It has also expanded our federal investments in training the behavioral healthcare workforce, so that we can support more mental and substance use disorder treatment providers in communities across the country.
Yet, more work is needed to ensure that families can access the care they need.  Only about half of children and less than half of adults with diagnosable mental disorders get the treatment they need.  Despite the expansion of behavioral health coverage through the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act, we must do more. That’s why the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget proposes $500 million in a new two-year mandatory funding initiative to improve access to mental health services.  The Administration understands the need and is answering the call.
The new initiative will:
  • Expand the number of states participating in the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic demonstration. This program builds on a bipartisan proposal in Congress and will increase access to community-based mental and substance use disorder services in six more States across the country;
  • Increase access to early intervention programs that address serious mental illness in order to avoid delays in the identification and treatment of serious mental illness that can result in poorer health outcomes;
  • Expand the behavioral health workforce in underserved communities by supporting additional scholarships and loan repayment for mental health professionals who practice in the areas of the country that need them most;
  • Focus interventions on preventing suicide that will reduce key risk factors for suicide and increase referral and treatment for suicidal behavior, and
  • Enhance behavioral health services in Indian Country, including support for new specialized crisis response staffing and more behavioral health providers in American Indian communities.
The Administration is committed to increasing access to mental health services to protect the health and well-being of our children and communities.  And this new funding initiative builds on a $280 million increase in the Budget to expand on the ongoing work of the Administration to respond to mental health needs in communities across the country by helping to ensure that the behavioral health care system works for everyone, expand service and workforce capacity, and engage individuals with serious mental illness in care.  We look forward to working with Congress to implement the President’s proposal.
.@POTUS' FY 2017 budget proposes $500 million to improve access to mental health services. → http://1.usa.gov/20TRBwo
 http://www.hhs.gov/blog/2016/02/09/improving-access-mental-health-services.html#

Greyhound agrees to settlement with DOJ for $375K to settle disability violation claims

Greyhound has agreed to pay $300,000 to certain passengers with disabilities and a $75,000 fine to settle allegations that the nation’s largest bus service violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) claims Greyhound Lines Inc. failed to maintain accessibility features on its bus fleet such as lifts and securement devices; failed to help disabled passengers board and exit buses at rest stops; and failed to allow customers traveling in wheelchairs to make reservations online.  
The consent decree still needs to be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, but DOJ said anyone who experienced barriers based on their disabilities in the last three years can submit a claim. Because the agreement calls for an uncapped amount to be awarded to victims, DOJ said the actual amount Greyhound pays could greatly exceed $375,000.
“The ADA guarantees people with disabilities equal access to transportation services so that they can travel freely and enjoy autonomy,” principal deputy assistant attorney general Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ's civil rights division, said in a statement. “Today’s agreement marks a major step toward fulfilling the promise of the ADA, and we applaud Greyhound for entering the consent decree.”
In addition to paying the fine and compensating victims, Greyhound has agreed to hire an ADA compliance manager; train employees and contractors on the ADA and how to properly operate the accessibility features of the fleet; provide DOJ with a report on its compliance efforts every three months; and ensure people with disabilities can make travel reservations online.
This story was updated on Feb. 9, 2016 to clarify that Greyhound could ultimately pay more than $375,000.
article by By Lydia Wheeler - The Hill |  02/08/16
http://thehill.com/regulation/transportation/268629-greyhound-agrees-to-pay-375000-to-settle-alleged-ada-violations

Monday, February 8, 2016

Disability-friendly zip line offers thrill over alligators

Gatorland launched its newest zip line, Gator Gauntlet, in February 2016 an attraction accessible to park guests with mobility challenges and other disabilities. The wheelchair-accessible ride goes down a 350-foot wire and over the park and, yes, alligators. (Red Huber)
article by Dewayne Bevil for the Orlando Sentinel | Feb. 5, 2016
For two decades, Wheeler Clemons has spent days in a wheelchair. On Friday morning, he was lifted from the chair to fly — wide-eyed and yelling "Woo-hoo" — over a marsh populated with more than 100 watchful alligators.

Clemons was the first official participant on the Gator Gauntlet, a specially designed, disability-enabled zip line at Gatorland, longtime animal attraction in south Orlando.

"It was a feeling that I haven't felt in a while — the adrenaline rush and the thrill," said Clemons, 41, who was a surfer before having a spinal-cord injury. "I didn't think it was going to go that fast. I was flying."

The making of a zip line suitable for people with mobility challenges has been in the works since the construction of the park's original Screamin' Gator Zip Line in 2011, said Mark McHugh, president and CEO of Gatorland.

Accessible zips are "very rare," McHugh said, so the Gatorland staff had to explore several options to make the project work.

"We spent about a year trying to retrofit our current towers with an elevator and some way to add that accessibility to our current zip line," he said. "We just couldn't safely do that. The size of the towers couldn't safely handle that."



That plan was scratched, along with a notion that folks might zip over the breeding marsh while still in their wheelchairs.

Instead, Gauntlet participants transfer into the attraction's wheelchairs and harnesses at an on-ground location before traveling up ramps to the top of the tower. Up there, the harnesses, which are designed to provide upper-body support, are attached to the 350-foot-long wire and an electric hoist lifts riders out of the chair and into zipping position.

At the end of the line, that process is reversed, and riders are returned to their own wheelchairs.

The Gauntlet runs beneath one of the Screamin' Gator segments, and it comes closer to the water than the original zip attraction. Fencing near the landing keeps the reptiles away from dangling riders.

Construction on the Gauntlet, which operates separately from the Screamin' Gator, was finished in late 2014, McHugh said. He estimated its cost at $500,000.

"We've spent the last year developing the methods and the equipment and the operating procedures on how to safely get people out of wheelchairs, the type of harness design to get them on the line safely and get them off," he said.

Gatorland consulted with medical experts, therapists, folks in Colorado who snow ski despite paralysis and others, McHugh said. It also worked with the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association and others, McHugh said.

"What we're trying to is basically just provide opportunities for people with disabilities to participate. In our world of recreation, it's very difficult many times to do that," said David Jones, CEO of the Tallahassee-based FDOA, a nonprofit organization.

Clemons, who lives in Flagler County, was joined on the Gator Gauntlet by his wife Annette and daughters Madison and Georgia. His family used standard equipment on the same zip line that he rode, one right after the other.

Gatorland is charging $15 to attempt the Gator Gauntlet in February, McHugh said. The price will be between $20 and $25 after that, he said. Reservations can be made at 407-855-5496.

The park has been allowing select visitors onto the new zip line in recent weeks. One British family with three sons, one in a wheelchair, were invited to try it, McHugh said. The son with a disability coasted in for a landing, pumping his fist with excitement, he said.

"It's touching their lives like we never imagined … because they've been told they can't do these things, but when they can, it's awesome to see," McHugh said.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/attractions/theme-park-rangers-blog/os-gatorland-disability-zip-line-20160205-story.html
Copyright © 2016, Orlando Sentinel

Action Needed! Illinois Home Services Bill to Be Heard Wednesday Feb. 10th

The following is information shared from Access Living, Center for Independent Living in Chicago.

Dear Access Living friends and allies,
 
Some of you probably know that President Obama is scheduled to speak at our State Capitol this Wednesday, but that’s not the only thing going on Wednesday in Springfield! At 4:30 pm on Wednesday, the House Human Services Committee will meet, and one of the bills they will consider is House Bill 4351 (HB 4351). This is the new version of what you used to know as the Determination of Need (DON) assessment score bill. Representative Greg Harris, as the chief sponsor, will put HB 4351 before the committee to review.
 
HB 4351 is the same as the previous versions of the DON score bill. The major points are:
  • Keeping the DON score at 29, not changing it to 37
  • Ensuring that when a new assessment tool is introduced, that less than 1% of people currently in the Home Services Program and Community Care Program get dropped
  • Anyone determined to be ineligible for services due to the updated assessment tool shall continue to be eligible for services for at least one year following that determination and must be reassessed no earlier than 11 months after that determination.
As you know, Governor Rauner has sent a letter to the federal Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to state that he is committed to keeping the DON at 29. So why do we need to pass HB 4351? Because people with disabilities and seniors who have home services are tired of our lives hanging in the balance. We need to know that in transitioning to a new assessment tool, people’s services will not be eliminated, and that anyone who does get dropped has a fair chance to be re-evaluated or find new supports. HB 4351 is about preservation and stability.
 
Remember, the lives of 10,000 people with disabilities and 34,000 seniors are at stake.
 
We need advocates to take action! Before legislative committee hearings, anyone can file an electronic witness slip to show whether they are for (a proponent) or against (opponent) a bill. You can file a witness slip to show your support for HB 4351. Go to this link and:
  • Fill out your name and contact information
  • State who you represent (if you are just representing yourself, say “self”)
  • Check the bubble for “proponent” to show that your position is to support HB 4351
  • In the testimony section, check “record of appearance only”
  • Enter the Captcha text and click the box to show that you agree to the Terms of Agreement, then click on Create Slip. That’s it!
Please help call your friends and families to action to support HB 4351. You can forward this email to them. Access Living and INCIL will be present at the hearing, and we are counting on you for your online support!

ADA Webinar Feb.16th: Home, Community or Travel the Rules for Service Animals are not the same

Service animals are defined and viewed differently under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA). Join us and learn how each of these laws provides protections for individuals with disabilities. Learn what businesses, governments, employers, airlines, and housing providers are or are not required to do. Become educated on permissible questions and/or permissible documentation a covered entity may ask or require from an individual with a disability.

Speakers:
  • Peter Berg, Technical Assistance Coordinator, Great Lakes ADA Center
  • Livaughn Chapman, Jr. Chief, Aviation Civil Rights Compliance Branch Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Anne Hammond, Transportation Industry Consultant, U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Amanda Motyka, Equal Opportunity Specialist, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
Continuing Education Recognition: Certificate of Attendance

Date:   February 16, 2016
Time:  2-3:30pm ET

Registration:   Free via webinar platform, fee for telephone access
Link to Register:  www.ada-audio.org

This session will offer Real-Time Captioning via the webinar platform

Questions should be directed to 877-232-1990 V/TTY or via email to webinars@ada-audio.org

#Information in post is shared by the ADA National Network  and Great Lakes ADA Center