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

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Autism Speaks mourns the passing of Co-founder Suzanne Wright


July 29, 2016 Press Release:  Autism Speaks announced today that its co-founder Suzanne Wright died this afternoon, Friday, July 29, at her home in Fairfield, CT. Suzanne, who fought a courageous nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer, was surrounded by her family at the time of her death. She was 69.

Autism Speaks Chairman of the Board of Directors Brian Kelly and President and CEO Angela Geiger honored Suzanne’s enduring legacy in a joint statement:

“What Suzanne Wright has done to raise awareness of autism is immeasurable. Even during the past few difficult months, her determination never wavered. For more than a decade, she has been a tireless advocate on the national and international stage: at the United Nations, on Capitol Hill, at Autism Speaks Walks nationwide, and in personal letters of support to individuals and families affected by autism. Suzanne sparked a global conversation with one question: How can we help people with autism live their best possible lives? Persuading the world to see the potential in each child and adult on the vast autism spectrum is her greatest legacy. As we look to the future, Autism Speaks remains committed to advancing the important mission she began.”

In 2005, Suzanne and her husband, Bob Wright, co-founded Autism Speaks after their grandson, Christian, was diagnosed with autism. Guided by the Wrights’ leadership and vision, Autism Speaks has since grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization.



At the helm of Autism Speaks, Suzanne helped create the iconic blue puzzle-piece logo that is now recognized around the world to represent autism. Working with the Ad Council and BBDO Worldwide, Suzanne and Bob Wright launched a ten-year public service announcement campaign that is credited with educating countless families about the early signs of autism. Suzanne also led Autism Speaks’ signature global awareness initiatives. Her indefatigable determination was key to persuading the United Nations to establish April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day, establishing the annual World Focus on Autism, and launching the international Light It Up Blue campaign, which this year lit landmarks, buildings and homes in 157 countries.

As part of the United Nations’ World Autism Awareness Day, Suzanne addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly every year for eight consecutive years. In addition, in conjunction with this event, she organized and hosted the annual World Focus on Autism, an unprecedented gathering of first ladies and dignitaries from around the world, devoted to planning and coordinating efforts to raise autism awareness. In November 2014, Suzanne spoke at the Vatican’s first-ever conference on autism, where she called for all nations and faiths to “walk next to the 70 million children, teens and adults with autism around the world every day.”

Suzanne was born in the Bronx on December 16, 1946. She was the daughter of James Werner, a lieutenant in the New York Police Department and combat veteran of World War II, and Ruth Tobin Werner, a homemaker. Suzanne was raised in West Hempstead, Long Island. As a high school senior, she met her future husband when she attended a dance at the College of the Holy Cross, where Bob was a student. She knew immediately that he would become her husband.

They married in 1967, between Bob’s second and third year of law school at the University of Virginia School of Law, and moved into married student housing on campus. To help support her husband, Suzanne took a job as the assistant to the manager of the Monticello Hotel.

Suzanne’s education and career ambitions were put on hold while she focused on raising her three children and supporting Bob in his legal and business career, which included a federal court legal clerkship, private legal practice, positions of increasing responsibility at General Electric, and the role of president of Cox Enterprises. In 1986, he was named president and CEO of NBC. She moved her household 11 times in her first 15 years of marriage.

Suzanne quickly became a vital part of the culture at NBC, helping to make the company a warm place where people felt valued and their contributions appreciated. Countless employees were touched by her acts of kindness over the twenty years that she and Bob were part of NBC. Suzanne never hesitated to reach out to members of her NBC family, whether in times of need or celebration.

Her commitment to her husband and to NBC did not keep her from pursuing her dream of earning her college degree. After several years of hard work, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1998.

In addition to her work with Autism Speaks, Suzanne had an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, primarily focused on helping children. She served on the board of directors for several organizations, including Make-A-Wish Metro New York, the Laura Pels Foundation, the Inner-City Foundation for Charity & Education, and the Philadelphia-based Champions of Caring Project. Suzanne was a trustee emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater, and served on the board of the Tony Randall Theatrical Fund. She also received numerous awards, including the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the Child Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement Award from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women’s Division, and the Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

In 2008, Suzanne and Bob were named in Time 100’s “Heroes and Pioneers” category for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They also received the first Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Dr. James Watson and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award, and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. The Wrights have received honorary doctorates from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Bob serves on the corporate advisory board of the Lustgarten Foundation, the nation’s largest private nonprofit funder of pancreatic cancer research.

Suzanne is survived by her husband of 48 years, her sister Jayne Tobin, her brothers James and Dennis Werner and three children, Catherine Anne, Christopher James, and Maggie Suzanne. A fourth child, Sarah Suzanne, died in infancy. Suzanne is also survived by six grandchildren, Christian, Mattias, Morgan, Maise, Alex and Sloan. Many aspects of her life and work are prominent in Bob Wright’s recent book, “The Wright Stuff.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Autism Speaks or the Lustgarten Foundation, which advances pancreatic cancer research.

#  from a Press Release by Autism Speaks on July 29, 2016.

Illinois Gov Rauner vetoes bill to protect current home care services for seniors and disabled eligibility

Illinois Gov. Rauner vetoed HB 4351 backed by advocates for disabled that would keep the state's Determination of Need (DON) Score and limiting eligibility score at 29, many with disabilities and seniors could lose services. Gov. Rauner is proposing to replace with for-profit ridesharing vouchers, food vouchers and dry-cleaning services as an untried, in Gov. Rauners attempt to eliminate the in-home caregivers.

# # #
from a Press Release on July 29, 2016

Veto Message for HB 4351
To the Honorable Members of
The Illinois House of Representatives,
99th General Assembly:

Today I veto House Bill 4351 from the 99th General Assembly, which would amend the Illinois Act on Aging to restrict the State’s flexibility in how we assess and serve Illinois’s elderly and physically disabled residents.

This bill is very similar to House Bill 2482, passed by the General Assembly last year, and which I returned with an amendatory veto for many of the same concerns I raise today. Although well intentioned, this bill would lead to serious unintended consequences.

First, this bill would lock into statute that an individual with a particular threshold score on the Determination of Need (DON) assessment tool would be eligible for both institutional and home and community-based long term care services. Instead, an individual with the threshold score should be entitled to institutional or home and community-based care. Many members of the General Assembly have long worked to transition the state from a reliance on institutional-based care to a focus on community care options that improve patient quality and cost efficiency. However, House Bill 4351 inhibits this transformation in the way the State delivers services for the elderly and disabled.

Second, to the extent that a motivating factor behind this legislation is to preclude a raise in the minimum DON score used to determine eligibility—as originally contemplated under the SMART Act (Public Act 97-0689)—I have no intention of raising the DON score. In light of this commitment, there can be no good reason to unnecessarily restrict the State’s ability to move from institutional-based care to community-based care through this legislation.

Finally, this bill would inhibit the Illinois Department on Aging from creating a new program, the Community Reinvestment Program (CRP). This program is designed to provide a multitude of flexible services for non-Medicaid individuals currently being served under the Community Care Program (CCP), and it furthers the State’s commitment to serving individuals in their own home and community rather than in nursing homes. CRP is also projected to produce savings of nearly $200 million during the next fiscal year. By precluding the launch of CRP, this bill would prevent the State from managing ever-rising costs and jeopardize our ability to ensure that essential community services remain available for the approximately 44,000 non-Medicaid persons now served by CCP.

Therefore, pursuant to Section 9(b) of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, I hereby return House Bill 4351, entitled “AN ACT concerning public aid”, with the foregoing objections, vetoed in its entirety.

Sincerely,
Bruce Rauner
GOVERNOR

Friday, July 29, 2016

Chicago Public Schools Special Education Programs Failing Despite Higher Costs

Chicago Public Schools is preparing to overhaul its special education programs, citing persistently low test scores for disabled students, insufficient oversight and a lack consistent standards even as costs have grown.
informative article by Juan Perez Jr. for the Chicago Tribune | July 26,2016
Among several issues outlined in a 14-page report, African-American and Hispanic boys are far more likely than white counterparts to be identified as candidates for special education. "There may be legitimate reasons for these occurrences, but the numbers certainly raise questions of potential racial bias or incorrect diagnoses," the report says.

"These conditions and outcomes are disappointing and unacceptable," says the CPS report, which was prepared with the help of consultants. "We must find a better way to effectively and efficiently diagnose and support students with disabilities and to ensure that they achieve."

The district's acknowledgment that the achievement gap between special education students and other students "remains stubbornly wide" was welcomed by Rodney Estvan of the Access Living disability rights organization, even as he noted the potential pitfalls facing efforts to change the highly regulated special education system.

Estvan said the high rate of male minority special education students reflects national trends. "This is not news and it's unlikely CPS will be able to do anything about this," Estvan said in an email.

Estvan said he is concerned that attempts to address the problem will result in simply decreasing the number of students identified as needing special education.

"CPS has a right to attempt to contain its special education costs, but for those of us in the disability advocacy community, the federal requirement that students with disabilities be proactively sought out and identified is very critical," Estvan said.

CPS special education report (pdf)

The report cites "few standards or procedures" to guide special education referral, evaluation and eligibility decisions, and concludes that the central office has insufficient resources to monitor that work.

School counselors are often forced to neglect normal duties to manage special education cases, CPS said, while limited technology makes it difficult to monitor compliance with legally mandated special education plans and assess how students are performing.

The district says it will hire about 30 supervisors to help train and consult with school-based staff.

"We're grappling with a national issue here, it's not just Chicago," said Patrick Baccellieri, who was recently appointed to lead special education at CPS.

"This isn't about savings," Baccellieri said. "It's not about how much are we saving. The real work is to get better instructional goals, better instruction happening, and focused supports on the needs of kids."

Baccellieri's deputy, Elizabeth Keenan, said the district doesn't "anticipate what's going to happen with the number of students in special needs being identified."

"We want to just kind of level the playing field and try figure out what's going to happen," she said.

The percentage of students with individualized education programs at CPS has trailed statewide averages in recent years. The Illinois State Board of Education has told the federal government that the state has policies to "prevent the inappropriate overidentification or disproportionate representation" of special education students based on race or ethnicity.

A district spokeswoman said the state board hasn't identified CPS as having disproportionate enrollment in its special education programs. Such a finding would prompt costly sanctions.

Despite dwindling overall enrollment, the report says the number of students needing special education plans grew to slightly more than 52,000 last year, compared with just more than 49,000 in the 2009-10 school year. In addition, the number of students with accommodations for physical or mental impairments grew to nearly 13,000 by last fall, up from about 5,200 six years earlier, as federal law expanded the pool of students eligible for those services.

The CPS report says boys comprise two-thirds of students with disabilities. Roughly 1 in 5 male African-American and Hispanic students, the report says, is identified as needing specialized instruction or related services.

The district spent $900 million on special education in 2015, up from $791 million in 2010, according to the report. The district said the rising layout has yielded little return.

"Today, CPS spends more money on average for students with disabilities than at any time during the previous five years despite realizing few broad improvements in student achievement or other outcomes," the report says.

"Looking ahead," the report says, "We recognize that an unprecedented and highly coordinated set of actions at the District, network, and school levels is needed to close the achievement gap and meet the needs of students with disabilities."
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-schools-special-education-changes-met-20160726-story.html

Lorraine Johnson of Chicago Charged with Fraud Against Chicago Housing Authority and Social Security Disability

from a Press Release on July 25, 2016 
Chicago Housing Authority Office of the Inspector General

CHICAGO WOMAN CHARGED WITH FRAUD AGAINST CHA, SOCIAL SECURITY


A Chicago woman has been indicted on federal wire and mail fraud charges for allegedly using two social security numbers to fraudulently obtain a Chicago Housing Authority Housing Choice Voucher and Social Security benefits to which she was not entitled.
The indictment against Lorraine Johnson, 53, was returned on July 21 by a grand jury sitting in U.S. District Court in Chicago. It alleges that Johnson used two different Social Security numbers to conceal her work activity, income and assets from the Chicago Housing Authority and the Social Security Administration.  Johnson received federal disability benefits and housing subsidies under one Social Security number, while working under a different Social Security number, according to the indictment.  Johnson also submitted false documents, including an altered warranty deed, to the Chicago Housing Authority that identified a relative as the owner and landlord of a house that Johnson owned, the indictment states. 
According to the indictment, between August 2003 and June 2016, Johnson obtained approximately $212,165 in illegal benefits.
The investigation was initiated by the CHA’s Office of the Inspector General, which worked jointly with the Chicago Field Division of SSA’s Office of the Inspector General.  The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.  The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Jodrey.
“We applaud the investigative efforts of CHA’s OIG, the federal government and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for uncovering and taking action against this alleged fraud,” said CHA CEO Eugene Jones, Jr. “We are committed to working with CHA’s OIG and other investigative agencies to ensure that people who want to commit fraud are brought to justice.”
“This is not a victimless crime. Stealing money from CHA and Social Security disability funds is a crime against all taxpayers,” said CHA Inspector General Elissa Rhee-Lee. “These types of crimes deprive the worthy citizens who need and deserve affordable housing and disability assistance. The message should be loud and clear that the OIG will pursue, root out and prosecute those individuals committing crimes against the taxpayers.”
The public is reminded that charges are not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Public Comment Period Extended til Oct. 7, 2016 for State & Local Government Web Accessibility Rulemaking

(July 29, 2016) U.S. Department of Justice Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta approved an extension of the public comment period for the Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities. The public comment period will be extended for 60 days, and will now close on October 7, 2016.

Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM): Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities.  The SANPRM is also available on FederalRegister.gov (PDF | HTML). The comment period originally closed on August 8, 2016. The Department extended the comment period for an additional 60 days and it will close on October 7, 2016.

More information is available at https://www.ada.gov/newproposed_regs.htm.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice

Will Texas Abandon Sheltered Workshops, a system that pays disabled workers pennies per hour?

Pressure is rising to end system that allows disabled workers to be paid pennies per hour

Seventy years ago, Goodwill Industries of Houston was founded in order to employ people with disabilities whom nobody else would hire.

nice article by By Lydia DePillis for the Houston Chronicle | July 21, 2016

That whole time, a portion of those with the most severe disabilities have been paid less than minimum wage, which is allowed under a 1938 federal law enacted on the grounds that even a small paycheck is better than none. About 40 people perform tasks like stuffing bags for giveaways, or re-packaging a retailer’s returns, for a few cents an item.

At the end of July, that program came to an end — not because any laws have changed, but because Goodwill sees where the political winds are blowing.
"There’s a lot of pressure from disability rights organizations locally and nationally to change the law,” says Goodwill of Houston spokeswoman Kym King. “Part of our decision was that this was coming, and we wanted to be proactive about that.”
Only four out of the 15 Goodwills in Texas are still authorized to pay workers less than minimum wage. Many of the organization’s 165 individual outlets have already gotten out of the business. Why? Disability advocates have long argued that allowing workers to be paid less than minimum wage in segregated work environments — known as “sheltered workshops” — is disempowering and unfair.

After years of complaints, the federal government has started to curtail the practice, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has come out against it altogether, and some states have passed laws that effectively ban it in favor of services that help people with disabilities find decent-paying work.

None of that has happened yet in Texas, where the latest figures from the Department of Labor show that 10,000 people with disabilities are paid less than minimum wage. But pressure is mounting, as advocates push for the decades-old model to be replaced with something better.

Disability Rights Texas, a federally-designated protection and advocacy group, issued a report last month that lays out the case for scrapping the subminimum wage, sometimes called 14(c) employment after the section of the Fair Labor Standards Act that sanctions it. The organization interviewed 100 clients from 12 out of the state’s 109 organizations authorized to employ people with disabilities for subminimum wages, and found that the system isn’t working for the people it’s supposed to serve.

“People with disabilities are being underpaid to an extreme degree, are not developing any meaningful job skills and are denied the opportunity to find competitive, integrated employment,” the report reads. “Texas has before it both an opportunity, and an obligation, to ensure people with disabilities have access to the same employment opportunities as all other Texas citizens.”

The group did not name the institutions it targeted in its investigation, says supervisory attorney Lucia Ostrom, to protect interviewees against retaliation. But the report said that these nameless employers often do not provide the training that workers are supposed to receive, wages are frequently miscalculated and the state’s vocational rehabilitation system is failing to place them in mainstream positions.

Disability Rights Texas also provided to the Houston Chronicle a list of the 109 organizations that hold 14(c) certificates as of January 2016. Among the largest is North Texas Rehabilitation Services in Garland, which had 321 employees being paid less than minimum wage, assembling products and store displays in a segregated environment. Shelonda Coleman, the non-profit’s CEO, is impatient with those out to abolish her business model.

“If you have the patience to train them to do the job, then go for it,” she says. Coleman agrees with disability rights advocates that it’s possible for all her workers to attain mainstream employment, but she thinks it would take more resources than are currently available to support them. “Okay, come and help us. We want your help,” she says. “We’re not trying to limit anyone. Our goal is to get them ready for the community.”

Goodwill Industries of Houston’s Kym King says she’s also nervous about will happen to those who had worked in the organization’s sheltered program. “It’s really not about the money for them. It’s about the quality of life that comes along with having a job, and the confidence that comes when you are part of the world of work,” she says. “If these individuals were able to be in a competitive work environment, we would have transitioned them already.”

The largest employer of workers with disabilities in Texas, however, is the state itself: North Texas State Hospital, a mental inpatient healthcare facility in Wichita Falls, employs 636 people for less than the minimum wage. The state also supports sheltered workshops by requiring that agencies hire 14(c) employers for contracts that were worth nearly $140 million in 2013, according to a review early last year.

That program, known as “state use,” is currently under scrutiny by the Texas Workforce Commission. In early 2014, a task force convened by a law passed the previous year also recommended that the state ensure all workers paid under state contracts be paid at least minimum wage by September 1, 2016, which would push many more employers out of the sheltered workshop business.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/texanomics/article/Pressure-is-rising-to-end-the-system-that-allows-8401348.php?t=76a48a308b438d9cbb&cmpid=fb-premium
© 2016 the Houston Chronicle

Thursday, July 28, 2016

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge financial success - related gene found

WASHINGTON — July 27, 2016 (AP) - The ALS Association is crediting money raised through the Ice Bucket Challenge for the discovery of a gene they say is among the most common that contribute to the progressive disease.

Those who accepted the challenge allowed buckets of ice water to be dumped on their heads to raise awareness of ALS.
The challenge became a viral sensation in 2014 and raised more than $100 million for the association. 
Some of that money helped fund a global effort to help find genetic drivers of the condition called Project MinE.

The ALS Association says a paper published this week in the journal Nature Genetics reveals Project MinE researchers have identified the NEK1 gene's connection to ALS. It says understanding the gene's role will help in developing new target therapy for ALS.


                                         Chicago Police take the ALS  Ice Bucket Challenge.


For Previous on ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge: CLICK HERE

U.S. Access Board Webinar (August 4): Accessible Parking and Passenger Loading Zones - Advanced Session


laptop with Access Board sealThe next webinar in the U.S. Access Board's free monthly series will take place August 4 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and provide an advanced session on accessible parking and passenger loading zones. Presenters will cover the number of parking spaces required to comply, location of spaces, van spaces, vertical clearances, alterations, signs, valet parking and other topics.

For more information or to register, visit www.accessibilityonline.org. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session (total limited to 25) or can be posed during the webinar. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits. The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site, including an earlier webinar providing a basic overview of the requirements for parking and passenger loading zones.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Anastasia Somoza, Disability Rights Advocate speaks at Democratic National Convention, responds to Donald Trump mocking of disabled


# # #

Anastasia Somoza stole the spotlight at the first night of the Democratic National Convention with a moving speech on Americans with disabilities.

nice article by Leinz Vales,  for CNN | July 26, 2016    
Somoza was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia when she was born and uses a wheelchair. She responded to Donald Trump's apparent mocking of a New York Times reporter in November 2015.

"I fear the day we elect a president who defines being an American in the narrowest possible of terms, who shouts, bullies and profits off of the vulnerable Americans," she said.

"Donald Trump has shown us who he really he is. I honestly feel bad for anyone with that much hate in their heart."

Somoza has been an advocate for people with disabilities since the 1990s. She appeared at a town hall meeting for kids in 1993 and asked President Bill Clinton a question.

She interned for Hillary Clinton in her U.S. Senate office and previously worked on Clinton's 2000 campaign for Senate.

"Over the past 23 years, she has continued to serve as a friend and mentor, championing my inclusion and access to classrooms, higher eduction and the workforce," she said.

"She has never lost touch with people like me. She has invested in me. She believes in me. And in a country where 56 million Americans with disabilities so often fill invisible, Hillary Clinton sees me."
Somoza continued to slam the Republican presidential nominee, saying he doesn't represent her.

"Donald Trump doesn't see me, he doesn't hear me, and he definitely doesn't speak for me," she said.
In an interview with CNN's Don Lemon, Somoza said she was "personally offended" by Trump mocking the appearance of the reporter with a physical disability and felt she had to speak out.

"Anyone who doesn't agree with him is stupid or wrong," she said. "That's not who we are in America."

In a Facebook Live, Somoza added why she could not support Trump.

"He's literally insulted almost every group, every person that makes up the fabric of our country," she said. "It's a campaign that feeds off of fear and division."
http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/25/politics/anastasia-somoza-democratic-national-convention-speech/

For a CNN Live interview with Anastasia Somoza after her speech at the Democratic National Convention: https://www.facebook.com/cnn/videos/10155088559596509/

Administrative Law Judge Improperly Denied Social Security Disability Benefits, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found an administrative law judge had improperly cherry picked a man’s medical record and reversed the denial of his disability benefits.
by Jennifer Nelson for The Indiana Lawyer,Com | July 26, 2016     
Mikeal G. Cole Jr. severely hurt his left wrist in 2000 while working as a welder, but eventually returned to work as a foreman in a factory. In 2008, he fell off a 10-foot ladder and landed on his right arm. He has since experienced significant and lasting pain in his right arm, despite therapy and surgeries.

After his workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits ran out, he applied for Social Security disability benefits, claiming his disability began with the fall off the ladder. He was examined by several physicians and medical professionals, and also a couple reviewed his file without seeing him. Most of the medical professionals concluded he was either disabled or would be severely limited in what he could do.

During this time, he was also diagnosed with swollen lymph nodes throughout his body, which also caused severe pain.

The administrative law judge denied his application, primarily based on the timing of his application – waiting until his unemployment benefits ran out. The District Court affirmed.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Judge Richard Posner, who often authors disability benefits opinions for the court, wrote. “When receiving unemployment benefits Cole didn’t need disability benefits, and probably wouldn’t have expected to be allowed to receive both types of government benefits at once, as receipt of unemployment benefits would imply ability to work.”

The ALJ also noted that Cole essentially had no treatment for nearly two years, but never inquired why. During that time, Cole had no health insurance. She also ignored some medical experts’ testimony and appeared to be “cherry picking the medical record – which is improper.”

The appeals court sent the case back to the Social Security Administration to reconsider Cole’s application. The case is Mikeal G. Cole Jr. v. Carolyn W. Colvin, acting commissioner of Social Security, 15-3883.
http://www.theindianalawyer.com/th-circuit-remands-disability-benefits-denial/PARAMS/article/41009

ADHD now classified as a specific disability under federal civil rights law



U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD


from a Press Release on July 26, 2016
U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance clarifying the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“On this 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am pleased to honor Congress’ promise with guidance clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “The Department will continue to work with the education community to ensure that students with ADHD, and all students, are provided with equal access to education.”
Over the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary education programs, and more than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD. The most common complaint concerns academic and behavioral difficulties students with ADHD experience at school when they are not timely and properly evaluated for a disability, or when they do not receive necessary special education or related aids and services.
Today’s guidance provides a broad overview of Section 504 and school districts’ obligations to provide educational services to students with disabilities, including students with ADHD. The guidance:
  • Explains that schools must evaluate a student when a student needs or is believed to need special education or related services.
  • Discusses the obligation to provide services based on students’ specific needs and not based on generalizations about disabilities, or ADHD, in particular. For example, the guidance makes clear that schools must not rely on the generalization that students who perform well academically cannot also be substantially limited in major life activities, such as reading, learning, writing and thinking; and that such a student can, in fact, be a person with a disability.
  • Clarifies that students who experience behavioral challenges, or present as unfocused or distractible, could have ADHD and may need an evaluation to determine their educational needs.
  • Reminds schools that they must provide parents and guardians with due process and allow them to appeal decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.
In addition to the guidance, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document that provides a brief overview of schools’ obligations to students with ADHD.
The mission of OCR is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. Among the federal civil rights laws OCR is responsible for enforcing are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Act of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more information about OCR and the anti-discrimination laws that it enforces, please visit its website and follow OCR on twitter @EDcivilrights.
# # #
article from LA Times on the Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD.
The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines aimed at preventing schools from discriminating against the growing numbers of students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

article by Joy Resmovits for the Los Angeles Times | July 26, 2016

In a letter to school districts and a “know your rights” document to be posted on its website Tuesday, the department said schools must obey existing civil rights law to identify students with the disorder and provide them with accommodations to help them learn.

The guidelines come in response to years of complaints from parents who say that their children have been denied needed services and that schools have failed to protect them from bullying. The Education Department, which has received roughly 2,000 such complaints over the last five years, said schools have requested clarification of their responsibilities under the law.

“Many … [teachers] are not familiar with this disorder,” Catherine Lhamon, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, wrote in the letter. “The failure to provide needed services to students with disabilities can result in serious social, emotional and educational harm.”

The number of children being diagnosed with ADHD — a neurobiological disorder characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity or inattentiveness — has soared over the last decade.

As of 2011, 11% of children ages 4-17 were diagnosed with the disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Boys were more than twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD.

California does not specifically track the number of students with ADHD, instead grouping most of them in the broader category of “specific learning disability.” As of Dec. 1, 2015, 288,294 students were in that category.

The rising rate of diagnosis has been controversial. There is no biological marker for the disorder. Kids can be diagnosed after showing symptoms such as carelessness or distraction over six months. But the line between quirky and disability can be fuzzy.

The rise of ADHD can be expensive for school districts, as the services for a single student can cost several thousand dollars a year. Some research though has found that there are hidden costs to not treating the disorder.

Under a 1973 federal law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, schools are responsible for identifying students with the disorder and supporting them by recording lectures, highlighting passages of textbooks or giving them extra time on tests.

The guidelines make clear that school districts should evaluate students who may have the disorder even if they show high academic performance. Parents are entitled to ask that a district evaluate a student.

Jeffrey Katz, a Virginia-based clinical psychologist who works on public policy for the nonprofit Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, has seen students who have been missed by school districts.

For Maryland tax attorney Ingrid Alpern, co-chair of the nonprofit’s public policy committee, that lack of diagnosis for her son was painful.

It was only in third grade that a teacher told her that her son probably had the disorder. “I could have kissed that teacher,” she said. “It took all the way to third grade for the district to offer him a 504 plan.”

Before then, the school made her son eat lunch in the principal’s office.

http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-na-adhd-disability-us-department-of-education-20160725-snap-story.html

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Americans with Disabilities Act Signing Ceremony / History - July 26, 1990 : short video chronicles the events

The ADA stands as one of the most important civil rights documents in the history of the United States, as it guaranteed for the first time that all People with Disabilities have the right to participate fully as equal members in society.

                                           video
Signing Ceremony for Americans with Disabilities Act - National Archives and Records Administration 1990-07-26 - ARC 1656530, LI 220-DISAB-1. 
President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. (05/10/1988 - ca. 2000). South Lawn, White House

The short video chronicles the events of July 26, 1990, when four thousand people gathered on the South Lawn of the Whitehouse to witness then President George H.W. Bush sign the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law.

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Disability History from the Presidential Libraries 
By Susan K. Donius, Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries, U.S. National Archives (posted July 26, 2012)


This year marks the 22nd (25th*) Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Act into law on the White House South Lawn in front of an audience of 3,000 people. On that day, America became the first country to adopt a comprehensive civil rights declaration for people with disabilities.

The ADA was a landmark moment in history, designed to provide universal accessibility in the areas of employment, public service, public accommodations and telecommunications. As President Barack Obama noted in 2009 at the signing of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Proclamation, the ADA “was a formal acknowledgment that Americans with disabilities are Americans first, and they are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as everybody else: a right to belong and participate fully in the American experience; a right to dignity and respect in the workplace and beyond; the freedom to make of our lives what we will.”

Among the holdings of the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives are many letters, meeting notes, photos and White House memos that document the collaborative process of creating the ADA. The Presidential Libraries have protected and shared the records of every Presidential administration since 1929, and the history of people with disabilities is woven throughout.

Sierra Gregg is a second year intern in the Office of Presidential Libraries, who recognizes the importance of sharing Presidential records related to disability history. She has been closely involved in a project to make a selection of these documents accessible to a wide audience. The following post is written by Sierra, about the Americans with Disabilities research page that is now available on the National Archives website.

I was born visually impaired one year after the signing of the ADA. I have grown up in a world where my visual impairment is not a hindrance to my success, only a characteristic of who I am. The ADA has made it possible for me to get the help I need to work toward my academic and professional goals.

However, the story of disability civil rights did not start with the ADA and it certainly did not end on that day 22 years ago. The efforts to ensure independence and equality for people with disabilities have a long and fascinating history. Throughout the course of two summer internships, I have worked on the Presidential Libraries team to collect a small sample of records related to Americans with disabilities. This collection will be added to the research topic section of the National Archives’ website and will contain at least one record from every Presidential administration since Herbert Hoover.

Although the collection contains records related to different disabilities, the records directly related to visual impairments are particularly meaningful to me. I believe my favorite record in the collection is a Braille letter written to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 by then-thirteen-year-old John Beaulieu. I first saw the letter on display in the Public Vaults exhibit of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. I still wish I could read the words with my fingers instead of just listening to the description. I was duly impressed that Beaulieu wrote the letter using a slate and stylus; I never quite mastered the art of using the slate. In order to write using the slate and stylus a thick piece of paper is placed face down in the slate, the stylus is used to punch out dots in the paper. The trick is every letter has to be written backwards so it can be read when the page is flipped.

The collection also contains two letters written to President Herbert Hoover by Helen Keller. She wrote letters to eight U.S. Presidents, starting in 1903 with Theodore Roosevelt. She also personally met 13 Presidents from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson. I must admit to feeling a twinge of envy when I learned that during a visit to the White House, she investigated her historic surroundings with touch. She even identified a bust of George Washington with her fingers.

The Americans with Disabilities research collection currently includes more than 50 different records. They range from Keller’s letters to President Hoover to photos of a White House dinner hosted by President Clinton, honoring the Special Olympics. It’s a resource that will continue to grow, and one that sheds light on an important part of disability, and American, history.


# Learn more by visiting the Americans with Disabilities research page from the Presidential Libraries at: http://www.archives.gov/research/americans-with-disabilities/.

# Susan K. Donius is the Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives and Records Administration.

# Sierra Gregg is a senior at Truman State University in Missouri where she is studying computer science. This year, she was awarded a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind.

# post was originally posted July, 2011,

Presidential Proclamation -- Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 2016

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Presidential Proclamation -- Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 2016

ANNIVERSARY OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2016
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
On July 26, 1990, our Nation marked a pivotal moment in history for Americans with disabilities. Fueled by a chorus of voices who refused to accept a second-class status and driven by a movement that recognized that our country is stronger and more vibrant when we draw on the talents of all our people, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enshrined into law the notion that Americans living with disabilities deserve to participate in our society free from discrimination. Twenty-six years later, as we mark this anniversary, we recognize all this milestone law has made possible for the disability community.
The ADA sought to guarantee that the places we share -- from schools and workplaces to stadiums and parks -- truly belong to everyone. It reflects our Nation's full commitment to the rights and independence of people with disabilities, and it has paved the way for a more inclusive and equal society. For the 6.5 million students and the approximately 50 million adults living with mental or physical disabilities, the ADA has swung open doors and empowered each of them to make of their lives what they will.
Building on this progress is a priority for my Administration. The Federal Government has taken the lead in creating meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities. In my first term, I issued an Executive Order that called on Federal agencies and contractors to hire more people with disabilities -- and today, more Americans with disabilities are working in Federal service than at any time in the last three decades. My Administration has vigorously enforced the Supreme Court's ruling in the Olmstead decision -- which determined that, under the ADA, people with disabilities cannot be unnecessarily segregated -- and worked to deliver on the promise that individuals with disabilities have access to integrated, community-based services. The Affordable Care Act affirmed that Americans with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance, and this year, we made it clear that health care providers must offer reasonable accommodations and ensure effective communication for individuals with disabilities in order to advance health equity and reduce health care disparities.
As we commemorate this progress, we know our work to expand opportunity and confront the stigma that persists surrounding disabilities is not yet finished: We have to address the injustices that linger and remove the barriers that remain. Too many people with disabilities are still unemployed and lack access to skills training or are not paid fairly for their work. We must continue increasing graduation rates for students with disabilities to give them every chance to receive the education and training they need to pursue their dreams. We must make the information and communication technologies we rely on accessible for all people, and ensure their needs are considered and incorporated as we advance the tools of modern life. And we must keep fighting for more consistent and effective enforcement of the ADA in order to prevent discrimination in public services and accommodations.
At a time when so many doubted that people with disabilities could contribute to our economy or support their families, the ADA assumed they could, and guided the way forward. Today, as we reflect on the courage and commitment of all who made this achievement possible, let us renew our obligation to extend the promise of the American dream to all our people, and let us recommit to building a world free of unnecessary barriers and full of deeper understanding of those living with disabilities.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim July 26, 2016, the Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I encourage Americans across our Nation to celebrate the 26th anniversary of this civil rights law and the many contributions of individuals with disabilities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

BARACK OBAMA

Monday, July 25, 2016

Oilfield Instrumentation Unlawfully Rescinded Job Offer Because Of Disability, EEOC Charges in Lawsuit

Company Denied Job Based on View That All Type I Insulin-Dependent Diabetics Are 'Fragile' and Not Suited to Work Offshore, Federal Agency Charges
from a Press Release on July 25, 2016
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

NEW ORLEANS - Oilfield Instrumentation, USA, Inc., an oilfield services company, violated federal law by withdrawing a job offer to an applicant because of his diabetes, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, on Feb. 4, 2013, Carl J. Devalcourt, III, a Type I insulin-dependent diabetic, applied for a service technician position at Oilfield Instrumentation. Two days later, he interviewed with Tom Walker, a hiring manager. Devalcourt received a job offer and informed Walker that he would like to move forward with the hiring process, which included taking a required drug test and physical examination.
After that, Devalcourt went to Acadian Health Services Clinic for the physical examination. Dr. Francisco Silva examined Devalcourt and determined that he was in "good physical shape" and that his diabetes was "well-controlled." Dr. Silva expressed his concern to Devalcourt that he had Type I insulin-dependent diabetes and wanted to work offshore. However, Devalcourt assured Dr. Silva that he was on an insulin pump, that he had two years of previous experience working offshore as a diabetic, without incident, and that he took necessary precautions to ensure his safety.
After the exam, Dr. Silva contacted Oilfield Instrumentation to inform the company that Devalcourt was a Type I insulin-dependent diabetic. Dr. Silva then informed Devalcourt that Oilfield Instrumentation was no longer interested in proceeding with the employment process. In a letter addressed to Oilfield Instrumentation, Dr. Silva stated that Type I diabetics are "fragile" and determined that Devalcourt was not qualified for the position of service technician simply because he has that condition. EEOC said that Oilfield Instrumentation did not base its decision to withdraw the job offer on the type of fact-intensive assessment mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Rather, the company simply revoked the offer on the basis of a sweeping determination that Type I insulin-dependent diabetics could not work offshore, regardless of whether the particular diabetic employee could perform the essential functions of his job.
Such alleged conduct violates the ADA. EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana (EEOC v Oilfield Instrumentation, U.S.A., Inc., Case No. 6:16-cv-01089), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Oilfield Instrumentation from engaging in unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability in the future, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages for Devalcourt, and other relief the court deems proper.
"This lawsuit reminds employers of their obligation to conduct individualized assessments of a person's ability to perform the essential functions of a job," said EEOC Houston Regional Attorney Jim Sacher.
EEOC New Orleans Field Office Director Keith Hill added, "Hiring decisions based upon reliance on negative stereotypes associated with particular disabilities violate the ADA and will not be tolerated."
Oilfield Instrumentation is an oilfield services company that provides real-time drilling instrumentation. It has offices in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, North Dakota, California and Pennsylvania.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

Webinar July 27 for Social Security Disability Beneficiaries Interested in Becoming Employed, & Reasonable Accommodations

If you receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to make more money through work, Ticket to Work can provide the support that you need!
The July 27, 2016, national WISE webinar will present information about Social Security programs and rules that may apply to you! Join the webinar to learn about Ticket to Work and Work Incentives, frequently asked questions and where to find more information. You will hear from experts about employment resources, including:
Date: Wednesday 07/27/2016
Time: 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM Eastern
Register online or by calling 1-866-968-7842 (TTY: 1-866-833-2967).

WISE webinars are online events held for beneficiaries to learn about the Ticket to Work Program and available Work Incentives through accessible learning opportunities. WISE webinars are hosted on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Register below!

Washington D.C. Metro moving forward with plan to use Uber, Lyft for paratransit services

as I share the article the day before the 26th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on how Washington D.C. Metro has decided to go forward with 'ride sharing' for seniors and people with disabilities that use paratransit service. In spite of the 'ride sharing' companies such as Uber and Lyft lack of accessible vehicles for wheelchair users, such as myself, all I can do is shake my head in disbelief. To the disability community in the Washington D.C, area that use Metroaccess paratransit service, we all need to remember know matter where we live in the USA, say NO to Disability Oppression and YES to Disability Empowerment... Jim W. at Ability Chicago Info
                                    "It's Nothing About Us Without Us!"
# # #
article by Luz Lazo for The Washington Post \ July 20, 2016        
Washington D.C. --This fall Metro will officially open the bidding process for contractors to provide paratransit services, providing an alternative to MetroAccess, its door-to-door service for the elderly and people with disabilities.

The popular ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft top the list of prospective contractors for the new service, which officials say could help the transit agency save millions on its heavily subsidized paratransit program. It also would answer customers’ growing demand for same-day, app-based transportation services.

Metro plans to issue an RFP in September with the intent to have the service in place by spring 2017, according to Christian Kent, assistant general manager for Metro’s Access Services department. The pilot program will be for users in the Maryland suburbs, where two-thirds of MetroAccess customers live.

Officials anticipate the option will be popular among customers who don’t need wheelchair-accessible vehicles to travel. Under the program, they will have the choice of booking a ride on the same day they need it, a significant improvement from the current MetroAccess requirement that trips be booked 24 hours in advance.

Concerns have been raised, however, about Metro’s intent to partner with companies like Uber to transport people with special needs. Advocates cite Uber’s lack of ­wheelchair-accessible vehicles and question the level of training its drivers receive in dealing with people with disabilities. They also echo concerns about safety, insurance coverage and the vetting process for the companies drivers.

In a letter to the Metro board, the panel’s Accessibility Advisory Committee this week urged Metro to set safety and security standards for the program, to be open to contracting with local transportation providers instead, and to keep in mind that many elderly and disabled customers cannot navigate web-based applications because of their disabilities.

But the group also said it supports Metro’s objective to sustain the costly MetroAccess service, acknowledging that a new program could help lower costs. A paratransit ride averages about $50 in the Washington area, a much higher cost than using rail or bus, which average between $3 and $4.

In an effort to bring down cost of paratransit services, transit agencies across the country are pursuing partnerships with app-based transportation providers. Metro officials have said that expanding options and lowering costs are inevitable as demand for service increases with the population continuing to age and disability rates on the rise.

“We are trying to leverage a network that is more pervasive in the community than just a couple of cab companies,” Kent told a group of advocates at an Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting on Monday. “You have asked us to get creative, you have asked us to find ways to serve the community better and you are starting to see us trying new things.”

It is unclear what Metro will be seeking from bidders, but some officials say it may not be much different from an informal request for proposals issued earlier this year in which the transit authority said it was looking for service providers that can connect customers to drivers via an online platform, a system that mirrors Uber’s.

The agency said then that it would pay up to $15 per trip to the contracting company and cover a $12 surcharge applied to trips in wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Customers would be restricted to four trips daily.

Metro has also said it will ask the chosen provider to facilitate the reservation process through a traditional phone call. And it may ask the companies to spell out their policies for vetting drivers and training them to serve people with disabilities. Officials have also said they would want the service to be available to customers traveling with service animals, and to have at least 50 wheelchair-accessible vehicles to compliment the service.

The AAC also urged Metro not to set restrictions on the number of trips customers will be able to take.

“People with disabilities are interested in having the same level of access and quality of life as the non-disabled peers. A limit on trips will diminish that option,” the letter said.

The group asked that “any alternative service must be fully compliant with the [Americans with Disabilities Act],” a request more difficult to meet given that most transportation companies don’t have ADA accessible vehicles.

MetroAccess provides about 2 million trips annually at a price of about $121 million, of which more than 90 percent is paid with local subsidies. Metro projects the service could add at least a million trips and more than $50 million in operating expenses in the next decade. Partnering with other transportation services, however, could potentially lower costs by half.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/07/20/metro-moving-forward-with-plan-to-use-uber-lyft-for-paratransit-services/

Chicago Awards Taxicab Driver Bayo Aladesuru With Free Taxicab Medallion For Exemplary Service To The Disability Community

Free Taxicab Medallion Offers Financial Freedom, Small Business Benefits for Driver

 "Congrats to the 2015 Taxicab Driver Excellence Award winner Bayo Aladesuru at #AccessChicago!

Press Release | July 21. 2016
City of Chicago 
The City of Chicago today presented the 2015 Taxicab Driver Excellence Award to licensed Chicago taxicab driver Bayo Aladesuru for his one of a kind customer service and dedication to the disability community. The taxicab medallion award was presented to Mr. Aladesuru during the 2016 Access Chicago expo, the city’s biannual event to showcase its offering of products and services created exclusively for individuals with disabilities.

The Taxicab Medallion Excellence Award was created for drivers providing services to passengers with disabilities. The ordinance allows for a free medallion to be awarded to one wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) chauffeur and the winner is chosen by the Taxicab Driver Excellence Committee. This year’s award was presented by committee members Karen Tamley of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) and Maria Guerra Lapacek, Commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP).

“It is because of chauffeurs like Bayo who go above and beyond to provide quality service to the disabled community so they can navigate Chicago independently,” said BACP Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek. “The nominations for Bayo painted a very clear picture of the impact of the service he provides to his customers and what exemplary service looks like.”

Every year since 2012, the Taxicab Driver Excellence Award is awarded to a driver exemplifying superior service and a commitment to providing residents of all needs with access to quality transportation. The Taxicab Driver Excellence Committee reviews nominations by the general public and carefully considers each of them before selecting a recipient of the award, which includes a free taxicab medallion.

This year, the committee reviewed 4 nominees. Bayo secured this year’s award with over 40 nominations. He’s been a licensed chauffeur for 18 years, but 2015 was his year. Throughout 2015 he responded to over 1,800 calls from Central Dispatch for his wheelchair accessible taxicab. One nominee wrote, “I wish I could request him every time I need to go to the doctor. He treated me like a person and not just a customer. I wish every taxi driver had the same courtesy.”

Another nominee wrote, “If my husband is not there, Bayo without being asked regularly clears the snow from the area between the garage door and the taxi ramp […]. Once he picked me up exactly as planned for an early morning trip to the airport even though a family members business had just gone up in flames.”

The Taxicab Driver Excellence Committee is made up of three City of Chicago employees and four members of local non-profit organizations and one citizen at large. The committee is run jointly by BACP Commissioner Guerra Lapacek and Commissioner Karen Tamley of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD). Additional committee members are Deputy Commissioner Rupal Bapat of BACP, Efrat Stein of Self Help Home, Carrie Kaufman of Access Living, Lisa Rosen of the Rehabilitation Institute Chicago, Rachel Weisberg of Equip for Equality, and Maureen Reagan, President of MRA Architects.

"Accessible taxicabs are critical to the independence of the disability community and we are proud to recognize the years of exemplary service that Bayo has provided,” said MOPD Commissioner Karen Tamley.

BACP oversees the licensing of Chicago’s public chauffeurs and public vehicles including taxicabs, transportation network providers, liveries, charter and site seeing buses, horse-drawn carriages, ambulances, water taxis and tour boats. The department oversees the purchasing of taxicab medallions, vehicle inspections and rates of fare. Learn more about BACP’s Public Vehicle Operations at www.cityofchicago.org/BACP.

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Illinois Home Services and Wage Bills Update - Gov Rauner Vetoed...

Access Living, Center for Independent Living for Chicago has shared the following updated information, and resources.
# # #

Dear Access Living friends and allies,

Today we want to focus on some important updates about home and community services.

First, Governor Rauner has vetoed several wage increase bills that would have increased wages to $15 an hour for Home Services Program (HSP) personal assistants and individual maintenance home health workers, Community Care Program (CCP) homemakers, and child care workers. We at Access Living feels that this action fails to recognize the vital importance of these workers to people with disabilities.  These bills return to the legislature, where a 3/5 majority or supermajority will be required to override his vetoes.

The bills are:
  • House Bill 5764 (CCP wages would have increased to $25 an hour over the next four years)
  • Senate Bills 2536 (would have raised child care worker wages to $15 an hour retroactive to July 1, 2016---remember that many parents with disabilities rely on state funded child care services)
  • Senate Bill 2931 (would have raised HSP worker wages to $15 an hour retroactive to July 1, 2016)

The wage increase bill for Direct Service Professionals (DSPs) serving people with developmental disabilities is still on the Governor’s desk. That bill is House Bill 5931, and several developmental disabilities groups are still pushing hard for this bill as many DSPs make as little as $9 an hour.

Second, Access Living is extremely concerned about HSP workers who have needed to work over 40 hours per work, and the HSP customers served by those workers. The first round of disciplinary “occurrence” letters for HSP workers who worked unjustified overtime went out after the first enforcement time period at the beginning of May, and over 2,000 workers received these notices.  Our understanding is there was a suspension on occurrences for a time, but as soon as mid-August, some workers could be getting their third occurrence letter and notice of termination.  This places at risk not only the workers in terms of job and income loss, but also it puts HSP customers with disabilities at possible serious risk of health crisis or nursing home placement.

Please contact Access Living if you are an HSP customer whose workers are at risk of more occurrence letter or termination. The best way to do this is to contact our Home and Community Ombudsmen Program at (312) 640-2152 or ombudsman@accessliving.org. Their hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5 pm. While our Ombudsmen are tasked with advocacy for people with disabilities living in Chicago, they can answer questions and help make a referral to support in your area. It is very important to reach out if you think you may be at risk.

If you are an HSP worker, please check out SEIU HCII’s Member Resource Center at http://www.seiuhcilin.org/member-resource-center-2/. If you are NOT a member of the union, please contact our Ombudsmen and we will answer our questions to the best of our ability. 

Both HSP customers and HSP workers can also contact their local DRS office or the Springfield DRS office with questions. This is the contact info:
Springfield DRS Office
Rehabilitation Services
535 West Jefferson Street, 1st Floor
Springfield, IL 62702
Phone: (217) 782-4830
TTY: (888) 440-8990
Fax: (217) 524-0758

It is better to ask questions than to not know what is going on! So please, reach out and let us know if you are having problems.

Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living