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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Low Vision Survey Results of 2013 - WebAIM

Results of WebAIM’s recent survey for those with low vision are now available at http://webaim.org/projects/lowvisionsurvey/. A few highlights are found below. The results of our motor disabilities survey will be available soon.

This data underscores that users with low vision are very diverse. The range of vision loss varies greatly, as do the assistive technologies used. The vast majority of respondents use multiple assistive technologies, ranging from screen readers to simply changing text sizes in browsers. There is very high keyboard use in this population, strengthening arguments for ensuring keyboard accessibility.

For respondents that use a screen reader, ZoomText was the most popular, followed by JAWS and VoiceOver. Few respondents use System Access, Window-Eyes, or MAGic, and no respondents reported using ChromeVox.

Respondents report significant usage of mobile devices, with 13% of respondents using a mobile device as their primary device for navigating the web. iOS devices dominate in the mobile area, with 43% of respondents using these devices, and iOS users were more likely to use the accessibility settings of their mobile device.
Internet Explorer usage among respondents is notably higher than the overall population, perhaps suggesting lack of keyboard accessibility or assistive technology support in other browsers.

99.5% of respondents had JavaScript enabled when completing the survey.

Read the full low vision survey results at http://webaim.org/projects/lowvisionsurvey/.

article by Jared Smith, WebAIM, April 29, 2013
http://webaim.org/blog/low-vision-survey-results/

For WebAIM homepage : CLICK HERE

Expanding the web's potential for people with disabilities

Illinois Senate Approves Increased Funding for Community Care Program | April 29, 2013

as posted by Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus..

Responding to the significant need to provide for the health care of Illinois’ elderly, Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) backed legislation offering relief for the Illinois Department on Aging’s Community Care Program that offers in-home care and community-based services for senior citizens.

“This issue is important to me and the 3rd District I represent that maintains one of the highest populations of residents receiving Medicaid and where many residents benefit from the senior home health services provided with this program,” Hunter said. “That’s what I support and that’s what we here in the General Assembly are accomplishing with this effort.”

The measure, HB 207, allots $173 million in General Revenue Funds for the Dept. on Aging’s Community Care Program serving an estimated 84,400 individuals that was severely underfunded in the original FY 13 budget proposal.

“I’m promoting this initiative because, as a longtime champion of healthcare issues here in the Senate, this action toward fiscal responsibility by providing for reduction of the Department on Aging’s bill backlog is also going to accomplish greater resources for taking care of our seniors,” Hunter said.

HB207 also provides $151 million GRF to the Healthcare Provider Relief fund with the intent of reimbursement for medical providers for the services they provide Medicaid patients.

Without this supplemental appropriation by the General Assembly, the Department on Aging is estimated to have over $317 million in backlogged bills by June 30, 2013. With this additional appropriation, the bill backlog reduces to nearly $144 million.

HB 207 was approved by the Senate unanimously and now awaits the approval of Governor Pat Quinn.

http://illinoissenatedemocrats.com/index.php/sen-hunter-home/3336-senate-approves-increased-funding-for-elderly

OIG Fugitive: falsely billed Medicare for $1.8 million for durable medical equipment (DME) - Jorge Fernandez | April 2013



On April 17, 2013, Jorge Jesus Cubilla Fernandez was indicted on charges of health care fraud and wire fraud. Investigators believe that through his company, Fernandez falsely billed Medicare for $1.8 million for durable medical equipment (DME) that was never provided to beneficiaries.

Fernandez was the owner and operator of Jet Medical Supply, a DME company based in Louisville, Kentucky. According to the indictment, Jet Medical billed Medicare for wound care supplies and was reimbursed approximately $900,000 from May 2010 until February 2011.

The investigation revealed that a number of billings submitted by Jet Medical were for beneficiaries whose Medicare numbers had been compromised and/or had been associated with fraud by another provider. In addition, Jet Medical allegedly billed for items, benefits, products, supplies, or services purportedly provided to beneficiaries located outside of Kentucky, mainly from Florida.

Interviews with the Medicare beneficiaries who purportedly received DME and services from Jet Medical revealed that they never received DME or any services from Jet Medical.

Fernandez remains at large and is believed to be residing in south Florida.

Report a Fugitive CLICK HERE

FOR MORE OIG FUGITIVES, visit: http://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/fugitives/index.asp

'Offensive' Images of Son with Down Syndrome Altered, Tenn. Family Sues


[photo: Good Morning America - Family Sues Over 'Offensive' Images of Son with Down Syndrome (ABC News)]
article By SUSANNA KIM | Good Morning America – April 29, 2013

A Nashville family is suing Cox Media and other defendants after they posted altered images of their son with Down syndrome with descriptions that read "Retarded News" and other "offensive" mischaracterizations.

Pamela and Bernard Holland are parents of Adam, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. The suit, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, claims the the Hollands were shocked to learn that an image of Adam taken in July 2004, when he was 17, was used for commercial use with "defamatory" descriptions, the Hollands' lawsuit states.

Pamela Holland declined to comment to ABC News on the suit.

In the original photo, Adam is holding a sketch he created while attending an art class at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville. But a radio station in Tampa, Fla., that is owned by Cox Media Group, WHTP-FM, used the image on its website in which Adam holds a sign that reads "Retarded News."

The lawsuit does not describe how the radio station obtained the image.

Last summer, the group "Spread the Word to End the Word," which campaigns to end the use of the word "retard" to describe people with mental disabilities, contacted the radio station about the photo.

The program director of the radio station wrote an email to the campaign, apologizing for the use of the photo by "The Cowhead Show."

"The segment 'Retarded News' is designed to highlight odd stories that are seemingly always in the news," according to the email that was included in the court papers.
"These stories are NOT about disabled individuals. However, in our investigation, we noted the picture that he was using did denote a person with Down syndrome," the program director wrote.

Andy McDill, director of communications of Cox Media Group headquartered in Atlanta, told ABC News the company was looking into the matter but could not comment on ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit also claims a web sign-generating company, Sign Generator, also used his image under the heading "Retarded Handicap Generator." In place of Adam's sketch, he is seen holding a sign that read, "I Love Making Custom Signs."

The Hollands say posting these "unauthorized, deceptive, false, misleading and defamatory images of Adam Holland were intentional, deliberate and malicious," causing "severe mental anguish and emotional distress with manifestations that impact their daily lives and routines, humiliation, embarrassment, fear, and other non-economic damages and also their economic damages."

The lawsuit names, Dave Brown, owner and chief executive officer of Sign Generator, as a defendant.

The suit also names as a defendant a user in Minnesota of photo sharing site Flickr. On that site, Adam is shown holding a sign that reads, "I got a boner."
In the comments, the user boasts of the number of views of the photo, saying it is "just a stupid photo of the sick retarded kid that lives down my street that my dogs hate."

Brown and the Flickr user could not be reached for comment.

as posted by ABC Good Morning America;
http://gma.yahoo.com/family-sues-over-offensive-images-autistic-son-105318058--abc-news-topstories.html

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For "Spread the Word to End the Word," : CLICK HERE

Friday, April 26, 2013

ACTION ALERT: Take Action to Make Illinois Institution Free : Murray Developmental Center | April 2013

The follow information has been shared from our friends from 'Access Living', and also 'Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois' (CCDI)...


Dear Access Living friends and allies,

In the war to make Illinois free of large state-run institutions, the current battleground is in Centralia, the location of the Murray Developmental Center. If you thought the fight to close the Jacksonville Developmental Center (JDC) was bitter, you should see what's going on with Murray. There are both legislative and legal efforts to keep Murray open, but in the end Murray will need to close because it is part of an outdated system of state-run institutions, and Illinois is turning towards serving people in small homes integrated in the community (and I do not mean a bunch of small homes on one campus). People with disabilities are everyone's neighbors.

Although the fight over JDC was difficult, the fact is that residents who moved into the community are finding success in their new homes. You can see the success story of three of the former women residents at this link: Jennifer, Rachael and Dinah. We at AL are so happy to see their success, and to see the State's ongoing efforts to expand the community services and supports so that anyone with a disability can live integrated in the community. If you know someone with a family member living in a State Operated Developmental Center, please remind them that there is hope and a better way, and to get in touch with a network like the Family Support Network to explore their choices.

You can help. Right now, we need your assistance to email members of the General Assembly to oppose HR 273, which was filed to try to keep Murray open. The Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois set up an action alert, which I have copied below my signature. Please take a look and click on their link (below) to take action by emailing your legislator. It takes two minutes. Be part of the struggle to FREE OUR PEOPLE!

Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living

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Going Home Illinois- Jennifer, Rachael and Dinah

YouTube Published by morrealepublicaffair on Apr 23, 2013

The Going Home Campaign supports Governor Pat Quinn's (D-Illinois) Rebalancing Initiative which offers people with disabilities the opportunity to live in a community of choice and not be confined to a state institution. Living in the community offers people with disabilities the opportunity to be productive and social, live close to family and friends and enjoy an overall improved quality of life. The disability system has been studied extensively and the national trend is to downsize state institutions and invest in a community system.
For more information visit goinghomeillinois.org.

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From CCDI:

In the past few months, there have been two bills filed to stop the closing of Murray Developmental Center: HB 97, and HB 1731 HA 1. We've asked you to contact your representatives to oppose these bills; 70 activists took a moment to email their legislators about their opposition to the bills.

However, a resolution was filed on April 19th that asks Governor Quinn to stop the closure of Murray Developmental Center. Please take a moment to ask your representative to oppose this resolution, HR 273, and to ask Governor Quinn to proceed with the plans to close Murray Developmental Center.

Blocking the closure of Murray completely ignores the needs, desires, rights, and dignity of individuals who live there.

Blocking the closure of Murray is in conflict with the Olmstead decision, which says that people with disabilities should not be confined to an institution if they can be accommodated in the community with the right services and supports.

This bill would put the state at risk of lawsuits and of needing to spend large amounts of money on litigation and consent decrees.

The yearly cost to keep someone living in an institution like Murray Developmental Center costs 2 to 3 times as much as someone living in the community with the proper services and supports. Blocking the closure of Murray would be extremely costly to the state.

Jobs at Murray won’t go away; they will transfer to the private sector, reducing the size of government while serving people with disabilities in the most integrated setting possible: their homes.

Please take a moment to contact your legislator. Ask him or her to vote "no" on HR 273, and to proceed with the closure of Murray. Closing Murray Center is the right thing to do for the state's finances and for people with disabilities.
The link is: http://capwiz.com/ccdionline/issues/alert/?alertid=62625171&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]. THANK YOU!

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We at Ability Chicago do SUPPORT Making Illinois Institution Free
# # #

For Access Living homepage: http://www.accessliving.org/

For Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois (CCDI) homepage: http://www.ccdionline.org/

For Going Home Illinois homepage: http://goinghomeillinois.org/

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Medical Marijuana Pot Smokers Can Be Fired, Court Says Even in Colorado

By STEVEN K. PAULSON Associated Press
DENVER April 25, 2013 (AP)


Medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in Colorado, but employers in the state can lawfully fire workers who test positive for the drug, even if it was used off duty, according to a court ruling Thursday.

The Colorado Court of Appeals found there is no employment protection for medical marijuana users in the state since the drug remains barred by the federal government.

"For an activity to be lawful in Colorado, it must be permitted by, and not contrary to, both state and federal law," the appeals court stated in its 2-1 conclusion.

The ruling concurs with court decisions in similar cases elsewhere and comes as businesses attempt to regulate pot use among employees in states where the drug is legal. Colorado and Washington state law both provide for recreational marijuana use. Several other states have legalized medical use.

The patchwork of laws across the nation and state-federal conflict has left the issue unclear. Based on this ruling, employees who use pot in Colorado do so at their own risk. In Arizona, however, workers cannot be terminated for lawfully using medical marijuana, unless it would jeopardize an employer's federal licensing or contracts.

The Colorado case involves Brandon Coats, 33, a telephone operator for Englewood, Colo.-based Dish Network LLC. Coats was paralyzed in a car crash as a teenager and has been a medical marijuana patient in the state since 2009.

He was fired in 2010 for failing a company drug test, though his employer didn't claim he was ever impaired on the job.

Coats sued to get his job back, but a trial court dismissed his claim in 2011. The judge agreed with Dish Network that medical marijuana use isn't a "lawful activity" covered by a state law intended to protect cigarette smokers from being fired for legal behavior off the clock. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than half of all states have such laws.

Dish Network did not return a call seeking comment.

Coats' attorney, Michael Evans, plans to appeal and issued a statement saying the ruling has wide implications.

"This case not only impacts Mr. Coats, but also some 127,816 medical marijuana patient-employees in Colorado who could be summarily terminated even if they are in legal compliance with Colorado state law," Evans noted.

Judge John Webb dissented in the split decision, saying he couldn't find a case addressing whether Colorado judges should consider federal law in determining the meaning of a Colorado statute.

Marijuana supporters say the courts are discriminating against them because Colorado's Lawful Off-Duty Activities law, the provision protecting cigarette smokers, prevents workers from being fired for legal behavior off the clock.

The court said lawmakers could act to change the law to protect people who use marijuana, but there have been no plans to do that at the state Capitol.

Coats told reporters Thursday afternoon that he obtained a prescription for medical marijuana to deal with debilitating muscle spasms that would otherwise prevent him from working. He has been looking for a job ever since being dismissed by Dish.

"I'm not going to get better anytime soon," said Coats. "I need the marijuana, and I don't want to go the rest of my life without holding a job."

The Washington state Supreme Court also has found that workers can be fired for using marijuana, even if authorized by the state's medical marijuana law.

Last year, a federal appeals court ruled against a cancer survivor in Battle Creek, Mich., who was fired from his job with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after failing a drug test for marijuana. Joseph Casias had a medical marijuana card and said he used pot to alleviate symptoms of an inoperable brain tumor.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, the California Supreme Court also has ruled that people could be fired for testing positive for marijuana. The Legislature passed a bill to change that in 2008, but it was vetoed.

———

Associated Press writers Colleen Slevin, Peter Banda, Nicholas Riccardi and Eugene Johnson contributed to this report.

VA, minority veterans both frustrated by benefits claims backlog - town hall meeting in Chicago


[photo: Veterans of all ages came to hear the VA Committee on Minority Veterans at a town hall meeting Wednesday. Esther Bergdahl/MEDILL]

article BY ESTHER BERGDAHL, Medill Reports - Chicago, Northwestern University,
APRIL 25, 2013


The frustration resulting from the claims backlog many veterans face in getting disability benefits was brought to life at a Department of Veterans Affairs town hall meeting in Chicago this week.

Veterans and administrators both expressed frustrations with the VA at the meeting for minority veterans, each side wishing the department could expand and improve services for aging and vulnerable veterans and their spouses.

Members of the VA Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans joined local and regional VA staff members and administrators at St. Luke Church of God in Christ in the near North Side on Wednesday to discuss individual benefits claims, answer questions about the VA system and hear suggestions on how to improve service.

“It wasn't that minorities were being discriminated against, that's not what we're talking about,” said Earl Newsome, deputy director of the Center for Minority Veterans, of his program’s origins. “What we found was, and we're still finding it, is that minority veterans and poor veterans and sometimes a combination of each aren't aware of their benefits and services.”

Many attendees spoke about the disability claims process, and the amount of paperwork required to file and verify a claim. The VA is currently facing a backlog of disability claims that prevents many veterans from receiving medical treatment through the VA health care system. Some veterans report waiting hundreds of days for a claim to be processed.

The amount of paperwork and follow-up appointments required to establish a claim is a major feature of veteran complaints.

“Based on what the veteran submits, the VA has the duty to assist,” said Steven Novak, staff attorney at the John Marshall Law School Veterans Legal Support Center and Clinic. The VA is required to look at a veteran’s VA medical records, their service medical record and other files during the evaluation process, he said.

Duane Honeycutt, director of the Chicago Regional Office of the VA, said during the town hall meeting that many Vietnam-era veterans are starting to claim disability for symptoms that may be related to either service or aging. He also said that many veterans fail to show up for appointments or provide proper paperwork, which extends the time a disability claim is under review.

“We need evidence that the disability exists, that the disability is tied to your service, and that the disability is evaluated at the point in time the claim is filed,” Honeycutt said.

Tara Mills, an army veteran, came to ask why the VA did not provide dental care for veterans. “They said how can they better serve, that's what I'm hoping they'll take away. That's an area they can better serve veterans,” she said.

Despite the sometimes fraught topics addressed, many attendees were pleased with the exchanges they had during the meeting.

Robert Graham, an army veteran, came on behalf of his local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. During the meeting he asked why so many veteran resource centers were on the outskirts of Chicago, rather than in the inner city neighborhoods.

“What I was really trying to find out is what they were here looking for, what they were doing, and it cleared up quite a few questions for me. I got a pretty good understanding of it,” he said.

“I didn't think there was anybody held back asking questions, what they wanted to ask,” said Honeycutt. “I think they got a lot of accurate information that cleared up a lot of misconceptions in their mind.”

Retired Army Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, who chairs the committee, was glad to hear from Chicago-area veterans. “This is the heart of what we do,” he said. “I'm a veteran, my father's a veteran, so this is a good forum.”

Whether the forum’s feedback will help make the disability claims process more transparent is another story.

“I know for veteran service organizations, like the VFW, the American Legion, there are certain numbers of those agencies that have offices within [VA] centers,” said Novak. That cooperation can help make claims processing run more smoothly, he said. “For outside attorneys, for us, for vets not working with VSOs, it's very, very opaque.”

http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220656

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Doug Henry, Paraplegic Moto X legend pulls off backflip - video & article


[photo: Despite being paralyzed from waist down, Doug Henry is able to perform a backflip on a specially rigged motorcycle as Travis Pastrana looks on. Photo from Doug Henry’s Facebook page]

article by David Strege, Grind TV, April 24, 2013

Travis Pastrana—FMX superstar and daredevil—has done a few motorcycle tricks in his day, and obviously knows what it takes to perform a backflip on two wheels. So when fellow motocross legend Doug Henry wanted to try a backflip into a foam pit, Pastrana told him he wouldn’t be able to do it.

Henry, paralyzed from the waist down from a broken back suffered in a Supermoto race in 2007, couldn’t lean back far enough on his special motorcycle fitted with a roll cage, or so Pastrana thought. The first attempt ended in failure, confirming Pastrana’s belief. The second attempt was made with a little extra throttle. See what happens, as both attempts were videotaped and posted on his Facebook page.

On his Facebook page, Henry talked about his time at Pastrana’s house and how he couldn’t leave without trying a backflip.

“I asked Travis about a backflip and much to my surprise, he said I would not be able to make a full rotation because of my cage, being strapped to the bike, and my inability to shift my weight far enough back,” he wrote.

Much to everybody’s surprise, Henry pulled it off.

“Dude, seriously? Way to prove me wrong, man,” Pastrana told his “hero motocross legend.”

To the camera, Pastrana added, “He just did a backflip without leaning back!”

Henry, who was strapped in to the 450cc dirt bike, was obviously thrilled.

“Oh, it’s fun,” Henry said. “Now I see why you’ve done this for so many years.”

We hasten to add that there were plenty on Facebook who were impressed, too. Said one Facebook commenter, “Only Doug Henry could pull that off!!!”


NASA | SDO: Three Years of Sun in Three Minutes - video & info April 2013

as this is not what the purpose of the blog is, but it's wonderful and interesting what NASA has shared; ENJOY..


Published by NASAexplorer on Apr 22, 2013

Music: "A Lady's Errand of Love" -
composed and performed by Martin Lass
In the three years since it first provided images of the sun in the spring of 2010, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has had virtually unbroken coverage of the sun's rise toward solar maximum, the peak of solar activity in its regular 11-year cycle. This video shows those three years of the sun at a pace of two images per day.
SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures a shot of the sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths. The images shown here are based on a wavelength of 171 Angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet range and shows solar material at around 600,000 Kelvin. In this wavelength it is easy to see the sun's 25-day rotation as well as how solar activity has increased over three years.

During the course of the video, the sun subtly increases and decreases in apparent size. This is because the distance between the SDO spacecraft and the sun varies over time. The image is, however, remarkably consistent and stable despite the fact that SDO orbits the Earth at 6,876 miles per hour and the Earth orbits the sun at 67,062 miles per hour.

Such stability is crucial for scientists, who use SDO to learn more about our closest star. These images have regularly caught solar flares and coronal mass ejections in the act, types of space weather that can send radiation and solar material toward Earth and interfere with satellites in space. SDO's glimpses into the violent dance on the sun help scientists understand what causes these giant explosions -- with the hopes of some day improving our ability to predict this space weather.
There are several noteworthy events that appear briefly in this video. They include the two partial eclipses of the sun by the moon, two roll maneuvers, the largest flare of this solar cycle, comet Lovejoy, and the transit of Venus. The specific time for each event is listed below, but a sharp-eyed observer may see some while the video is playing.

00:30;24 Partial eclipse by the moon

00:31;16 Roll maneuver

01:11;02 August 9, 2011 X6.9 Flare, currently the largest of this solar cycle

01:28;07 Comet Lovejoy, December 15, 2011

01:42;29 Roll Maneuver

01:51;07 Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012

02:28;13 Partial eclipse by the moon

More information about this video, as well as full HD version of all four wavelengths and print-resolution stills are public domain and can be viewed and downloaded at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/...

This video is public domain and can be downloaded.

Like our videos? Subscribe to NASA's Goddard Shorts HD podcast:
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/iTunes/f...

Or find NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/NASA.GSFC

Or find us on Twitter:
http://twitter.com/NASAGoddard

Veterans Affairs (VA) moves to process oldest disability claims first

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press, Apr 19, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) - Veterans waiting more than a year for a decision on their disability claims are moving to the front of the line, under a new program announced Friday.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is responding to criticism about the soaring number of claims that have been pending for longer than 125 days. The VA said that of the nearly 900,000 claims pending in the system, some 250,000 are from veterans who have been waiting at least a year for a decision.

Veterans receive disability compensation for injuries and illness incurred or aggravated during their active military service. The amount of the compensation is based on a rating assigned by the VA.

Allison Hickey, the VA undersecretary who oversees the Veterans Benefits Administration, says provisional decisions will be made on the oldest cases based on the evidence currently in the veteran's file. In some cases, medical exams will be required, and those will be expedited.

Veterans whose claims are granted would get compensation immediately. Veterans whose claims are denied will have a year to submit more information before the VA makes a final decision.

The VA projected that it will take up to six months to complete the 250,000 claims being targeted.

Lawmakers cautiously approved of the plan to focus on the oldest claims first, but Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, emphasized that it doesn't resolve the systemic problems that the VA faces because it relies on paper files. The VA is rolling out a new computer system designed to improve efficiency, but not all regional offices will have that system until the end of the year.

"We will be monitoring it closely to make sure it's good policy rather than just good PR," said Rep. Jeff Miller, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

The number of disability claims pending has steadily grown over the past four years. The average time to resolve a disability claim has gone from 161 in fiscal year 2009 to 286 currently. Hickey warned that number will spike in the coming months as the VA focuses on the oldest cases first.

Hickey said a decision in late 2010 making it easier for Vietnam Veterans to qualify for compensation related to Agent Orange exposure brought about 260,000 new claims into the system. Those cases took precedent. Meanwhile, other types of claims poured in as result of 10 years of war and the downsizing of the military, and the backlog soared.

"Now, it is an appropriate time for us to go and really tackle those folks who have more than patiently waited," Hickey said.

Most veterans submitting claims are already receiving some disability compensation. They're citing new or aggravated conditions in an effort to get additional money.

The VA has traditionally given top priority in resolving disability claims to certain categories of veterans, such as the homeless, those who are terminally ill and those separating from the military for medical reasons. The veterans in those particular categories will retain their top-priority status. However, many others filing claims can expect that it will take longer for the VA to resolve their cases.

"It's great to see the VA finally taking more immediate and aggressive action to address this important issue for our veterans," said Paul Rieckhoff, the chief executive officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U.S. Access Board Webinar: Accessible Elevators and Platform Lifts - May 2, 2013 -RSVP

The next webinar in the Board’s free monthly series will take place May 2 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will review requirements in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards for elevators and platform lifts. The session will cover scoping provisions and technical requirements for the various types of elevators and platform lifts addressed.

A representative from the National Elevator Industry will join Board staff in conducting the session to highlight various requirements in the referenced American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) safety standards.

To register for this free webinar, visit: visit www.accessibilityonline.org

Questions for the webinar can be submitted in advance through this website.

For the U.S. Access Board homepage: CLICK HERE

Order Your Free 2013 Consumer Action Handbook


The Consumer Action Handbook is your go-to guide for practical information to help you plan a purchase, know your consumer rights, and file a consumer complaint. The Handbook features new content in areas that matter to you, such as banking, housing, and protecting your privacy, as well as tips to alert you of the latest frauds and scams.

Use the updated Consumer Assistance Directory to contact corporate consumer affairs departments, national consumer organizations, and local, state, and federal government offices. The Handbook also includes a sample complaint letter for when you need to file a complaint about a product you purchased.

Order your free copies of the Handbook or the Spanish language version, Guía del Consumidor.

Prefer an electronic version? You can download the PDF or try the new interactive version, with links to related videos and downloadable resources.

ADAPT gets a commitment from HUD while foiling two unions plans to shut-out people with disabilities | April 2013


as posted and shared by Adapt.

By Tim Wheat, Boulder ADAPT

ADAPT used direct action successfully today at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the unions SEIU and AFSCME. ADAPT secured a commitment for nationwide guidance from HUD on compliance with Olmstead and both unions agreed to meet with ADAPT about the proposed rules to modify the companionship exemption.

Jennifer Ho, a new senior advisor, is commissioned to write a HUD statement on Olmstead. Her letter to ADAPT outlines many things that still must be done before the guidance is release; however, she is committed to have the Olmstead advisement complete by May 27, 2013. Jennifer Ho will meet with ADAPT ten days before the deadline.

"As states facilitate the transition of persons with disabilities from institutional or other segregated settings into their communities," said Jennifer Ho in the letter to ADAPT; "the need for meaningful choice among housing options is critical."

ADAPT followed up this success by bringing the Service Employee International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees back to the negotiating table. The US Department of Labor has skirted a law that requires they include people with disabilities in writing new rules about Medicaid services including the companionship exemption. ADAPT was able to confront the two unions on being shut out, but both walked out and refused to talk any further with ADAPT.

Until today.

"This agreement to meet again within two weeks and bring substantive proposals for movement toward compromise was a huge win for ADAPT and people who rely on home-based attendant care today," said Mike Oxford of Kansas ADAPT.

The Department of Labor had done an assessment of the proposed companionship exemption rule and found that it would cause increased institutionalization. The sad fact is that means that some people who can now live in their own home will be forced into expensive institutions. That is an unacceptable human cost.

"We don't oppose our attendants receiving improved pay and benefits, in fact, we support it," added David Wittie, an organizer for ADAPT of Texas. "And today's new agreements will go a long way toward securing higher take-home pay for our workers while also protecting the right of folks with disabilities to control who comes in our homes and assists us with the most intimate activities of daily life, all while ensuring that we stay out of costly institutions.

ADAPT works hard to bring integration and an end to the institutional bias nationwide. The meetings, letters, lawsuits and information that ADAPT creates on our campaign is often eclipsed by the direct action that ADAPT is known for. Action is what got ADAPT to the table in the first place and this week's action has secured our place in the negotiations. It was clear that the unions had believe their bureaucratic maneuvering had shut out people with disabilities from the discussion making our negotiations difficult and essential.

"Negotiations were tough," said Mike Oxford. "The reason it was hard is because they started out denying how the meeting went earlier this week. They denied they refused to meet and come to the table; they denied refusing to negotiate with us over the rules; they denied that they refused to work on a compromise proposal and so on. So we had to get past all of that and then they started agreeing to meet and they agreed to work on substantive issues and to work towards a positive solution to the problems."

Original post and more information from Adapt at: http://www.adapt.org/freeourpeople/2013/report04.php

Disability rights activist Harilyn Rousso discusses advances, hope for what’s next

BY ANDREW HOLIK, Medill Reports - Chicago, Northwestern University, APR 23, 2013

Harilyn Rousso doesn’t want to be called inspirational.

She has published three books, holds two master’s degrees and is a certified psychotherapist. She has accomplished this despite living with cerebral palsy, a disorder that impairs speech, posture and movement.

“People who don’t even know me will stop me on the street and say, ‘Oh, you’re so inspirational,’ ” Rousso said. “I don’t mind being called inspirational for real achievements, but don’t call me inspirational for not jumping out the window. Set the same standards for me.”

Rousso, who recently published her memoir “Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back”, spoke at the University of Illinois at Chicago Friday, discussing both her book as well as what’s next for disability rights in America.

A lifelong New Yorker, she was born in 1946 with cerebral palsy, a disorder of movement, posture or muscle tone caused by abnormal development in the immature brain. Due to potential rigidity or lack of muscle coordination, people with cerebral palsy may have difficulty speaking, walking, overall slower movements, or tremors. Severe symptoms of cerebral palsy may include incontinence and difficulty with vision and sight.

There are 764,000 Americans estimated to have symptoms of cerebral palsy, according to United Cerebral Palsy. An estimated 56.7 million Americans, or nearly 20 percent of the population, are estimated to have a disability, according to the latest U.S. Census results.

However, growing up Rousso said she felt isolated by the lack of acceptance and understanding of debilities in her community.

“For the first 30 years of my life I was heavily into denial about my disability,” she said. “I was very far into the closet. I didn’t relate to it at all.”

Rousso did not want her disability to be identified as a negative, “a source of teasing and staring.”

In her 30s, Rousso immersed herself in the disability rights movement following. Ryan Parrey, 34, a doctoral candidate in disability studies at UIC, said the visibility Rousso and others created was invaluable.

“We’re way better than we used to be,” he said, “but the cultural work people like Harilyn and others are doing is taking disability beyond something that’s just okay.”

“Now it is okay to say you have a disability and it’s almost cool,” he said. “I think that’s where we’re going.”

Rousso said that things have improved for disabled people since she grew up.

“We’re more visible in general,” she said. “There is more inclusion in general.”

She said many of her friends with disabilities had to fight to even be allowed into public high schools growing up.

Now Rousso believes a growing number of people with disabilities hold advanced degrees. One such person, Kelly Munger, 35, Parrey’s wife who also has cerebral palsy, said Rousso’s was the first book she read about people with disabilities when she was 12.

“My mom bought it for me and thought it would be helpful to have a woman role model with disabilities,” Munger said. “I think Harilyn helped inspire a generation of people with disabilities.”

Munger, who holds a Ph.D. in disability studies from UIC, said Rousso and other’s disability rights work inspired her to do whatever she wanted and helped her learn disability was not limiting but a way she could make a difference.

“I’m more disabled by people’s attitudes than anything related to my body,” she said. “I can be proud of my body.”

Rousso said the fact that more individuals like Munger and Parry can get into graduate programs is a positive step, but that disabled people are still under-represented in higher education.

“It will take a lot of time--I don’t think it will happen in my generation--but as more and more people with disabilities are in the workplace and schools it will help,” she said.

Going forward, Rousso said understanding disability and increasing disability awareness will be a necessity for the baby boomers.

“As most people age, they will develop a disability,” she said, “and if they don’t know how to embrace that part of themselves it will be difficult.”

Even at nearly 67 years old, Rousso said she won’t slow her efforts to increase disability awareness.

“I’m not nearly finished with this,” she said. “I don’t know where it’s going to take me, but I’m going to be promoting the ideas and issues in the book and continuing to move attitudes along.”

http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220409

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ADAPT holds the President Accountable; 41 people were arrested; article, photos, video | April 22, 2013


as posted and shared by Adapt - keep up the good fight..
Second Term must make good on Olmstead
By Tim Wheat, Boulder ADAPT

ADAPT demonstrated its frustration with the Obama Administration today, crashing through barricades at Pennsylvania and 17th Street and blocking the east entrance to the White House. Forty-one people were arrested following a rally outside the White House security perimeter that gave the President's administration failing grades for leadership, integrity and engagement.

"The President has not taken the initiative to proactively champion community living or the innovative Medicaid programs that could make it a reality," said ADAPT organizer Josue Rodriguez of Memphis. "In nearly every way, President Obama and his administration have failed to live up to the promises about community living that he made during his presidential campaigns."

Most import is President Obama's promise to support integration of people with disabilities in the community. ADAPT demands that the Administration issue a statement that the President supports the development of legislation that would finally end Medicaid's institutional bias and assure that people with disabilities have community-based alternatives to institutional placement.

"I would tell the President to make the Community First Choice Option a mandate so that the Medicaid funds are not automatically spent on expensive nursing homes," said Tom Earl, the Director of Liberty Resources in Philadelphia who personally outlined this idea to President Obama in 2010. "The Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act should include cost-saving home and community based services helping to put an end to the institutional bias."

ADAPT began the Monday action visiting the White House and blocking the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance at 17th Street. At that entrance the group had a rally and discussed the disappointment of the Administration in dealing with the Disability Community. ADAPT held up a large report card for the President's term with failing grades for leadership, integrity and engagement.

"The President needs to live up to the commitments that he made when he was a candidate," said Heiwa Salovitz with ADAPT of Texas. "He gets an 'F' at the start of his second term."

A major source of the frustration by the disability community is the progress made on the "companion exemption" that is part of the Department of Labor's regulations regarding personal assistants employment. The problem is that the "progress" was made without the disability community. Department was directly mandated to "fully involve" the disability community in making the regulations; however, the Department of Labor met with unions and providers and ignored people with disabilities. ADAPT demands that the Administration recall Executive Order 13563 from the Office of Management and Budget to involve people with disabilities.

"I think if we can do our part to highlight the institutional bias and stand-up for our community we have an obligation to do it," said Keith Percy a Boulder ADAPT Coloradical who was arrested today at the White House. "Unless we stand-up and do something about the issues of our people locked away then we never do get free."

Along with keeping his promises to the Disability Community, ADAPT also demands the President effectively engage the Disability Community by hiring people with disabilities for the Office of Public Engagement and the Domestic Policy Council.

ADAPT also made a long list of demands for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice. The demands would help to coordinate Olmstead compliance over the three departments.


YouTube Published by Dean DeRusso on Apr 22, 2013

Francis Kimmes is a deaf activist fighting with ADAPT services for integrate and accessible housing for all disability individuals. He was grabbed by the police and thrown on the ground by the police. While hearing people were communicating and the wheelchair users were basically let go.

THE ABOVE INFORMATION AND MORE IS POSTED AT;
http://www.adapt.org/freeourpeople/2013/report03.php

Monday, April 22, 2013

Commentary: Disability Parking and No Parking Zones

as posted at CNNiReport...
By RMP2020 | Posted April 21, 2013 | Texas

Do grown adults not know what white or yellow diagonal slashes are on the pavement mean? or the international symbol for disability parking in the above picture mean?

Do they not teach this in school or drivers ed class? Being a wheelchair user I can not get out of my apartment when people park in the no parking zone blocking the ramp leading out of the apartment. Apartment management seems sympathetic, but not empathetic enough to take action quick enough. I spent 2 hours yesterday trying to get them to ticket and tow the vehicle, but they insisted on trying to make nice and try to contact and educate the offender! They should know they parked in the wrong. They are supposedly responsible enough to drive. TOW THEM NOW not 6-7 hours later! Thoughts?


(Note the picture above represents how the car we dealt with yesterday as parked, it's not the actual car or apartment we reside in picture a row of car stalls and a curb with a ramp coming down from the curb into the top of the no parking spot and the car parked right up against the ramp).

What do you think of this story?
Leave feedback at CNNiReport: CLICK HERE

DISABILITY RIGHTS ACTIVISTS "ADAPT" DEMAND NATIONAL SOCIAL PROGRAMS | April 2013

as posted by Adapt

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Bruce Darling, 585-370-6690
Adam Ballard, 708-945-3893

DISABILITY RIGHTS ACTIVISTS DEMAND NATIONAL SOCIAL PROGRAMS ACCOUNTABILITY
IN WASHINGTON DC APRIL 22-24; PROTESTS EXPECTED

ADAPT Urges Obama Administration to Keep Its Promises on Community Living
for People with Disabilities


Washington, DC -- As the nation faces down the effects of sequester cuts
and debates the future of social programs, the national disability rights
group ADAPT will be in the nation's capital for protest actions concerning
Medicaid and home services beginning Monday, April 22 following its annual
FUN*RUN on April 21, beginning at 1 pm in Upper Senate Park.

Several hundred ADAPT activists from around the US will converge on the
nation's capital to spread ADAPT's message of "Our Homes! Not Nursing
Homes!" The civil disobedience at ADAPT actions has historically led to
mass arrests of activists, such as last April when 74 ADAPTers, including
actor Noah Wyle, were arrested for protesting Medicaid cuts in the Cannon
House Office Building.

"We have not and cannot allow the values of independence and community
living to be threatened by proposed austerity policies that totally
disregard the basic supports that keep millions of people with
disabilities thriving in the community," said David Wittie of ADAPT of
Texas. "We are coming to DC to once again hold public officials
accountable to the human rights of people with disabilities, who are often
the poorest of the poor."


ADAPT will hold the Obama administration and other offices accountable for
unfulfilled promises made regarding community living and attendant
services, which would enable millions of people with disabilities to lead
independent lives, stay out of institutions and work in their communities.
While some progress has been made, according to Chicago ADAPT member Scott
Nance, "Officials in several Cabinet-level departments as well as the
Administration itself need to hear how inaction and poor decision-making
on their part threatens the everyday life of people with disabilities and
their attendants."

# # #

FOR MORE INFORMATION on ADAPT visit website at: http://www.adapt.org/

U.S. Access Board Advisory Committee on Medical Diagnostic Equipment to Meet May 7 & 8, 2013

The Access Board’s Medical Diagnostic Equipment Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee will hold its next meeting May 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C.

Further details are posted on the Board’s website. For more information, contact Rex Pace at pace@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0023 (v), or (202) 272-0052 (TTY). Committee meetings are open to the public. Members of the public can follow the proceedings remotely through a toll-free conference line and online real-time transcription.
MDE Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee Meeting
May 7 and 8
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.

Call-in option (listening only):
Dial: (888) 603-7094
Passcode: 6317703

Real-time transcription:
[The link will be posted on the MDE homepage.]

For Medical Diagnostic Equipment info: CLICK HERE

For U.S. Access Board homepage: CLICK HERE

The 6th Annual C4 Miles Run/Walk - May 4, 2013 - Community Counseling Centers of Chicago



C4 Miles: Making Strides 4 Mental Health

Date: Saturday, May 4
Time: 10:00 a.m. Start
Location: Cannon Drive & Fullerton Pkwy | Chicago
Beneficiary: Community Counseling Centers of Chicago

Don't Wait! The 6th Annual C4 Miles Run/Walk is just around the corner. Support C4's largest fundraiser of the year, get fit and have fun!

Registration includes race fees, timing chip, tech t-shirt,
community cook-out, fun and games for the whole family.

Recruit 3 or more friends and receive a $5 refund!
First 200 registrants will receive an exciting FREE gift!

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!

Want to help C4 Miles fundraising efforts?
CLICK HERE TO HELP!

Community Counseling Centers of Chicago
4740 N. Clark, Chicago, Illinois 60640 | 773-769-0205
www.C4chicago.org

Disabled Athlete Mary Kate Callahan, Scores a Big Win for Disabled Competitors in Illinois

THIS INSPIRING STORY BROUGHT TO YOU BY GRAPE-NUTS
Sponsored by Post Grape-Nuts


A Chicago-area swimmer rose to the challenge to fight rules that discriminated against disabled athletes.


[photo: Mary Kate Callahan, of La Grange, IL, is enjoying her senior year at Fenwick High School in Oak Park. In November, Mary Kate was allowed to participate in state swimming competition after reaching a legal settlement with the Illinois High School Association to change competition rules and allow disabled athletes to enter. Credit Mary Compton]

Nothing bothers Mary Kate Callahan. Now an active teen, Callahan’s life changed when she was 5 months old. A virus attacked her spinal cord and left her paralyzed from the waist down.

“I didn’t let that stop me,” Callahan says.

Despite this challenge, she has accomplished more during the past few years than many do in a lifetime. Callahan visits schools and speaks to children about overcoming obstacles. She took third place in a triathlon. But her biggest success came in changing Illinois High School Association guidelines to allow disabled high school students to compete at state competition.

“You won’t find me driving a van with a lift. That’s not me. My parents always wanted me to be as independent as possible. They treated me just like my older brothers. I knew if I had the right mindset anything would be possible.”

Q. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve taken on?

A. When I joined Fenwick High School's swim team, I knew I wanted to be a full member of the team. My coaches were great, I felt part of the team. However, for most of my high school swimming career the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) refused to adopt standards to allow athletes with disabilities to compete at state championships. This was the first time in my life I felt like I was being pushed to the sidelines because of my disability.

So in May of 2012, the Illinois attorney general, Equip for Equality and I filed a lawsuit against the IHSA.



Q. What inspired you to take this challenge?

A. This was something that was close to my heart because I never want any child with a disability to feel different because they have a different kind of ability. Disabled athletes are just as much of an athlete as any other athlete out there. I think that’s the most misunderstood thought in society today. People need to realize we train just as hard. We have the same thrill for competition. I wanted to do this for the kids who were just starting high school so they won’t have to fight for this basic thing. Sports play such a big role in a student's high school experience by teaching athletes so many life lessons.

Q. Did you succeed?

A. I did succeed. This past November, seven girls dove into the water for the first time at the IHSA swimming state championships. Seven girls who were once told they couldn’t participate due to their physical disability. After our first race was over, I remember looking at the crowd on their feet cheering for us because we were now true athletes, not disabled athletes. I know history was made in Illinois that day. And that day changed so many lives. It was a small step to show the country disabled athletes are ATHLETES.

After Mary Kate was diagnosed with transverse myelitis in 1995, her parents started the Claddagh Foundation. The Claddagh Foundation was established to raise money for research to find a cure for paralysis. To this day, the Claddagh has raised more than $3 million dollars to help find a cure so one day people will be able to walk again. The Claddagh Foundation donates most of the money to the Miami Project to cure paralysis.

Related Post: Read about Mary Kate Callahan's journey on Oak Park Patch.

This article is posted throughout the Chicago-area Patch network.

About this column: We’re dedicating the months of April and May to telling the stories of people in the Chicago area who have overcome challenges, creating positive change in their own lives or in communities. Sponsored by Grape-Nuts.

University of Illinois at Chicago program focuses on Disability Studies



April 14, 2013 (WLS) -- Pop culture has a lot of influence on the way people think, including stereotypes about people with disabilities.

Experts in the field of disability studies have identified elements that contribute to stereotyping of people with disabilities.

"Where do people get this assumption that's it's so beautiful? That you're out in public, that you got up this morning. It's so amazing they get this from the popular culture narrative," said Alyson Patsavas, a PhD student in disability studies at University of Illinois at Chicago.

"You have people that don't experience disabilities, that don't have disabilities, writing stories based on what they imagine life with a disability would be like," she said.

Alyson also says often times, people with disabilities are not involved in the storytelling or acting process when it comes situations in television and film.

"You get repeated narratives that often bear little resemblance to how disabled people experience their lives," Alyson said.

"One thing that we've heard from our friends in Hollywood who have disabilities who are trying to break in is that there's a huge stigma; once you've identified as an actor with a disability, you get put into certain casting pools," said Carrie Sandahl, a professor and director of the graduate program.

"The Screen Actors guild commissioned a study that shows only one-half of 1 percent of words spoken on television are by people with disabilities," Sandahl said.

However, the professor feels people with disabilities are starting to take control.

"When we see representations in the media that we feel represent more closely out lived experience&or are interesting to us, we let the media know," said Sandahl.

"You have a lot of blog creativity. You have websites. You see people with disabilities kind of taking the media that they can control, and there's really a ton of stuff out there that is, I think, showing a readiness for us to enter more forcefully pop culture," said Sandahl.

To learn more about the disability studies program at UIC go to http://www.uic.edu/gcat/AHDIS.shtml.

Article by Karen Meyer, disability issues, ABC7 Chicago
For more ABC7 Disability Issues; CLICK HERE

(Copyright ©2013 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Judges' lawsuit: Disability system 'in crisis' - overwhelmed by so many claims for Social Security Disability | April 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Social Security’s disability program is overwhelmed by so many claims that judges sometimes award benefits they might otherwise deny just to keep up with the flow of cases, according to a lawsuit filed by the judges themselves.

The Social Security Administration says the agency’s administrative law judges should decide 500 to 700 disability cases a year. The agency calls the standard a productivity goal, but the lawsuit claims it is an illegal quota that requires judges to decide an average of more than two cases per workday.

‘‘When the goals are too high, the easy way out is to pay the case,’’ said Randall Frye, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges and a judge in Charlotte, N.C. ‘‘Paying the case is a decision that might be three pages long. When you deny benefits, it’s usually a 15- or 20-page denial that takes a lot more time and effort.’’


The lawsuit raises serious questions about the integrity of the disability hearing process by the very people in charge of running it. It comes as the disability program faces serious financial problems.

The disability program’s trust fund will run out of money in 2016, according to projections by Social Security’s trustees. At that point, the system will collect only enough money in payroll taxes to pay 79 percent of benefits. That would trigger an automatic 21 percent cut in benefits.

Congress could redirect money from Social Security’s much bigger retirement program to shore up the disability program, as it did in 1994. But that would worsen the finances of the retirement program, which is facing its own long-term financial problems.

The lawsuit was filed by the judges’ union and three judges on Thursday in federal court in Chicago. It names the agency and Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin as defendants. Colvin took over in February after Commissioner Michael Astrue’s six-year term expired.

The union announced the lawsuit at a press conference Friday in Washington. A Social Security spokesman declined to comment. In an interview, Astrue disputed the union’s claims.

‘‘What’s really happening here is that the judges’ union doesn’t want accountability of its members and it’s been trying to sell this story to the media and to the Congress and to the agency for a very long time,’’ Astrue said. ‘‘And no one’s buying it because it’s not true, and no federal judge is going to buy this story, either.’’

‘‘There are a very small number of malcontents who want to litigate or put political pressure on the agency rather than do their work,’’ Astrue said.

The union represents 1,400 administrative law judges. Its lawsuit describes a disability system in crisis.

About 3.2 million people applied for disability benefits last year, a 25 percent increase from a decade before. Claims have increased in part because of aging baby boomers. As people get older, they become more prone to disabilities.

Disability claims also typically increase when the economy sours. Some people who manage to work despite their disabilities get laid off and apply for benefits, while others apply out of economic desperation.

When people apply for Social Security disability benefits, their cases are initially reviewed by state offices, which reject most claims. If your claim is rejected, you can appeal to an administrative law judge. But the hearing process takes an average of 373 days — a little more than a year — according to agency statistics.

Astrue said the average processing time for a hearing peaked at 542 days shortly after he took over the agency. He said public outcry over the backlog led him to adopt productivity standards in 2007, which helped reduce the wait time.

The hearing process, which is closed to the public, is different from a civil lawsuit or a criminal trial. There is no lawyer for the government. Instead, judges are expected to be impartial decision-makers while protecting the interest of taxpayers and ensuring that applicants get fair hearings. Most applicants have legal representation by the time their claim results in a hearing, the lawsuit says.

Frye said he has never awarded benefits just to clear a case faster, and he couldn’t name any judges who have.

‘‘It’s hard for anyone to say a judge is willingly deciding cases incorrectly just to meet the quota,’’ Frye said. ‘‘What they have told us is they are not reviewing all of the evidence, they are not developing the case as they should, and from that I think you can clearly see that the case may not be or could not be correctly decided.’’

The lawsuit says case quotes violate judges’ independence and deny due process rights to applicants.

‘‘Some ALJs respond by tending to grant more claims,’’ the lawsuit says. ‘‘For other ALJs, the quota impedes their ability to render carefully reasoned, impartial decisions based on a fully developed factual record.’’

The lawsuit says judges are expected to meet their quotas, regardless of how complicated their cases are, even though many case files exceed 500 pages. Judges have been disciplined for missing the quota, including receiving formal reprimands and facing removal proceedings, according to the lawsuit.

Nearly 11 million disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security disability benefits. That’s up from 7.6 million a decade ago. The average monthly benefit for a disabled worker is $1,130.

In 2011, Social Security disability paid about $129 billion in benefits.

article By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER / Associated Press / April 19, 2013

Illinois House passes reform bill (H.B. 948) changing care for disabled adults

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House on Friday unanimously passed a proposed state law to reform the way the state meets its responsibilities to protect disabled adults living at home from abuse and neglect.

H.B. 948 will now move on to the Senate, where its main sponsor is Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton.

The bill's main sponsor in the House is Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who worked with advocates for the disabled, other legislators and a team from the office of Gov. Pat Quinn to reform care of disabled adults following a series of investigative stories in the Belleville News-Democrat.

"I am very thankful that after a year of hard work of all concerned and following the reporting of the Belleville News-Democrat," Harris said, "we have in place a system that will prevent further tragedy (involving homebound disabled adults)."

The BND last year reported that the current agency responsible for the protection of the disabled adults -- the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services -- failed to investigate at least 53 deaths of the disabled between 2003 and 2011. The newspaper also reported that hundreds of call to a statewide abuse and neglect hotline were essentially ignored.

The main provisions of the proposed law would:

* Turn over to the Department on Aging the responsibility to develop a system "to investigate the abuse and neglect," of homebound disabled adults.

* Set up an exploratory committee to find the best way to establish a more responsive statewide abuse hotline.

* Require that state police be trained to "recognize the signs of abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and self neglect of adults with disabilities and older adults."

* Set up committees around the state consisting of members of the following professions: "banking, disability care, healthcare, law, law enforcement, mental health care and clergy," to act in an advisory role and "provide professional knowledge in the handling of complex abuse cases."

The panels members would be directed that if they find that a disabled adult's death is due to "neglect or abuse," they must "... immediately report and follow up if need be, to local law enforcement and the coroner."

By GEORGE PAWLACZYK — News-Democrat - BND.Com
Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/2013/04/19/2584076/house-passes-reform-bill-changing.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bodies of Work Festival, artists with disabilities, Chicago May 15-25, 2013

The art of disability on display at Bodies of Work
The festival puts people with disabilities on the stage, on the screen, behind the mike, and—just as importantly—in the audience.

[photo: The Oak Park dance troupe Momenta, which includes both disabled and nondisabled dancers, will give a performance called Counter Balance.]

By Aimee Levitt | Chicago Reader | May 07, 2013

If the Bodies of Work Festival succeeds in its mission, the arts community in Chicago will start thinking about artists and audiences with disabilities. Not think of them in a whole new way. Just be aware of their existence.

"We want to get people to think about disability not as some problem to be solved but as different needs to be explored," says Carrie Sandahl, the director of the festival and a professor in the department of disability and human development at the University of Illinois-Chicago. "Most people don't think much about disability beyond the stereotypes."

One of the worst stereotypes about art by disabled artists is that it's amateur work—created as therapy, displayed as an act of kindness, and worthy, at best, of the label "outsider art." And though the Bodies of Work organization does encourage the work of young and emerging artists in various events it hosts throughout the year, the first major decision Sandahl made in creating this year's festival was to showcase only the work of professional artists.

The first Bodies of Work Festival was in 2006, but it's been on hiatus since then. "No one was willing to take leadership," Sandahl explains, "and people don't fund festivals." Sandahl took over as the head of Bodies of Work in 2010 and spent several years, as she puts it, building a track record of events in order to gain experience and attract funding. Now, thanks to small grants and volunteers, the Bodies of Work Festival is launching again.

"We want people to think about disability outside the tired cliche of the inspirational, tragic, overcoming narrative," Sandahl says. "Disability art and culture is identity-based. It's about different sources of creativity rather than something to overcome. We want people to get the sense that they're seeing cutting-edge professional work."


[photo: Oakland-based multimedia artist Lisa Bufano dances with stilts she made herself.]

This year's festival includes plays, readings of novels and poetry, visual art, film, and dance. The artists come from as near as Chicago and as far as Australia. Some of their work, as might be expected, deals with medical issues, both from the perspective of the patients and of their caretakers. Other artists describe living with a range of disabilities, from severe depression to the aftereffects of torture. Some investigate the physical aspects of disability, including pain, body image, and unconventional ways of using the body, like how to experience sound without hearing it or dance without using your legs.

"Dance is movement in time and space," says Ginger Lane, a dancer who uses a motorized wheelchair. "Whatever locomotion you use, you incorporate the parts of the body you have."

Lane will be appearing with the Oak Park troupe Momenta, which includes both disabled and nondisabled dancers, in a performance called Counter Balance. She considers her chair an extension of her body. Sometimes she uses it to mimic the movements of dancers who have use of their legs, spinning instead of pirouetting, accelerating instead of leaping. But mostly she thinks of it not as a substitute but as another element to add to the dance.

Disability, as Sandahl defines it, is about how a person with a physical, sensory, or cognitive impairment interacts with her environment. This idea is integral to the work of many performers appearing in the festival. Lisa Bufano, a dancer and multimedia artist from Oakland who will also be performing in Counter Balance, lost her feet and fingers 20 years ago to a bacterial infection. When she dances, she holds up her body with stilts she made herself. The effect is arresting.

The fact that the artists involved with the festival are disabled doesn't excuse them from the larger responsibilities of making art—that is, investigating the human condition beyond their own experience. Take Stephen Dwoskin, an experimental filmmaker who died last summer. He used his disability as an entry into a larger conversation about prejudice, race, and class.

"His films were never overtly about disability," says Yolanda Cursach, associate director of performance programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be screening four of Dwoskin's films during the festival. Some of these, like the documentary Ballet Black, about the first black dance troupe in Europe, aren't about disability at all. But they're informed by Dwoskin's own experiences.

Dwoskin contracted polio when he was nine and spent most of his adolescence in rehabilitation, including time in an iron lung. Most of his interactions with other people were strictly clinical, Cursach says, which led to a sense of alienation. In his films, Dwoskin used extreme close-ups to create the effect that the subjects are examining the viewer—you. His most celebrated film, Pain Is . . ., which will be shown at Bodies of Work, explores what it's like to live with pain, not just from a disability or illness or injury, but also from self-inflicted pain and sadomasochism.

"It explores pain as a feeling, emotionally and culturally," says Cursach. "It's powerful stuff."

Bodies of Work is not just about art. It's also about the space where art is viewed, and not just as some vague conceptual idea. There are still many performance spaces that are inaccessible.

A few weeks ago, Sandahl and her Bodies of Work colleagues, along with representatives from the Mayor's Office for People With Disabilities, led two disability awareness training sessions for the managers of the 13 venues hosting the festival. They discussed such issues as what to do if someone in a wheelchair shows up after all the wheelchair seating is filled, or if a guide dog leads a blind person directly to the front of the line, cutting everyone else. And they discussed how to make disabled audience members feel as though they aren't imposing on the goodwill of the management when they request a sign-language interpreter, or the person sitting behind them when they sit in a motorized chair with a high back.

"This is a way for venues to test their policies and procedures," says Sandahl. "They can adjust spaces and think ahead."

Some spaces that may be perfectly accommodating for audiences, with accessible seating and accessible bathrooms, may be perfectly inaccessible for the performers backstage: no bathrooms, lots of stairs. "There's an assumption that disabled people are only audience members," Sandahl explains.

This is an assumption she knows well. Sandahl has a condition called sacral agenesis, which means she was born without a sacrum, or lower spine. She uses crutches and a wheelchair, and she spent a lot of time and energy during her years as a theater student and professor negotiating narrow hallways and extra stairs.

"I'm 45," she says. "I was part of the first mainstreamed generation. I got very good at getting around nonaccessible spaces. You had to overcome it with pluck or spunk. What else could you do? People my age are good at being included—if nothing has to change."

The younger generation that grew up with the Americans With Disabilities Act (it went into effect in 1992) is more aware of its rights and less afraid to demand them. So, oddly enough, is the baby boom generation, who may have developed some impairments as they've grown older but don't necessarily see themselves as "disabled."

"Now the environment has to change, not the person," says Sandahl. "Disability art has an ethic that you wouldn't perform art in a space that's not accessible to others with disabilities."

That's not always possible with historic buildings. The International Museum of Surgical Science, for instance, wanted to help host the festival, but there was no way to make the building completely accessible in time. (Sandahl says the museum is working on its accessibility.)

Accessibility isn't just a physical issue. It's also financial. Many disabled people live on social security and a limited income. Just getting around can be a hassle—buses or paratransit instead of the el. Sandahl wants to make sure as many disabled people get to the festival as possible, so she's urged all the venues to keep their ticket prices low. Disabled people, after all, are Bodies of Work's target audience.

But so are the able-bodied who may have never given much thought to what it means not just to be a disabled person creating art, but to be a disabled person viewing it.

"The majority of the audiences will be nondisabled," Sandahl says, "but there will be many more people with disabilities than most people are used to seeing."

Chicago Reader article; http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/bodies-of-work-festival-disability-arts-culture/Content?oid=9562482

Bodies of Work Festival
Opening celebration Wed 5/15, 6-8:30 PM
Chicago Cultural Center, Preston Bradley Hall
78 E. Washington
free
Through 5/25: various times, venues, and prices, bodies​of​work​chicago​.org

# # #


BODIES OF WORK:
FESTIVAL OF DISABILITY ARTS AND CULTURE
CHICAGO, IL MAY 15-25, 2013
PRESENTING VENUES:
WOMAN MADE GALLERY,
CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER,
LOOKINGGLASS THEATRE,
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART CHICAGO,
ACCESS LIVING,
POETRY FOUNDATION,
HYDE PARK ART CENTER,
RAVEN THEATRE,
REVA AND DAVID LOGAN CENTER FOR THE ARTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO,
NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY’S MEDICAL HUMANITIES AND BIOETHICS PROGRAM,
VICTORY GARDENS THEATER, AND JANE ADDAMS HULL-HOUSE MUSEUM.

Bodies of Work (BOW) Festival is a an eleven day, multi-venue Chicago event featuring visual and performing arts that highlight the work of artists with disabilities. The festival celebrates national and international artists with disabilities who are creating today's cutting-edge theater, dance, literature, poetry, spoken word, film, and visual/performance art. It takes place at some of Chicago's most recognized cultural institutions, and includes free public panels and talks in conjunction with many of the events.

BOW Festival perceives disability art as playing a key role in articulating what disability means personally, politically, and aesthetically. Artists involved in the disability arts and culture movement consider their bodily, sensory, cognitive, and neurological differences as wellsprings of creativity that provide unique perspectives of the world. The movement is intimately tied to and has grown up alongside the disability civil rights movement, and the urgency and vibrancy shared by both are present in the beautiful and challenging work showcased in this festival.

“We are particularly excited about this year’s festival because of its focus on professional artists with disabilities whose work illuminates important issues and emerging aesthetics of our community as well as the larger arts community," said Carrie Sandahl, Bodies of Work Director and Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Bodies of Work: A Network of Disability Art and Culture is part of the Department of Disability and Human Development at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Eleven cultural/academic institutions and community groups are participating: Access Living’s Disability Arts and Culture Project, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Hyde Park Art Center, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, Lookingglass Theatre, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Poetry Foundation, Raven Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Woman Made Gallery. The 2013 Festival partners include all presenting venues plus Momenta Dance Company, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Chicago Cultural Center. All venues are wheelchair-accessible and have accessible restrooms. Many performances include audio description, word-forword captioning, and/or sign-language interpretation.

The 2013 Bodies of Work Festival of Disability Arts and Culture Opening Celebration is generously hosted by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The celebration takes place Wednesday, May 15, 6-8:30pm, at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Randolph Street,
Preston Bradley Hall. The evening’s honoree is Chicago playwright, Susan Nussbaum. A panel discussion, "Framing the Festival: A Critical Discussion on Disability Art and Culture” will address some of the history, trends, and cultural contexts of disability art in general, as well as specific representational and narrative strategies being presented at the BOW festival. The reception includes light refreshments and is free and open to the public.

BOW is a network of artists and organizations formed in 2002 that explore and celebrate the contributions of artists with disabilities and the contemporary contexts of disabled lives. With thought-provoking programs of disability arts and culture, BOW serves as a catalyst to illuminate the disability experience in new and unexpected ways. The organization also provides a forum for on-going programs that honor and explore the accomplishments of local, national and international artists. It offers information to cultural venues about providing access and accommodations for both artists and audiences with disabilities.

FOR THE FULL EVENT SCHEDULE, AND MUCH MORE ON THE "2013 Bodies of Work Festival of Disability Arts and Culture": CLICK HERE

Generous support for the 2013 Bodies of Work Festival is provided in part by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of People with Disabilities, Disability Resource Center and the Department of Disability and Human Development; Toby Tate; Steven Lee; 3Arts; City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities; Illinois Humanities Council; and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) : Helping the Poorest Elderly and Disabled Americans

The National Senior Citizens Law Center and Latinos for a Secure Retirement will host an event tomorrow to spotlight Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — an important but oft-ignored program that provides cash income to people who are disabled, blind, or elderly and have little income and few assets — and discuss ways to improve it.

President Nixon and Congress created SSI in 1972 to replace the matching grants to states that had created what the Social Security Administration (SSA) called a “crazy quilt” of aid to the aged, blind, and disabled. SSI is distinct from the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) programs commonly known as Social Security, though many SSI recipients have worked enough that they also collect Social Security and SSA runs both programs.

In December 2012, 8.3 million people collected SSI: 2.1 million people aged 65 or older, 4.9 million disabled adults aged 18-64, and 1.3 million severely disabled children under age 18. Until the deep economic downturn generated a modest uptick, SSI participation had generally been flat or falling as a share of the population since at least the mid-1990s (see graph).



SSI benefits alone don’t lift recipients out of poverty; the maximum benefits for individuals and couples (when both spouses qualify) are about 74 percent and 83 percent of the poverty level, respectively. But SSI is instrumental in reducing extreme poverty (incomes below half the poverty line). SSI benefits are lower when recipients have other income (or live in a Medicaid facility or with relatives who provide support), so the average federal payment is $500 a month.

Improvements in SSI should aim to boost participation among eligible people and make benefit levels more adequate. Possible reforms include raising the basic benefit, raising and indexing the badly outdated asset and income limits (the asset limits have been frozen since 1989), changing rules that discourage saving for retirement, and extending SSI eligibility for elderly or disabled refugees, a uniquely vulnerable group.

Related Posts:
SSI Provides Critical Support for Disabled Kids and Their Families

Failure to Fund Disability Reviews Is Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Rich Man, Poor Man: Lawmakers Should Raise and Index the SSI Asset Limits

Posted by: Kathy Ruffing, April 16, 2013
Kathy Ruffing is a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, specializing in federal budget issues.
as posted by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

RTA Chicago questions increase in free transit for 'low-income disabled'

Below is a portion of article By Richard Wronski, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 2013

Regional Transportation Authority officials say they are concerned about a spike in the number of free-ride permits for low-income disabled people being approved by the state.

Since January there has been a dramatic increase in permits for free rides on public transit, the RTA said Wednesday.

In March, for example, the number of permits rose to 740 compared with 352 approved in the same month of 2012, the RTA said.

"That's a big jump, and we're concerned," said Jordan Matyas, the RTA's chief of staff. "The numbers are doubling, and we want to ensure the proper safeguards are in place."

A spokeswoman for the state's Department on Aging said the agency is "confident in the manner in which seniors and persons with disabilities secure reduced rides on the RTA and other transit bodies."

The department said Wednesday that the verification process is now "fully automated," unlike in past years, and includes verification of age, income and disability of applicants.

The increase coincides with the elimination of state funding for the department's Circuit Breaker program. The program, which helped low-income seniors and disabled people with property taxes and prescriptions, was a victim of state budget cuts last year.

Circuit Breaker also was used to certify low-income senior citizens and disabled people for free rides on the CTA, Metra and Pace.

Gov. Pat Quinn last year asked the transit agencies to kick in $125,000 each to keep the program afloat, but that money ran out.

About 59,000 low-income people with disabilities ride free on the CTA, Metra and Pace, the RTA said. About 112,500 low-income senior citizens have free-ride permits.

Seniors regardless of income are eligible to ride transit for half the normal fare.

James Watkins, an advocate for the disabled and a member of the CTA and Pace advisory committees, said the poor economy could be to blame for the increase in the number of applicants for the free-ride permits.

He said people might also be under the mistaken belief that they need to reapply for their permits every year.

Officials, he said, "are doing a poor job of letting people know what's going on" since Circuit Breaker ended.

For the full article from the Chicago Tribune: CLICK HERE
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-17/news/ct-met-free-ride-permits-20130418_1_rta-board-free-rides-regional-transportation-authority