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

Monday, October 31, 2011

White House Conference Call – Appropriations and Social Safety Net Organizations : RSVP : Nov 1st 2011

On Tuesday, November 1st at 10:30 a.m. EDT, please join Martha Coven, Associate Director for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor in the Office of Management and Budget, for a conference call on Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bills with a focus on social safety net organizations.

* This call is off the record and not for press purposes.

Tuesday, November 1
10:30 AM ET
(800) 398-9386

To ensure an adequate number of lines, please RSVP for the call here: http://fifthfreedom.org/u/cj

Letter : Illinois Jacksonville Development Center - Right to choose is key : Oct 2011

I am a person with a significant disability. I live in my own home because of community services I receive from the state of Illinois. I write because of the proposed closure to the Jacksonville Development Center, as I am also a disability rights advocate in favor of closure and a safe and smooth transition of the residents to the community.

Some say not everyone can live in the community independently or even with the most supports. Yet, that statement, which ignores people with disabilities living successfully in the community even now, blankets the entire disability population in a stereotyped generalization.

I could discuss how the state will save money by closing institutions, even though there must be an initial outlay of more funds for appropriate community services. Still, the main issue is not jobs, fear of the unknown, or concern for care. The issue is a person’s civil right to choose.

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court found in the Olmstead decision that people with disabilities in various institutions can choose to live in the “least restrictive environment” available. However, in funding community services, including accessible and affordable housing and payments to providers, Illinois has done so insufficiently and, often, not at all.

Families, union members and advocates are not to blame. The state must meet its responsibility to fund community services that allow people to live independently. Closing institutions, which warehouse and segregate people with disabilities from the rest of society, is a starting point in meeting that responsibility.

Funding community services saves money and creates local jobs by eliminating millions of dollars in massive overhead in institutions. People who worked with residents in institutions can provide the same care in the community. Most importantly, residents will be able to act upon their basic civil right of choice.

— Tyler D. McHaley, co-leader, Springfield Area Disability Activists, Springfield

#Source: The State Journal-Register | Springfield, IL Oct 31, 2011

Pace Dial A Ride buses have the first Pace-owned hybrid buses : Oct 31, 2011

Ed NOTE: Pace did have there ADA Advisory Boards review the vechicles for input for accessibility before ordering, A step froward with building a working relationship.

{photo: Schaumburg and Pace officials admire a new hybrid bus. Schaumburg and Elgin will each receive five hybrid Pace buses as the company examines how to incorporate green technology in the future. (Kate Thayer/Tribune)}

The first Pace-owned hybrid buses will be transporting riders throughout Schaumburg and Elgin as the company continues to examine how to invest in green technology.

Through a federal grant program, the Illinois Department of Transportation is providing green vehicles throughout the state. Pace received 10 such buses, which use a battery along with a gas-powered engine to reduce emissions. Five are running in Schaumburg as part of its Dial-A-Ride program, and the rest are in Elgin.

The Dial-A-Ride program provides access throughout Schaumburg and to nearby Harper College in Palatine. Village President Al Larson said Friday the 12-passenger buses are not only good for the environment, but for business.

“This provides access to shopping centers – the key to making Schaumburg the economic engine that it is,” he said.

The buses, which are not only green, environmentally-speaking, but green in color, operate on battery power when cruising or braking, said Pace Executive Director T.J. Ross, and that action saves energy and cuts down on emissions.

Pace officials will examine how well the hybrid buses work out, in the hopes of implement green technology into larger buses, he said.

“We want to learn as much as we can before making a larger purchase,” said Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot. Besides hybrid vehicles, the suburban bus company is looking into “compressed natural gas” vehicles.

However, Ross pointed out the current diesel fuel buses release just 1 percent of the emissions of the buses of the past.

“The new buses are far less polluting and very clean,” he said.

#Source: Trib Local Schamburg By Kate Thayer

Saturday, October 29, 2011

National push to eradicate bullying : Anti-Bullying Forum : resources, info, video interview: Oct 2011

There is a national push to eradicate bullying. Are schools doing enough to combat the problem? We hear from Dorothy Espelage, one of the nation's top experts on bullying, on Chicago Tonight WTTW 11 from Oct 19, 2011:

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center will host its inaugural Exelon Anti-Bullying Forum to spur discussion on the issue of bullying and the best practices to support students, teachers and families. Chicago Public Schools Superintendent, Jean-Claude Brizard will present the keynote address to more than 130 education leaders and museum donors. Brizard’s speech will focus on bullying prevention and will provide action steps administrators can implement in school districts around the area. The forum will identify the consequences of bullying and will provide educators with the tools needed to create respectful and supportive learning environments.

Forum experiences include:

■Bullying and its Consequences in the State of Illinois: Panel discussion led by several youth development educators.
■Make a Difference! The Miller Family Youth Exhibition: A look at the newly enhanced interactive exhibit designed to teach mutual respect and the ripple effect our moral and ethical decisions have on others.
■Skills Sets and Best Practices: Panel discussion led by thought leaders from the educational community.

Dorothy Espelage will also be participating in the forum, taking place on October 20 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, Ill. For more information, please visit the links below.

Related Links:

More on Dorothy Espelage : http://education.illinois.edu/frp/e/espelage

More on Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center:

Stop Bullying website: http://www.stopbullying.gov/

More facts on bullying: http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/bullying

Friday, October 28, 2011

Singer "Usher" Parks In A Disabled Spot : Good Samaritan Tries To Fight Him : VIDEO

VIA VH1 blog & TMZ:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

When he’s not making love in clubs it seems that r’n'b veteran Usher still likes to make a public nuisance of himself — albeit in less sexy ways. Having parked his giant SUV in a handicapped spot outside a mall in Atlanta, Usher was accosted by an angry bystander in his very own Seinfeld moment. The deeply affronted woman took wild swings at Usher, screaming something, something about something, something, doing a lot of manic pointing and finally having to be restrained and dragged from the scene. Usher seemed characteristically nonchalant, failing to apologize for his faux pas while popping his collar and whatnot.

The best part of the whole debacle is the Elvis Presley impersonator that somehow found his way to the center of the action (apparently there was a Halloween parade near by), and the fact that the dudes filming the incident were more preoccupied with the fake Elvis than with Usher, who they only noticed at the last minute

#Source VH1 & TMZ at: http://blog.vh1.com/2011-10-28/usher-parks-in-a-disabled-spot-good-samartian-tries-to-fight-him-elvis-impersonator-looks-on/

U. S. Congress preliminary findings of the number of children receiving SSI benefits : Oct 28, 2011

As Reported by Disability Scoop;

Congress is turning its attention to soaring growth in the Social Security benefits program for children with disabilities and that has advocates on edge.

Concerns about the children’s Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, program came to light last fall when The Boston Globe published a series of articles suggesting that the benefits are seen as a form of welfare by some poor families. The articles highlighted the great lengths that some parents go — including putting their children on psychiatric medication — in hopes of securing hundreds of dollars in monthly disability benefits.

Now, Congress is looking into the program.

At a hearing Thursday, federal investigators told members of the U.S. House of Representatives that preliminary findings from their inquiry into the program show that the number of children receiving SSI benefits due to mental disabilities like autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is on the rise. At the same time, periodic case reviews to verify continued eligibility for the program are less common.

“Accurately diagnosing some types of mental impairments is a complex and often subjective process for (the Social Security Administration), which can sometimes be vulnerable to fraud and abuse,” Daniel Bertoni, from the Government Accountability Office, said.

The focus on SSI is concerning disability advocates who worry that the possibility of a some taking advantage of the program could jeopardize benefits for families who are truly in need. SSI benefits are designed to aid low-income families who have a child with a physical or mental disability.

“Any attempts to cut SSI for low-income children are unacceptable. We cannot allow children who are clearly in need to suffer,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc in a statement. The organization is working with over 80 national disability groups to support the children’s SSI program.

A full GAO report is expected in April.

#Source: For more from Disability Scoop visit: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/

Mobile Garden on the CTA: very nice BUT: What About Priority Seating & Wheelchair Securement Areas

ED. NOTE: *While this is a very nice change on a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) el-train, by the video/pictures very little thought of the 'Priority Seating & Wheelchair Securement" areas. While the disability advocates have come so far, from chaining themselves to CTA buses, to a system that is accessible, there still are some issues and obstacle's we as a people with disabilities that have a need for priority seating still face on a daily basis.

From "MrBrownThumb blog":

For the past couple of years I've been following Joe Baldwin's dream of installing a flatbed garden on a CTA train that would traverse the city for a month. His idea is rather simple. Build a raised bed that's attached to a Chicago Transit Authority train and plant it with native plants and let the train carry the garden throughout various Chicago neighborhoods. You'd think such an idea would be either really easy to implement or impossible to given the bureaucracy of a big government agency. The truth is that his dream is almost on track and the only thing holding him back is money. The CTA and the USDA have given the idea their blessing, all he needs is a big corporate sponsor to underwrite it. But for five hours in August of 2010 he gave Chicago a glimpse of what a mobile garden would look like during Art on Track.

A few days before Art on Track Joe contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in volunteering helping install the garden and of course I said yes. How could I possibly say no to being part of installing a garden in a space Chicagoans had never seen before? The morning of the event a handful of volunteers turned up and transformed this standard L cart into a garden in just a few hours. Prepping involved covering every part of the train that would be "planted" with a plastic tarp.

Three hours and one lunch break later the CTA cart looked like a tropical jungle. It took 400 square feet of sod to cover the floor and seats.

In the middle of the project Joe got word that the owner of Tu Bloom Designs in Chicago had heard of the project and wanted to donate plants. Soon there were even more plants and flowers filling out the garden. The gardeners at Green Roof Growers provided and example of a self-irrigation planter made out of plastic buckets, the Morton Arboretum provided some perennial grasses, Joe's friends and family donated plants. The mobile garden this day exemplified the way "real" gardens grow. Friends, family and people you hardly know hear that you're starting a garden and all of a sudden you have helpers and plants for your garden.

The mobile garden circled the Loop in Chicago and for five hours attendees of Art on Track boarded the train along with passengers who were surprised to see a garden pull into their train station. People sat on the sod seats, took photos, and were amazed by how much cooler the inside of the planted train was compared to the rest of the carts. There were also lots of comments about the earthy smell created by the sod and plants.

Above Left: Planted Mobile Garden Seats: Right: Self-watering container (*wheelchair securement area)

Above Left: Planted before passenegrs. Right: Mobile Garden Filled with riders

Plants used included: Sod, native grasses, tomatillos, ornamental sweet potato vines, ivy, spider plants, kale, zinnias, rubber trees, coleus.

YouTube Uploaded by MrBrownThumb on Sep 18, 2011

Here's a video of garden that I filmed on my cellphone. Yes, the quality isn't the best, but I was trying to mimic the look and feel of viral videos of people being less than civil on public transportation. Perhaps you've seen videos of amorous couples, bigotry, and violence on YouTube that take place on trains and buses. Well, this is a part of people you don't regularly see in those videos that take place on public transit. Happy, civil people; transported to another time and place where conversations, laughs and sharing positive experiences with strangers was normal. That to me was the most impressive thing about witnessing the mobile garden circle downtown Chicago for five hours.

While building the mobile garden on the CTA train cart Joe commented on how he's been living with this project for three years. It sounded as if he'd decided if the garden wasn't a reality by 2011 he'd have to move on. His non-profit, NoisiVelvet, is an arts advocate and a lot of his time these past couple of years has been devoted to this idea of a garden. At the end of Art on Track I overheard him telling someone that watching people ride and interact with the mobile garden had given him a new sense of urgency to keep going. I hope he does and that a corporate sponsor comes forward. I don't know if gardens make better people. I do, however, have first hand knowledge of gardens make for nicer commuters. To learn more about Joe's idea for the mobile garden visit his website TheMobileGarden or visit NoisiVelvet for information on arts advocacy projects.

#For MrGreenThumb blog: http://mrbrownthumb.blogspot.com/2011/09/mobile-garden-on-cta.html
ED NOTE: The comment below we did send a reply to, as in the future we hope such projects as in compliance with Federal guidelines:

Reply: Oh it is a CTA Project as they allowed it on a CTA vehicle. By doing so Federal Regulations must be implemented by all parties, and all parties could be held accountable if a complaint was filed, and found 'just'; by Dept of Transportation & Federal Transit Authority & Dept of Justice.
for more on CTA and Priority Seating:http://abilitychicagoinfo.blogspot.com/search?q=priority+seating 

Cancer victim allowed to sue former employer for retaliation : .U.S. District Court in Chicago : Oct 27, 2011

CHICAGO— A federal judge has given a former service manager for an Illinois electrical contractor permission to sue the company and a supervisor for wrongful termination under federal disability law and ongoing harassment about his illness.

In an April lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Michael O'Connell alleges that he informed his former employer, Continental Electric Construction Co. in Skokie, Ill., in 2007 that he had undergone surgery on his neck and testicles to treat testicular cancer.

When he returned to work, Mr. O'Connell alleged that one of his supervisors, John Kuta, repeatedly referred to him as “uni-ball” and “cut-throat” in front of his fellow staff members. Mr. O'Connell also accused Mr. Kuta of hiding his prescription anti-depressant medication.

The suit alleges that neither the company's owner nor a second supervisor ever acted on any of Mr. O'Connell's several complaints. According to court documents, Mr. O'Connell was fired in April 2009 on grounds of substandard performance despite a history of positive performance reviews, one month after submitting a discrimination claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Mr. O'Connell's accused the company of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, retaliatory and wrongful termination, and inflicting emotional distress. The company moved to have the suit thrown out on grounds that Mr. O'Connell's illness did not meet the standards of ADA protection and that Mr. Kuta's actions did not rise to the level of “extreme and outrageous.”

Judge dismisses some allegations

In an Oct. 17 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feinerman granted Mr. O'Connell permission to sue the company and Mr. Kuta for allegedly inflicting emotional distress and retaliating against him for filing an ADA discrimination complaint. However, Judge Feinerman dismissed the allegations of ADA discrimination and retaliatory discharge, citing the ADA and Illinois “at-will” employment laws.

“It is true that much of Kuta's conduct consisted of unactionable insults and indignities,” Judge Feinerman wrote of Mr. O'Connell's claims of emotional distress. “However, Kuta's removal of O'Connell's anti-anxiety medication from his desk drawer may properly be deemed ‘extreme and outrageous' conduct, particularly given Kuta's position of authority over O'Connell and Kuta's knowledge of O'Connell's fragile mental state.”

Judge Feinerman also cited language in the ADA law that forbids any retaliatory action for filing a complaint, regardless of whether the complaint itself is valid.

“Suspicious timing can create a triable issue of fact for causation,” Judge Feinerman wrote, citing previous case law. “The fact that (Mr. O'Connell) is not disabled under the ADA, while dooming his discrimination claim, is not fatal to his retaliation claim.”

#Source: Crain Business by Matt Dunning

LifeMyWay: Ernie's Appetite for Independence: Community, Advocacy, & disability life in Illinois Oct 2011

LifeMyWay blog
Phil Gibboney, LifeMyWay Contributor

Like a lot of folks who are enduring this sluggish, unsettled economy, Ernie is looking for a job that offers more hours of work and pays a little more.

There have been no raises at his primary place of employment (Jewel-Osco) for the past three years and it seems the only option for an increase in his paycheck would be to land a promotion. But, even that seems unlikely he says. “I bag groceries and push the carts outside. There are never enough baggers and there’s a hiring freeze right now”.

Ernie has worked at Jewel-Osco for six years. He presently works there three days every week, four hours each day. Because of the hiring and pay freezes, Ernie may be bagging groceries and pushing shopping carts for a while longer. “I would like to stock shelves or work in the farm stand”, he says regarding positions that he would like to apply for. “I’ll wait for a vacancy, then ask”, he adds optimistically.

What does Ernie like to do with the money he earns? He really likes to go to the movies with his friends. Scary movies are the best he says with enthusiasm. “I love scary movies… Freddy…Jason…all of them. I like the action. I just saw Real Steel.” He especially likes going to the mall with friends in his free time.

Other favorite interests that he pays for is his participation in park district basketball and bowling (he bowls in two leagues). However, he’s not signing up for basketball this year. “They keep raising the prices”, he says. “Every year it goes up. I can’t afford this.”

A long time Oak Forest resident, Ernie lives in a home with five other guys. St. Colettas of Illinois, located in Tinley Park, provides individualized services for each person in the home and has helped Ernie find employment. Fortunately for Ernie, through the joint efforts of himself and his St. Colettas job coach, he was recently hired for a second job at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers in Orland Park. He works there four hours each Sunday in the evening. He is hoping for some more hours and a promotion there as well.

Ernie’s ultimate dream would be to some day attend college. “It’s the main thing”, he says. “I would like to either design video games or do some counseling”. Of course the cost of college courses would require more hours of work than he is currently working, but Ernie remains upbeat. “The people are all friendly. They like me at both jobs and I do things without them asking me to. Because of my jobs, I can go places by myself and use buses to go to the mall.”

Even as Ernie is weathering the stormy economic climate waiting for a promotion or more hours of work, his keen sense of what it takes to get what he wants is carrying him toward greater independence.

For LifeMyWay visit:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Chicago Failure to Shovel Snow from your sidewalk could prove costly

Snowy sidewalks problem for people with disabilities

From Chicago Sun Times

Chicagoans who neglect to shovel their snow-covered sidewalks this winter could be in for a big surprise — a warning notice, followed by a ticket — if an influential alderman has his way.

After watching the Department of Streets and Sanitation showcase its “mobile electronic ticketing,” Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development, suggested Wednesday that the Blackberry technology be used to crack down on a chronic winter violation that endangers and infuriates pedestrians.

“One thing I know is not being written is people who don’t shovel their snow. I’m assuming that this technology is there to take a picture of the snow not being shoveled [and say], ‘Property owner, here’s your $100 ticket.’ Is that correct?” Tunney asked a Streets and San employee doing the demonstration.

“That’s correct,” the employee said.

Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne added, “You can go that way. We haven’t gotten there yet. The sky’s the limit on it. We can do almost anything with it.”

Homeowners and businesses are required by law to shovel the sidewalks in front of their property, but the ordinance is rarely enforced. Tickets range from $50 to $100.

Tunney said he’s dead serious about cracking down on snow shoveling neglect, but only after giving property owners “one or two” warnings.

“The complaint we have when we go to community meetings is, ‘Who owns that property? We’re trying to walk down the street, and everybody seems to be doing a good job except one or two property owners.’ A ticket here or there [and], all the sudden, the snow will be removed on a timely basis,” he said.

“We need to use some street smarts before we go up and down the block trying to ticket. That’s not necessarily good for business. It’s not good for residents. It’s not good for politics. But at a point, we need people to abide by the municipal code.”

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said any crackdown should target businesses — not homeowners.

“I don’t think we need to be patrolling citizens who do not shovel their sidewalks. Some of them may not be able to,” she said.

In the past, Chicago’s 50 ward superintendents hand- wrote tickets for an array of violations using a paper driven system and hand-held cameras.

Pictures of the violation were stapled together with the ticket and the court complaint, then shipped off to the Law Department for a title search to determine who owns the property. The file was then sent to the Department of Administrative hearings.

Now that all 50 ward superintendents have Blackberries, the system has gone paperless.

If a ward superintendent sees a vacant lot with high weeds, he or she snaps a picture of it with the Blackberry, types in an electronic ticket and e-mails the electronic file to the Law Department, where the ticket is cleared and sent to Administrative Hearings.

“We’re not doing title searches anymore. We’re not doing any type of real documentation on a lot. The GPS coordinates tell you the true coordinate, which saves a whole lot of time,” Byrne said.

The proposal to get tough on Chicagoans who fail to shovel their sidewalks comes at a time when crackdowns are also pending against disabled parking fraud, owners of unlicensed dogs and motorists who speed down residential streets near schools and parks.

#Source: Chicago Sun Times BY FRAN SPIELMAN | Oct 2011

"Lives Worth Remembering" - the history of the "Disability Rights Movement" : PBS Independent Lens on Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Lives Worth Remembering" Premieres on PBS

Powerful Documentary Chronicles the History of America’s Disability Rights Movement

(The video preview is no longer available from PBS)

San Francisco, CA) — While there are close to 50 million Americans living with disabilities, Lives Worth Living is the first television history of their decades-long struggle for equal rights. Produced and directed by Eric Neudel, Lives Worth Living is a window into a world inhabited by people with an unwavering determination to live their lives like everyone else, and a look back into a past when millions of Americans lived without access to schools, apartment buildings, and public transportation – a way of life unimaginable today. Lives Worth Living premieres on the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, at 10 PM (check local listings).

Lives Worth Living traces the development of the disability rights movement from its beginning following World War II, when thousands of disabled veterans returned home, through its burgeoning in the 1960s and 1970s, when it began to adopt the tactics of other social movements. Told through interviews with the movement’s pioneers, legislators, and others, Lives Worth Living explores how Americans with a wide variety of disabilities — including the blind, deaf, mentally, and physically challenged — banded together to change public perception and policy. Through demonstrations and legislative battles, the disability rights community finally secured equal civil rights with the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the most transformative pieces of civil rights legislation in American history.

To learn more about the film, and the issues involved, visit the film’s companion website here. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section, where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.

# For PBS webpage visit: http://video.pbs.org/video/2114068095/


11 Charged in $1 Billion "Long Island Rail Road" Disability Scheme : article Oct 27, 2011

Eleven people, including two doctors and a former union president, were charged on Thursday in a “massive fraud scheme” in which hundreds of Long Island Rail Road workers made false disability pension claims that could have cost a federal pension agency about $1 billion, according to court papers.

A total of 10 of the defendants — seven former railroad workers charged with making false pension claims, the former union president, a former federal railroad pension agency employee who helped the workers file the claims, and one of the doctors — were taken into custody in the early morning hours at their homes by F.B.I. agents and state investigators, officials said. The other doctor is expected to surrender in the coming days.

All were charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case. The defendants in custody were expected to be arraigned later on Thursday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The federal investigation followed reporting by The New York Times for a series of articles published in 2008 that revealed systematic abuses of Railroad Retirement Board pensions by Long Island Rail Road workers. The charges involving the railroad come at a time when public workers’ unions across the country have faced heavy criticism for negotiating pension obligations that have led many government agencies to slash services and lay off teachers, police officers and other workers.

The United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and the head of the New York F.B.I. office, Janice K. Fedarcyk, were expected to announce the charges Thursday afternoon at a news conference along with two inspectors general: Barry L. Kluger of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is the parent agency of the railroad, and Martin J. Dickman from the retirement board. The federal prosecutors and the F.B.I. were assisted in the investigation by the inspectors general at the two agencies.

The Times articles reported that virtually every career employee of the railroad was applying for and receiving disability payments, giving the Long Island Rail Road a disability rate of three to four times that of the average railroad. The Times found that retired railroad employees who had successfully claimed disability were regularly playing golf at a state-owned course without charge — another perquisite of their disability.

Indeed, the railroad’s retirement rate was particularly striking when compared with the number of disability pensions at Metro-North Railroad, another M.T.A. subsidiary that serves commuters to New York City and has a work force of similar size and composition.

The articles revealed that a network of doctors and facilitators were helping the workers file papers claiming they were disabled.

The 74-page complaint in the case, which was sworn to by Adam M. Suits, a special agent with the Railroad Retirement Board inspector general’s office, lays out the scheme in detail and says that, as a result, the doctors received millions of dollars in corrupt payments from patients and insurance companies.

“And based my analysis of the data, including but not limited to the percentage of L.I.R.R. applicants handled by the three doctors discussed in this complaint and actual disability payouts to date, I further estimate that the fraudulent scheme could cause the R.R.B. to pay unwarranted occupational disability benefits exceeding $1 billion dollars if disbursed in full,” the complaint said.

The two doctors charged in the case, Peter J. Ajemian and Peter Lesniewski, and a third one who recently died but whose conduct was detailed in the complaint, were responsible for 86 percent of the disability applications filed before 2008, running what amounted to “disability mills,” the complaint said. They prepared false medical assessments and so-called illness narratives for the retirees to file with the retirement board, the complaint contends. Dr. Ajemian was taken into custody on Thursday; Dr. Lesniewski is expected to surrender soon.

Between 1998 and 2008, Dr. Ajemian recommended more than 839 Long Island Railroad employees for disability while Dr. Lesniewski recommended at least 222, according to the complaint. Both were board-certified orthopedists. Dr. Ajemian was assisted by his office manager, Maria Rusin, who was also charged in the case, the complaint said.

The doctors were paid — often in cash — between $800 to $1,200 for each fake assessment and narrative, in addition to the millions of dollars in health insurance payments they received for unnecessary medical treatments and fees for preparing false medical records to support the disability claims, the complaint said.

The disability claims made by the seven people who are accused of obtaining their pensions fraudulently were in stark contrast to their lifestyles, according to the complaint. One of the defendants, Gregory Noone, who receives $105,000 in pension and disability payments each year, plays tennis several times a week and played golf more than 100 times in less than a year despite supposedly suffering severe pain when gripping objects with his hands, bending or crouching, the complaint said.

Another defendant, Regina Walsh, an office worker for the railroad, who collects $108,000 a year in pension and disability payments and complained of significant neck, shoulder, hand and leg pain when standing for more than five minutes, was seen under surveillance shoveling heavy snow and walking with a stroller for a long period of time, the complaint said.

And a third defendant, Steven Gagliano, who receives more than $75,000 in payments annually and claimed to be suffering from severe and disabling back pain, went on a 400-mile bike tour around New York State, the complaint said.

Also charged in the case were the former railroad union president, Joseph Rutigliano, and Marie Baran, who served as the Railroad Retirement Board’s district office manager in Westbury, N.Y., until she retired in 2006, according to the complaint. Her husband retired from the L.I.R.R. with a disability pension based on an assessment performed by Dr. Lesniewski, the complaint said.

Mr. Rutigliano, a former L.I.R.R. conductor, retired in 1999, after a year in which he worked over 500 hours of overtime and took no sick leave, according to the complaint.

He then applied for and received disability benefits upon his retirement.

Others who were charged with falsely claiming they were unable to work and receiving disability benefits were Sharon Falloon, Gary Satin and Richard Ehrlinger, according to the complaint.

The defendants all face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

#Source: The New York Times By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM Oct 27, 2011

Pretending to be Deaf ; kind of dumb for guy pulled over by cops - Brandon C. Nesbitt of Carbondale, IL

As reported by Chicago Sun Times:

Deaf? No. Dumb? Well …

Will County sheriff’s police said a man who was pulled over by police tried to pretend he was deaf and couldn’t understand the deputy. The only problem was that when the deputy started telling him what to do, he immediately complied.

Brandon C. Nesbitt, 22, of Carbondale and his passenger, Terrance D. Godfrey of Joliet, were pulled over about 7 p.m. Saturday. When the deputy asked for Godfrey’s ID, “he replied with an indistinguishable response and made multiple hand gestures as if trying to sign to me,” the deputy reported.

Nesbitt said Godfrey was “deaf and dumb,” but then the deputy told him to get out of the car — and Nesbitt did, police said. When the deputy said he didn’t believe Godfrey was disabled, Godfrey came clean — except for giving a fake name, police said.

Then he tried to run away, police said.

He was soon caught, and police discovered he was wanted in DuPage County for impersonating a police officer. He was arrested for obstructing justice and resisting arrest. Nesbitt was ticketed for traffic violations.

#Source: Chicago Sun Times






Medicare Part A premiums will be increasing by just $1 per month, and the deductible will increase by just $24. For Medicare Part A, which pays for inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care, about 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not pay a premium since they or their spouses have at least 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

However, some enrollees age 65 and over and certain persons with disabilities who have fewer than 30 “quarters of coverage” obtain Part A coverage by paying a monthly premium set according to a statutory formula. This premium will be $451 for 2012, an increase of $1 from 2011. Those who have between 30 and 39 “quarters of coverage” may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly premium rate which is $248 for 2012, the same amount as in 2011. The Part A deductible paid by a beneficiary when admitted as a hospital inpatient will be $1,156 in 2011, an increase of $24 from this year's $1,132 deductible. The Part A deductible is the beneficiary's cost for up to 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care in a benefit period. Beneficiaries must pay an additional $289 per day for days 61 through 90 in 2012, and $578 per day for hospital stays beyond the 90th day in a benefit period. For 2011, per day payment for days 61 through 90 was $283, and $566 for beyond 90 days. For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily co-insurance for days 21 through 100 in a benefit period will be $144.50 in 2012, compared to $141.50 in 2011.


The standard Medicare Part B monthly premium will be $99.90 in 2012, a $15.50 decrease over the 2011 premium of $115.40. However, most Medicare beneficiaries were held harmless in 2011 and paid $96.40 per month. The 2012 premium represents a $3.50 increase for them.

Medicare Part B covers a portion of the cost of physicians’ services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and other items. By law, the standard premium is set to cover one-fourth of the average cost of Part B services incurred by beneficiaries aged 65 and over, plus a contingency margin. The contingency margin is an amount to ensure that Part B has sufficient assets and income to (i) cover Part B expenditures during the year, (ii) cover incurred-but-unpaid claims costs at the end of the year, (iii) provide for possible variation between actual and projected costs, and (iv) amortize any surplus assets. Most of the remaining Part B costs are financed by Federal general revenues. (In 2012, about $2.9 billion in Part B expenditures will be financed by the fees on manufacturers and importers of brand-name prescription drugs under the Affordable Care Act.)

The largest factor affecting the contingency margin for 2012 is the current law formula for physician fees, which will result in a payment reduction of about 29 percent in 2012. For each year from 2003 through 2011, Congress has acted to prevent smaller physician fee reductions from occurring. The 2012 reduction is almost certain to be overridden by legislation enacted after Part B financing has been set for 2012. In recognition of the strong possibility of increases in Part B expenditures that would result from similar legislation to override the decrease in physician fees in 2012, it is appropriate to maintain a significantly larger Part B contingency reserve than would otherwise be necessary. The asset level projected for the end of 2012 is adequate to accommodate this contingency.

In 2012, Social Security monthly payments to enrollees will increase by 3.6 percent. The dollar increase in benefit checks is expected to be large enough on average to cover the increase in the Part B premium of $3.50 that most beneficiaries will experience. For those who were paying the standard premium of $115.40, their benefits checks will only increase.


On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will be 4 percent lower in 2012 than in 2011, and plans project enrollment to increase by 10 percent. Of people with Medicare, 99.7 percent continue to enjoy access to a Medicare Advantage plan, and benefits remain consistent with those offered in 2011.


As required in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, beginning in 2007 the Part B premium a beneficiary pays each month is based on his or her annual income. Specifically, if a beneficiary’s “modified adjusted gross income” is greater than the legislated threshold amounts ($85,000 in 2012 for a beneficiary filing an individual income tax return or married and filing a separate return, and $170,000 for a beneficiary filing a joint tax return) the beneficiary is responsible for a larger portion of the estimated total cost of Part B benefit coverage.

In addition to the standard Part B premium, affected beneficiaries must pay an income-related monthly adjustment amount. These income-related amounts were phased-in over three years, beginning in 2007. About 4 percent of current Part B enrollees are expected to be subject to these higher premium amounts.

The 2012 Part B monthly premium rates to be paid by beneficiaries who file an individual tax return (including those who are single, head of household, qualifying widow(er) with dependent child, or married filing separately who lived apart from their spouse for the entire taxable year), or who file a joint tax return.

As a result of the Medicare Modernization Act, the Part B deductible was increased to $110 in 2005 and is indexed thereafter by the annual percentage increase in the Part B actuarial rate for aged beneficiaries. In 2012, the Part B deductible will be $140, a decrease of $22 from 2011. (The actuarial rate is set by law at one-half of the total estimated per-enrollee cost of Part B benefits and administrative expenses, adjusted as necessary to maintain an adequate contingency reserve.)

Those who enroll in Medicare Advantage plans may have different cost-sharing arrangements. On average Medicare Advantage premiums will be 4 percent lower in 2012 than in 2011, and plans project enrollment will increase.

Beginning in 2011, the Affordable Care Act required Part D enrollees whose incomes exceed the same thresholds that apply to Part B enrollees to pay an income-related monthly adjustment amount, in addition to their Part D plan premium. The 2012 income-related monthly adjustment amounts to be paid by beneficiaries who file an individual tax return (including those who are single, head of household, qualifying widow(er) with dependent child, or married filing separately who lived apart from their spouse for the entire taxable year), or who file a joint tax return.

As noted above, states have programs that pay some or all of beneficiaries' Part A and Part B premiums and coinsurance for certain people who have Medicare and a limited income. Medicare provides similar assistance with premiums and cost-sharing for low-income Part D enrollees. Information is available at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and, for hearing and speech impaired, at TTY/TDD: 1-877-486-2048.

“Lives Worth Living” the Disability-Rights Movement on PBS Oct 27, 2011 : Review - NY Times

An American Minority’s Road to Rights

It may be the least-publicized revolution of our time but the one whose impact ultimately reaches the furthest, affecting the way our buildings and buses are built, the way our schools are structured, the way our businesses conduct hiring and outfit their work stations. It’s the disability-rights movement, and “Lives Worth Living,” a Thursday “Independent Lens” on PBS, reconstructs how it emerged and eventually pushed through the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

The film opens with images from the past that are chillingly grim, especially those from the Willowbrook State School for children with intellectual disabilities on Staten Island, a nightmarish place exposed by, among others, a young television reporter named Geraldo Rivera in 1972. (Recent headlines have made clear that, four decades later, such problems persist in some places.) “There was a belief,” Ann Ford, director of the Illinois chapter of the National Council on Independent Living, says bluntly, “that if you had a disability, you didn’t have any desire to live a life.”

It was the return of injured veterans from World War II that began to shake that assumption. The veterans, viewed as heroes, were not being written off, and those born with disabilities started to think that they shouldn’t be either. The filmmakers interview some of the central figures in the formation of the movement, who talk about learning from the feminist and civil rights causes. Oddly, buses were again important, as Bob Kafka of the group Adapt notes.

“We didn’t want separate paratransit,” he says. “We wanted for people to be able to go to the bus stop like everybody else and get on a bus.” That simple demand, he says, evolved into the idea of access as a civil right.

It’s easy to forget that many of the changes made to benefit people with disabilities are quite recent. Frederick A. Fay, another early leader of the movement (he died in August), recalls what it was like to navigate the streets of Washington when he was younger.

“Downtown D.C., every single corner had a curb and no ramp,” he says. “And it was like the Berlin Wall at every corner for someone in a wheelchair.”

The film is not always clear as to where and when the protests it revisits are taking place. When it gets to the landmark legislation, though, the politics of opportunity and compromise are nicely delineated (and you’re left to wonder what would have happened to the Americans With Disabilities Act had it been introduced in the current political climate).

Patricia Wright of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund tells a lovely anecdote about sitting next to Senator Edward M. Kennedy while President George H. W. Bush was signing the act in July 1990.

“Kennedy leaned over to me, and he said, ‘Ah, Pat?,’ ” she says. “ ‘Yes, Senator?’ ‘What happens if he reads the bill before he signs it?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry, he won’t.’ I mean, the senator knew that nobody really understood the impact of what this piece of legislation was going to do.”

That impact, of course, is still being sorted out. But for people with disabilities, as several note here, it was their Emancipation Proclamation.

#Source: The New York Times Television Review by Neil Genzlinger

Watch the full episode. See more Independent Lens.


Lives Worth Living

On PBS stations on Thursday night Oct 27, 2011 8 PM Central

Produced by Storyline Motion Pictures, LLC and the Independent Television Service. Directed by Eric Neudel; Mr. Neudel, producer; Alison Gilkey, associate producer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2012 Pace Suburban Bus Budget Hearings - Ability Chicago statement : Oct 26, 2011

The following is as presented to Pace Suburban Bus at the 2012 Budget Hearings on Oct 26, 2011 at the
City of Chicago (Southwest) Budget Public Hearing,
Arturo Velasquez Westside Tech. Inst.
2800 S. Western Ave. Chicago, IL 60608

Richard A Kwasneski
Chairman of the Board
Pace Suburban Bus:

We would like to acknowledge Pace Executive Director Ross, Pace staff, and the Pace Board of Directors in the proposed budget for 2012. With no fare increases, the continued attempts of increasing fixed route service, and going forward with a central dispatch center for paratransit service throughout the region, as the RTA hopefully provides funding for. We would also like to recognize the work done over the last year on guaranteed yearly funding for paratransit service within the RTA Budget.

But we would like for the Pace Board of Directors to reconsider one of the items under the 2012 Budget. As per a recommendation from the RTA to reduce paratransit reservation hours, from the current 6 AM to 7 PM in Chicago, to a regional 8 AM to 5 PM daily. By doing so, especially in the City of Chicago where a high majority of all regional paratransit service is provided, we would like the Board of Directors to reconsider there recommendation to 6 AM to 5 PM daily. As the phone lines would be flooded with calls starting at 8 AM, extra staff would be needed to continue the success of improved waiting time for reservations that PACE has accomplished. With paratransit customers need to reserve rides for the next day from going to work, medical appointments, social obligations to daily activities. We would also like for the Pace Board of Directors to consider for 2012, as well as the RTA Board of Directors to provide funding to put in place the ability for paratransit customers to reserve rides "Online". The possibility of an online reservation system has been part of discussions since Pace was given the responsibility of providing a regional paratransit service. With the reduced hours as within the 2012 budget, we all should consider the affect on those that are PACE's Paratransit customers, the improved overall service that has been accomplished, as we all go forward in the largest paratransit service area in the country.

James L Watkins
Executive Director
Ability Chicago

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In England more schoolchildren 'being diagnosed with special needs' : article Oct, 2011

The number of children diagnosed with special needs has soared by 10 per cent in just five years amid concerns schools are “playing the system” to disguise poor exam results

The Telegraph By Graeme Paton, Education Editor Oct 20, 2011

{Photo: PA By Graeme Paton, Education Editor}

Some 1.7m schoolchildren in England have been diagnosed with special educational needs, according to the Department for Education.

Official figures show more than one-in-five pupils in England are now labelled as suffering behavioural problems, learning and communication difficulties or physical disabilities.

A report published by the Department for Education today showed boys and children from the poorest backgrounds were significantly more likely to be classified than other pupils.

The study also underlined the link between special needs and poor examination results.

According to data, pupils without special needs are more than three times as likely to reach the standard expected for their age at the end of secondary school than classed as having behavioural and learning problems.

Just 20 per cent of children with special needs leave school with five decent GCSEs, including the key subjects of English and maths, compared with 66 per cent of their classmates.

But Ofsted has already raised concerns that many pupils with special needs are simply “underachieving” because expectations made of them are too low.

Last year, school inspectors warned that as many as half of children with certain categories of problems were wrongly labelled to disguise poor teaching.

The watchdog claimed that “higher expectations of all children” would lead to an overall drop in the number of those being diagnosed.

The Government has now proposed a sweeping overhaul of the system in England, including earlier checks to identify those with the greatest difficulties in pre-school and more freedom for parents to choose services best suited to their children’s needs.

Ministers are trialling the reforms in 20 areas.

Responding to the figures, Sarah Teather, the Children’s Minister, said: “The attainment gap between pupils with special educational needs and their peers is still far too wide.”

The latest DfE report revealed that 19 per cent of English schoolchildren had special needs in 2006 but the proportion increased to 21 per cent by 2011. It represents a rise of just over 10 per cent.

In all, some 1.67million children now have special educational needs, with the vast majority educated in mainstream schools.

The most common problems were behaviour, emotional and social difficulties and moderate learning needs, it was revealed.

Data showed that some children – typically boys from poor backgrounds – were significantly more likely to be diagnosed than other pupils.

It emerged that 25 per cent of boys in primary schools and more than 26 per cent of those in secondary education had special needs. This compared with less than 14 per cent of girls aged under 11 and 16.4 per cent of those at secondary level.

At the same time, 31.2 per cent of primary pupils with special needs are eligible for free meals – meaning they come from families earning less than £16,000 – compared with 14.9 per cent of other pupils. The gulf is even wider in secondary education.

#Source: The Daily Tlegraph

School District Criticized For Response To Bullying Claims; Westmont, IL : Oct 24, 2011

CHICAGO CBS 2 Investigators

Students repeatedly bullied at school often times find themselves trapped, forced to continue going to a school with their tormentors.

Now, the family of an 11-year-old girl in this situation is taking action that could help other bully victims.

2 Investigator Dave Savini reports.

Alexis Boundas’ classroom this year has been in her basement. What she misses most about school is being with her friends.

Alexis has been home-schooled since leaving Maercker Elementary School in Westmont, she says, because of extreme bullying.

The fifth-grader says she was groped and kissed. She wanted to go to a different school, but district officials did not allow it, even after a terrifying threat from a boy.

“He said, ‘Tonight I’m going to come to your house with my gun and kill all your family,’” Alexis said, adding the boy claimed his mother was a police officer and he had access to a gun.

Tom Boundas, Alexis’s father, says the school did not do a proper investigation and did not even check for witnesses. Then, without her parents’ knowledge, the Maercker School District put Alexis in a room with the boy for a counseling session.

“He just threatened to kill our family,” Tom Boundas says. “You can’t be putting that person in the room with my daughter.”

A few weeks later, Alexis allegedly was assaulted by another student who plunged a sharp pencil into her leg when she told him to stop looking at her test answers.

“He picked up his pencil, sharpened it. He came over and just stabbed me,” she says.

She had to have a doctor remove part of the pencil tip from her leg.

Tiffany Boundas, Alexis mother, said the school did not take this allegation seriously.

“The superintendent actually said, ‘Well, we don’t even know if she did this to herself at home and came to school like this,’” she says.

The A student began having panic attacks and other stress-related medical problems. Two doctors said she should not go back to that school. The family offered to pay for a transfer to a neighboring public school, but the superintendent has not approved that.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Tiffany Boundas.

The family contacted state Rep. Jim Durkin for help.

“I walked out not very satisfied with the meeting,” said Durkin.

He says the superintendent of the west suburban school district tried to rebut and minimize what happened to Alexis. Durkin is now considering creating legislation to allow extreme bullying victims school transfers at no expense.

“Every day a child is out of school, I mean, it’s a terrible thing,” the lawmaker says. “It’s tragic.”

The Boundas family successfully sued the district to get Alexis a tutor while she is home-schooled. They still want her transferred, but now they want the district to pay for it.

In the meantime, Alexis is now attending a private school.

School Superintendent Catherine Berning Berning says privacy laws prevent the district from commenting on an individual student.

“District 60 is committed to creating a school environment that is safe, respectful, inclusive and supportive,” she said in a written statement. “We take all allegations of harassment seriously and investigate them thoroughly.”

# CBS2 Investigator Dave Savini Reports

Chicago Aldermen unhappy about Mayor Emanuel’s plan to close six mental health clinics : Oct 25, 2011

As Reported by the Chicago Sun Times:

Chicago aldermen on Tuesday ripped Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close six mental health clinics, fully fund just two of them and have seven city health clinics partner with federally-qualified health centers.

“We’re leaving many people with nowhere to turn. In the long run, it’s going to be very costly in tax dollars and suffering because people will not get the care they need. They’ll be ending up in emergency rooms and jails,” said Ald. Nick Sposato (36th).

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) focused on the 53 Health Department employees who stand to lose their jobs in 2012.

“Most of these layoffs are minorities. That’s a big concern,” Burnett said.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) warned that the consolidation of mental health clinics would force patients to travel long distances “outside their comfort zone” and asked Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair whether he had consulted with Chicago Police about the closing.

When Choucair said he had not, Waguespack pointed to the July 2008 death of Chicago Police Officer Richard Francis.

Francis was answering a disturbance call on a CTA bus when he was shot and killed by a woman with a history of violent seizures who grabbed his gun during a struggle. Just a few days before, the same woman had pulled a knife on one of her daughters.

“We’re putting police officers in a difficult position,” Waguespack said.

Over and over, Choucair insisted that the cuts were carefully considered and that mental health patients would be better served at lower cost to Chicago taxpayers.

“I’m confident we’re enhancing services,” the commissioner said.

Of all the cuts in the mayor’s first budget, the health and library cuts have drawn the most fire during City Council budget hearings.

Emanuel wants to lay off 53 Health Department employees and eliminate 25 vacant positions.

Six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics would be closed, and only two of the remaining six would be fully-funded. The budget also calls for implementing the mayor’s summer plan to have seven city health clinics partner with federally-qualified health centers.

Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, called the Health Department cuts the most devastating cost-cutting in the mayor’s first budget.

“If you presented this budget to [Republican House Speaker] John Boehner in Congress, he’d pass it in a minute. I hope the City Council won’t,” Bayer said.

“The mayor is cutting into basic services and laying off hundreds of front-line employees who provide those vital services. When we actually see who is being laid off, I suspect it’ll be largely females and minorities.”

Top mayoral aides have insisted that the city was “reinvesting $500,000 in enhanced psychiatry services and care coordination” in the consolidated mental health clinics. That’s a move, they claim that would provide “improved service at a lower cost.”

“The city will maintain services for those most in need — uninsured patients — but provide the services in a more cost-effective manner. The city will actually be able to increase services provided and save $3 million,” Kathleen Strand, a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Budget and Management, said earlier this month.

She noted that all 3,000 uninsured patients would continue to be served by the city.

#Source: Chicago Sun Times BY FRAN SPIELMAN

HHS and FDA Virtual Hiring Event Nov 3, 2011 : information

YouTube Uploaded by USFoodandDrugAdmin on Oct 14, 2011

On Thursday, November 3, 2011, FDA and HHS are hosting their first Virtual Hiring Event, targeting veterans and people with disabilities. To be broadcast LIVE from FDA's White Oak campus in Silver Spring, Maryland.

We invite all veterans and people with disabilities to REGISTER Below for one of the available time slots and learn firsthand about working at HHS and FDA. Our wonderful staff will walk you through the Federal Employment Process and discuss all the available positions we have here and those located throughout the nation.

Our staff will walk you through the new version of USAJOBS 3.0, showing you how to set up your account, search for open positions, determine the position qualifications, develop a targeted federal resume, and apply using USAJOBS & Application Manager.

All participants in the Virtual Hiring Event will have an opportunity to not only apply to the open positions at FDA & HHS but, have their resume forwarded to all 9000+ selecting managers throughout HHS and its 12 Operating Divisions.

This entire event is closed-captioned (CC) and 508-compliant. Individuals participating who require any additional accommodations or need assistance registering please email us at VirtualHiringEvent@FDA.HHS.gov and one of our associates will be happy to assist you.

Please visit Resources for Your section:

Job Center - Information on the numerous positions were accepting resumes for during the Virtual Hiring Event. These positions are located throughout the nation at FDA & HHS including the Centers and Operating Divisions.

Veteran and Disability Hiring - Information on Federal Hiring Programs and a list of resources and organizations to assist candidates.

Accommodations - Information and Resources on Reasonable Accommodation in the Federal Workforce.

Hiring Event Agenda - Detailed outline of topics being addressed during the Virtual Hiring Event.

For Link for Registration:

Illinois Aurora Special Olympics soccer team wins state championship

AURORA — The Fox Valley Special Recreation Association Kickers soccer team was honored at City Council last week for winning top honors at the Illinois Special Olympics this year.

The team ended their season with a 9-2-1 record and won the state championship.

“It was a pretty big deal for our athletes,” said Meghan O’Keefe, FVSRA athletics coordinator. “It’s been seven years since the Kickers have had a soccer team, let alone won a state championship.”

The Aurora Special Olympics soccer team won at district in Rockford and went on to play in the Illinois Summer Games Special Olympics at Illinois State University in Normal. The team won first place in both games.

“They are the state champions and beat everyone,” said Alderman John “Whitey” Peters, 5th Ward, before leading the team in a chant at City Council last week.

O’Keefe said that Mark Pickett, President of the Kickers Soccer Club, provided training and the FVSRA provided staff time to work with the athletes.

According to O’Keefe, the FVSRA Kickers team has 12 members, ages 13 to 57. O’Keefe said the team members have a variety of developmental delays.

Waubonsie student honored

Blake Yee, a Naperville resident and freshman at Waubonsie Valley High School, won a Division I silver medal at the Illinois Special Olympics Unified Soccer tournament. Yee competed on the Blue Warstangs team.

Blake’s sister, Alyssa Yee, a sophomore at Waubonsie, assisted several of the Blue Warstangs team members through the Best Buddies program, which aims to connect volunteers with people with developmental disabilities. She also earned a Division I silver medal.

NYC Mayor Bloomberg needs to see reason about wheelchair-accessible cabs : NY Daily News Editorial Oct 22, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg keeps driving farther around the bend as he tries to explain why there's little sense in making New York City's fleet of yellow cabs wheelchair-accessible.

His rationales, as the price of a taxi medallion hit $1 million - indicating that a hugely healthy business is capable of absorbing the cost of accessibility - have verged on the irrational.

The Justice Department has concluded that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires conversion of the city's 13,237 cabs to vehicles that can accommodate wheelchairs. Bloomberg strengthened the notion by selecting a nonaccessible van to be the single Taxi of Tomorrow.

After resisting efforts to increase the proportion of wheelchair cabs beyond 1.7% of the fleet, where it now stands, the mayor prefers to create a telephone dispatch system for accessible taxis.

The concept has been aborning for years without progress. Now, facing the probability of a federal court order, the mayor is invoking danger, comfort and, unbelievably, bad tips to fight back.

Among his pearls:

"You just can't take a wheelchair out into the street and try and hail a cab."

"A lot of drivers say the passengers sit too far away and so they can't have a good dialogue and they get lower tips."

"What happens, apparently is, No. 1, it's more expensive. No. 2, it's heavier, so it uses more gas and there's more pollution and it's more expensive to run. No. 3, if you stay on the seat, you really have to get up and reach way over to pay the driver, and that's difficult for people who aren't as mobile but still would be better with wheelchairs."

"Fewer people may use cabs because the suspension is worse, and I think you're going to see suits about people getting up, trying to get to the front, across the divide. You know there's so much more space between the backseat and the divider, you're going to have people getting hurt."

That hasn't been the experience in other cities, and, to this point, the mayor has offered no workable alternatives. As they say, it's time for him to put up.

#Source: NYDailyNews.com October 22nd 2011

NYC likely to be forced into adding more handicapped-accessible cabs: article Oct 21, 2011

HINT HINT City of Chicago (ed. note)

The city's top taxi official yesterday conceded the Bloomberg administration could lose a court fight and be ordered to greatly increase the number of yellow cabs that are wheelchair accessible.

Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairman David Yassky said in a column he pens for taxi trade publications that he "flatly disagrees" with claims that the city is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But he said city officials "cannot ignore the possibility that a court order will at some point require a significant portion of the taxi fleet to convert to accessible vehicles."

In his monthly on-line article, Yassky said the TLC is developing new options to increase the number of yellow cabs that are wheelchair accessible.

"Over the coming weeks, the TLC will be reaching out to industry leadership to discuss the feasibility of making the fleet accessible even without a court order, and we'll be deciding on options for doing so," he wrote.

Just 231 of the 13,237 yellow taxis in the city are wheelchair accessible.

Yassky's comments came a day after Mayor Bloomberg staunchly defended TLC plans to have a limited number of accessible cabs with a dispatch-based system so wheelchair users can call and arrange rides rather than attempt to hail a taxi on the street. Advocates for the disabled want every cab to be accessible.

In January, advocates for the disabled filed a class action lawsuit claiming the city is violating federal law by not requiring all new cabs be wheelchair friendly.

The lawsuit got a big boost last week when U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office informed the judge handling the case that federal prosecutors agree the city is not complying with the law.

"The writing is on the wall," Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan said).

"The Justice Department has spoken loud and clear. The Americans with Disabilities Act is not optional."

The state Legislature earlier this year approved city-sponsored legislation authorizing the TLC increase the taxi fleet by 1,500 cabs with 569 being wheelchair accessible. Gov. Cuomo hasn't signed the bill and has indicated he wants to make changes.

The TLC yesterday approved for voluntary purchase by cabbies a wheelchair accessible cab called the MV-1 that is being built by the Vehicle Production Group. The only other city-approved accessible model is a retrofitted Toyota Seinna.

#Source: NY Daily News BY Pete Donohue Oct 21, 2011
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/10/21/2011-10-21_bloomberg_administration_likely_to_be_forced_into_adding_more_handicappedaccessi.html#ixzz1bpaPA5Um

Are Chicago Alderman willing to "tighten the noose against Disabled Parking Fraud" : article Oct 25, 2011

Bogus disabled parking placard? You could get towed

Chicago is preparing to tighten the noose against disabled parking fraud—by snatching the vehicles of those who abuse the privilege.

Karen Tamley, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, said Tuesday she wants the City Council to add disabled parking scams to the array of offenses punished by vehicle impoundment.

The penalty would apply to motorists without disabilities who fraudulently obtain placards that allow them to park for free at metered spaces on Chicago streets, at designated close-in spaces in commercial lots and in marked spaces in front of their own homes, in exchange for a $70 fee.

Fines, towing and storage fees could top $1,000.

Testifying at City Council budget hearings, Tamley also disclosed that she’s working to tighten requirements to qualify for designated spaces on residential streets.

Reforms may include a requirement that motorists who park in the allotted space live at the address on the street sign. On streets where the number of disabled spaces exceed 20 percent, spaces could be shared.

The crackdown can’t come soon enough for Chicago aldermen, who have been harping about disabled parking fraud for years.

“Some people think it’s an entitlement,” said Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), who never realized the level of abuse until 13 years ago, when he broke his leg and got a temporary placard.

Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) said he’s knows someone who had a hip replacement four years ago and “still keeps” the disabled parking placard.

“Let’s make these spaces available for people who really need ‘em. ...I’ve seen individuals get ‘em for their parents, then they use ‘em for themselves,” Mell said.

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said he’s worked with Secretary of State Jesse White on a number of enforcement actions, with limited success.

“In order to get these folks, they need to be present at the vehicle with their license. Making that happen given our kind of limited resources with police and others is very difficult,” Reilly said.

Tamley argued that the problem starts with the doctors who authorize White to issue the placards.

“To get a placard is based on functional need. It’s not just because you have a disability. It’s because you cannot walk a certain distance. So, honing in on that is very, very important in making sure that those who have the placards are actually those who deserve the placards,” she said.

For $70 and proof of disability, the city will mark off a parking space just steps outside a motorist’s front door.

In 2007, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation found that nearly 10 percent — 1,097 — of the disabled spots on city rolls were at addresses where no nearby resident holds a state-issued disabled license plate or parking credential, as required by law.

A review of city permits also turned up 260 spaces set aside for dead people. Some of them had been deceased for five years or more.

In spite of those abuses, a City Council committee voted a few months later to let motorists with disabilities park at the designated spaces in front of their homes without displaying a windshield placard to give a break to forgetful seniors getting hammered with parking tickets.

# Source: Chicago Sun Times By Fran Spielman Oct 25 2011

1,000 people turn out for hearing on Jacksonville Developmental Center in Illinois

JACKSONVILLE, IL -Earnest Jones’ 48-year-old son, Carl, has lived at the for eight years.

Carl Jones, who has severe brain damage, is happy at JDC, and it’s hard for him to adjust to new surroundings, the elder Jones told a hearing held in Jacksonville Monday night to discuss JDC’s proposed closure.

"If you close JDC, where would he go?" Jones asked about his son.

Earnest Jones was among roughly 100 people -- elected officials, Jacksonville residents, union leaders, advocates for people with disabilities and tenants of JDC -- who spoke during the three-hour-plus hearing.

About 1,000 people, most of whom opposed the closure, attended the hearing, which was conducted by the legislative Commission on Governmental Forecasting and Accountability.

Under state law, COGFA must hold a public hearing in any community where a state facility that employs 25 or more people faces closure. The panel will make a recommendation to Quinn in 15 days.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he needs to close JDC and six other state institutions because lawmakers didn't allocate enough money in the budget. A total of 2,000 state workers would be laid off under Quinn's plan.

About 190 disabled people receive care at JDC, and about 400 people work there.

Quinn was absent from the hearing. His plan is also being challenged in court.

Quinn's budget director, David Vaught, said at the hearing closing JDC would save the state $10 million.

However, state Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville, said the savings would be closer to $2.6 million after the cost of moving patients is factored in.

"People don't trust your numbers, " McCann told state officials.

The Illinois Department of Human Services' budget was slashed by $68 million under the plan approved by lawmakers, Vaught said.

"We can't spend money we don't have," he said.

Department of Human Services Secretary Michelle Saddler said the closure is also part of a long-term goal to move people out of institutional care to more home-like settings.

Kevin Casey, director of DHS’s Division of Developmental Disabilities, said another reason JDC was identified for closure is because the building needs repairs, including roads and boilers. JDC is the oldest facility of its kind in the state, officials said.

The institution got its start as the Illinois State Asylum and Hospital for the Insane in the 1840s. It has provided treatment for the developmentally disabled since 1974.

Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard said closing the facility would take $47 million out of Morgan County. Jacksonville is "the place to care for people with disabilities,” he said.

(photo: Supporting the closure of Illinois Institution's. thanks to Tony Paulauski for photo)

The Quinn administration’s plans, however, got support from some other advocates for the disabled.

"This is a golden opportunity for state of Illinois to do better," Amber Smock, director of advocacy for Access Living in Chicago, said in a news conference before the hearing. Fourteen other states have no large state institutions at all, she said.

#Source: The State Journal-Register By JASON NEVEL Oct 24, 2011

Illinois Legislator: Top five issues to address during the 'Fall' Veto Session : EDITORIAL Oct 24, 2011

Our View: Top five issues to address during the veto session

Rockford Register Star EDITORIAL

The Illinois General Assembly goes back to work today, and it promises to be an especially busy veto session. Here are the top five items we’d like to see accomplished this week or next.

1. ROCKFORD CASINO: Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed changes in the legislation that would bring a casino to Rockford and four other Illinois cities could mean no one gets anything.

Quinn has said since the gambling expansion bill was passed that he thought it was too much. Last week he ruled out putting slot machines at racetracks. Those slots were seen as a key to getting downstate lawmakers to vote for the plan.

Quinn’s proposal scales back the gambling expansion but keeps in place the parts that would provide the most benefit. A Chicago casino could be a world-class attraction and provide money for the city and the state. Casinos in Danville and Rockford, especially, could help two struggling communities.

Rockford, the city with the highest unemployment rate in the state, could use the jobs a casino would bring and could use the casino to leverage other developments.

Senate President John Cullerton doesn’t think he has the votes to pass the bill with Quinn’s changes. We hope he’s wrong.

2. COMED BILL: ComEd needs to improve its infrastructure and needs to move toward a smart grid that would eventually allow its customers to have greater control over how much electricity they use.

However, we hope lawmakers uphold Quinn’s veto of Senate Bill 1652. We dislike the legislation because it dilutes the authority of the Illinois Commerce Commission. The bill allows for automatic rate increases based on a formula rather than the scrutiny the ICC has given rate-hike cases for decades.

3. PENSION REFORM: Illinois cannot afford the system it has. States all over the country are struggling with pension costs, but Illinois struggles the most — it has the worst unfunded pension liability in the country with at least an $85 billion hole.

The state will be required to spend $6.4 billion on pensions in fiscal year 2012, and debt service on pension bonds for 2012 will total $1.579 billion. That wipes out all the money the state received from the 67 percent income tax increase.

House GOP leader Tom Cross and Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, a Democrat, are working on a plan that would give employees three options: remain in the existing plan, but pay more; keep what you have and switch to a 401(k) plan; or work longer for less benefit.

Unless there are changes in the system, it can’t be sustained and eventually there will be no money for retirees or anyone else who gets a check from the state.


The threat of closing seven state facilities — including Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford and Jack Mabley Development Center in Dixon — has highlighted the need for Illinois to figure out how to best provide services for those with disabilities, mental illness, and other afflictions and addictions.

The agencies that serve those clients have seen their budgets cut and have had trouble getting paid for services provided on behalf of the state.

That means they’ve had to cut staff and programs, limiting their ability to provide help to those who need it most.

This issue has been lingering for years. Lawmakers must address it.
5. END THE WAIVERS: Tuition waivers or legislative scholarships — no matter what you call them — need to end.

The program that allows each state legislator to award two four-year scholarships to an Illinois university has been abused for decades.

An investigation by The Associated Press found at least 43 scholarships between 2004 and 2009 went to relatives of campaign contributors and other people with political ties.

Quinn used his amendatory veto power to rewrite a bill that would have prohibited lawmakers from giving waivers to family members. His changes essentially end the program.

Madigan has blocked the governor’s version of the bill because Madigan says the governor exceeded his authority in the rewrite. Madigan and Cullerton think the program can be saved via reforms to stop the abuses.

Even if abuse could be eliminated, it’s not fair for universities to absorb the cost for someone else’s political favor. If lawmakers want the program to continue so much they should fund it — with their own money.

Otherwise, kill it.

#RRSTAR.COM EDITORIAL Posted Oct 24, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Illinois Debt Crisis : Shelter Cuts Will Put More Homeless On Streets, Advocates Say : Oct 24, 2011

CHICAGO (CBS) – Ahead of an anticipated cold and snowy winter, Chicago area homeless shelters are worried government funding cuts will mean more people on the streets.

Even before the state cut the budget by half, homeless shelters across Illinois had to deny service to people over 45,000 times last year, according to West Suburban PADS executive director Lynda Schueler.

She says if the $4.7 million isn’t restored, that means an additional 6,700 people will be turned away from shelters this winter.

Abdullah Hassan, interim CEO of Inner Voice, says if lawmakers don’t bring the money back, his agency’s shelters will have to choose between services and food, maintenance and beds.

Charles Austin says without Yana House, on Chicago’s South Side, he would have been out on the street two months after loosing his job.

Chicago area homeless shelters plan to bus 100 people to Springfield on Wednesday to press their case before lawmakers.

#Source: CBS CHICAGO Nancy Harty Reports: Oct 24, 2011

Flipswitch Podcast - Bullied for Having Bipolar, but this 16-yo is Nobody's Victim! - Interview Worth Hearing - Oct 2011

Despite being bullied for having bipolar disorder, 16-yo Kira is nobody's victim! She talks about how bullying once drove her to a suicide attempt. But her story is filled with hope! She overcame adversity and got into a fine arts school and won numerous music awards including writing a song that garnered a record contract! Hear Kira's 3 tips for managing bipolar disorder and advice for anyone being bullied whatever the reason! Also featured: Taylor Swift's song Mean, Kira's anthem.

FLIPSWITCH host Jessica Lynn Gimeno, please join guest 16-yo Kira at:


25 Exciting Careers Opportunities in Human & Social Services in 2012 : article Oct 2011

When studying for a human services degree, it is important to know what the ultimate goal is. There are many career paths out there to choose from, and knowing what they are can be just as important as choosing which you would like to pursue further.

To help, we have gathered more information on 25 exciting career opportunities in human services. They include a few traditional options, as well as a few that are a ways off from the normal path one thinks of when discussing human services.

Exciting General Career Opportunities in Human Services

These careers are often thought of when discussing human services.

1.Social Work Social workers help clients of all ages and a range of settings. Often working for the government, they can work with everyone from individuals to families. Liz is such a social worker and features this blog for those who are working in or would like to work in the field.

2.Social Work Assistant This career is often a stepping stone in becoming the above. They help social workers, healthcare workers, and other professionals to provide services to people. A certificate or associate’s degree is often required for this type of work.

3.Case Manager Work with cases in all aspects of social need in this career. Workers often take on cases to see how best to aid the individual or family in need. There is also a American Academy of Case Management that has more on the career in their blog.

4.Community Worker Work in a specific part of the community to better it in this job. This can include everything from cleaning parks to caring for the sick. This particular site is for community health workers in Texas.

5.Outreach Worker As the title suggests, work as part of an outreach program in this job. The career can include taking on new cases, conducting activities, checking program eligibility, and more. This specific job opening was for an outreach worker in Oregon.

6.Volunteer Coordinator Have loads of volunteers for your project but no one to organize them? Then check out the responsibilities of this career. They meet with both paid and non-paid staff to assess an organization’s needs and determine the best way to meet them.

7.Volunteer It may not be the best paying job, but many who seek a career in human services often have or need some kind of volunteer work on their resume. Check out the Volunteer Spot blog for ideas on everything in volunteering.

8.Community Organizer This career path was made famous by President Barack Obama. The community organizer often works with various business, non-profits, and organizations to make a community better. Check out the Community Organizer 2.0 blog by Debra Askanase, an actual community organizer, with more on the job.

Exciting Specialty Career Opportunities in Human Services

These career opportunities often focus on a specific area of human services.

9.Child Welfare Work with teens, children, and young people of all ages in this human service job. This often involves working with parents, grandparents, and other caretakers. The National Association of Social Workers has more on the career.

10.Rehabilitation Counselor These professionals often work with those who have a substance abuse problem. Counseling them, getting them to support groups, and other related tasks are often associated with the job. This blog is authored by three such counselors at The Canyon.

11.Public Health Worker Public health workers are charged with the big job of making sure the residents of a city are informed about and protected against health risks. Knowing and staying on top of the latest health news is often a must. No license is required to inform the public on health matters.

12.School Counselor Work with students from kindergarten all the way up to the college years in this career. School counselors can help students adjust to school life, prepare for higher education, and much more. Danielle is such a counselor and has tons of useful stuff for the profession on her blog.

13.Probation Officer This career also involves counseling those in the middle of a major transfer. However, it entails working with those who were incarcerated and are newly freed. A degree in social work or other area is required along with experience or passing a certified training program.

14.Mental Health Social Worker The work can literally involve just about every aspect of mental health as it relates to social work. This can include helping those with depilating mental illness to family counseling. The blogger at Mental Health Social Worker has more on the work and news in the industry.

15.Adult Education Work as a teacher with grown students in this job. Because these are not K-12 schools or colleges, many of teachers in adult education are required to have a degree and a desire to teach but not a license. They can also work in the field of continuing education.

16.Clinical Social Worker They work with people with diseases in order to help council them through it. They are considered mental health social workers and can work all across the country and world. There is even a Clinical Social Work Association with more on the career.

Other Exciting Career Opportunities in Human Services

These career opportunities are not often thought of in the traditional realm of human services.

17.Clergy They conduct religious worship and perform other spiritual tasks associated with the specific church they work in. Clergy can often be asked to have a degree in social work or related area. The folks at Payscale have tons more information on the job.

18.Urban Planner They develop long- and short-term plans for the use of land and the growth and revitalization of urban, suburban, and rural communities and the region in which they are located. Those with a background in social work often promote the best use of the land for community purposes. This work often involves a master’s degree and training in design, environmental planning, or geography.

19.Disability Case Manager They work with people with disabilities in order to maintain their mental and physical health. This involves assessing those at risk of becoming disabled, those who are disabled, and those who are returning to the work force. The blogger at My Canadian Dream has more on what the job does.

20.Senior Social Worker Work with senior citizens as part of this career path in human services. Getting a master’s degree and supervised experience in the field is often a requirement. This type of job can be found in hospitals, nursing homes, agency, and other organizations.

21.Veterans Advocate Use your human services training to work on behalf of our fighting men and women. Advocates help veterans obtain assistance, get medical care, counseling, and any other service needed. In fact, this legal services program has a specialty course to help train those working in veteran’s advocacy.

22.Environmental Social Work See how green practices and social work combine in this career. A relatively new choice, social workers can be asked to work locally or abroad. In fact, this site has more on an environmental social work volunteer program overseas.

23.Social Work Researcher Research the fundamental and applicable aspects of social work in this career. It is centered on the research involving social work to promote human welfare. The Society for Social Work and Research does just that, and you can learn more here.

24.Life Coach If you like working with people to help them become their best, check out this career path. A degree or license/certification is not necessary. Tim Brownson is a life coach and shares all about it, as well as invaluable tips in his blog.

25.Stress Therapist Deal with stress in your own life and those of others as a profession. Cheri Augustine Flake is a licensed clinical social worker who works as a stress therapist. Check out her blog and site for more on the topic.

And the above 25 exciting career opportunities in human service are just a few of the options available. Be sure and research the career(s) of your choice further when beginning or completing studies.

#Source: Human Services Degree org. by Harriet Gordon