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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PETITION : Let 3 Year Old Deaf Boy, Hunter Spanjer Keep His Sign Name | Aug 2012

From Change.org - Sign The Petition ....

Let 3 Year Old Deaf Boy, Hunter Spanjer Keep His Sign Name
Petitioning Superintendent, Grand Island Public Schools

Hunter Spanjer is a 3-year-old-deaf boy from Nebraska who has been told by his school district to change the way he signs his name because the gesture resembles shooting a gun. I believe Hunter shouldn't have to change his name and that the school district is lacking common sense and compassion.

I spent five years working with deaf and hard of hearing adults and I know the importance of a sign name. It's unique to a deaf person and it's something that they shouldn't have to change. A sign name is just as real as the name you write on a piece of paper.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Hunter's dad Brian said, "I feel like it was an overreach on their part and I expected a lot better from the local school district."

Please join me in standing with Hunter by signing this petition and telling the Grand Island Public School District to let Hunter Spanjer keep his sign name.

For more info, and for Petition, visit :

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

London 2012 Paralympic Games : Scott Danberg selected as U.S. flag bearer

LONDON – Five-time U.S. Paralympian Scott Danberg was selected to lead the 227-member 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team into Wednesday’s (Aug. 29) Opening Ceremony as flag bearer, as announced today by the United States Olympic Committee. Danberg was chosen by a vote of fellow members of Team USA following the team’s “Welcome Ceremony” on Monday in the Paralympic Village.

Press Release Aug. 28, 2012

“I am absolutely honored and pleased. This is my fifth Paralympic Games,” Danberg (Cooper City, Fla.) said. “For four Games, I have walked behind our nation’s flag proudly and now I am so honored to carry it into the stadium. I was so pleased to be nominated by the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team. They were so excited for me to be selected. The confidence my team captain had and his approach, they all really wanted me to be selected, and now to have that confidence shown to me by the whole U.S. team is amazing.”

Danberg will compete in the F40 men’s discus on Sept. 4. Currently ranked No. 7 in the world by the International Paralympic Committee, he won the bronze medal in the discus competition at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships. He also won the shot put silver at the 2006 IPC Athletics World Championships and won the shot put at the 2007 Parapan American Games.

“Congratulations to Scott Danberg on being named the United States flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “The London 2012 Paralympic Games have special significance as the Paralympic Movement started here in 1948. As the Games return to its birth place, we celebrate the growth of the movement and the extraordinary Americans who represent our country in this event. It is a tremendous honor to have Scott lead Team USA into this celebration of humanity.”
Danberg made his Paralympic Games debut in powerlifting at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games. In 1998, he won the silver medal in the javelin. He competed in the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games as well as the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.

The 2012 Paralympic Games will take place in London, England, from Aug. 29-Sept. 9, featuring more than 4,000 athletes with a disability, from more than 160 countries. It is slated to be the largest Paralympic Games in history.

More than 500 hours of live streaming will be available through USParalympics.org. Beginning on Aug. 29 and continuing through the conclusion of the Games on Sept. 9, U.S. Paralympics will also provide 10 daily video highlights packages via its U.S. Paralympics YouTube channel. The videos will chronicle the competition, athlete stories and will also include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

In addition to the online content, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air one-hour highlight shows on Sept. 4, 5, 6 and 11 at 7 p.m. EDT. Following the Paralympic Games, NBC will broadcast a 90 minute special from 2-3:30 p.m. EDT on Sept. 16. All NBC and NBC Sports Network Paralympic highlight shows and specials will re-air on Universal Sports Network and UniversalSports.com.

For more information, please contact Jamie Blanchard, U.S. Paralympics, at jamie.blanchard@usoc.org.

U.S. Olympic Committee, Paralympic Division
1 Olympic Plaza | Colorado Springs, CO 80909
paralympicinfo@usoc.org | www.usparalympics.org

The Washington Times Slams Disability Hiring in Editorial


The following appeared in The Washington Times Editorials on August 22, 2012...
EDITORIAL: Holder’s “severe mental deficiency”
 Justice Department takes affirmative action to crazy extremes
Opinion By The Washington Times

You don’t have to have a severe intellectual disability to work at the Justice Department. But it helps.

According to a July 31 policy memo titled “Hiring of persons with targeted disabilities,” otherwise problematic mental deficiencies are no barrier to jump-starting a career at Justice. The memo lists a number of “targeted disabilities” that trigger special hiring privileges in compliance with President Obama’s Executive Order 13548. Among them are people with “severe intellectual disability,” “psychiatric disability” or other undefined “current severe physical, intellectual or mental conditions.” Most employers would balk at even minor mental disabilities in hiring a lawyer, let alone severe ones. But the policy states that the Cabinet department run by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. must “achieve a work force from all segments of society,” which includes those who are teetering on the edge of sanity.

Mr. Holder’s crazy new human-resources priority says it’s necessary to ensure that people with targeted disabilities “have equal employment opportunities.” It then goes into detail on all the ways in which they will be given special, exclusive treatment. The disabled are eligible for direct hiring in a “streamlined, non-competitive appointment” process that the policy lauds as a “win-win” for the department and the applicant. Of course, this preferential treatment is a lose-lose for the other, perhaps vastly more qualified applicants who were never let in the door, as well as for American taxpayers who cannot benefit from a superior level of public service.

Targeted mentally challenged individuals may be hired for unadvertised positions in a secret, closed-door process that otherwise would be strictly illegal. Standard requirements for prior work experience may be waived so that those who most need to prove they are up to the task don’t have to. Once hired, some of these special hires may have their privileged Schedule A appointments converted into career civil-service positions.

After detailing the numerous special exceptions, benefits and other provisions afforded targeted individuals, the policy reiterates the principles in Title 5 of the U.S. Code that people only be hired “after fair and open competition which assures that all receive equal opportunity.” However, by design, the policy is not fair, the process is not open, and it only extends opportunity to a select few.

The potential for abuse is enormous. The grab-bag category of undefined “current severe physical, intellectual or mental conditions” is elastic enough to allow or encourage fraud, with or without the complicity of people making hiring decisions. People may self-identify disability status on the government’s Standard Form 256, which states that information provided “will be used for statistical purposes only and will not in any way affect you individually.” As the Justice Department policy makes clear, this flatly is not true.

Affirmative action has gone far astray from its origins as a means of correcting specific acts of unlawful discrimination. The Justice Department’s new policy reveals that special preferences are being used actively to deny opportunities to otherwise well- or better-qualified job seekers in the name of an abstract view of fairness. Ironically under the first black president, the federal hiring process is separate and unequal.

The Washington Times

EDITORIAL: Holder's "severe mental deficiency" - Washington Times

Monday, August 27, 2012

Illinois Cook County 'Stroger Hospital' counting on a massive expansion of Medicaid | Aug 2012

As posted by Crains Chicago;
By Kristen Schorsch

For Dr. Ramanathan Raju, the only thing worse than patients without insurance is not having enough of them.

The CEO of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System is counting on a massive expansion of Medicaid to boost annual revenue 11 percent, to $712 million, for the fiscal year that begins Dec. 1. With the added revenue, officials hope to cover a projected $152 million shortfall while holding steady taxpayers' annual subsidy to the financially strapped public health care network.

Since becoming chief executive nearly 11 months ago, Dr. Raju has tried to put in the past decades of politics, patronage and systemic inefficiency at the hospital system.

Now he has another problem: Patients are going elsewhere for care.

The Medicaid expansion under the federal health care overhaul would require the county to care for patients for a fixed fee—$300 per recipient per month—a big change for a system that is accustomed to billing for services. And it will require the hospital to quickly hire as many as 200 employees to accommodate up to 115,000 new patients, according to the county hospital's proposed 2013 budget, unveiled last week.

But Dr. Raju's proposal not only relies on signing up thousands of new patients; it requires reversing a decline in Medicaid revenue this year, as beneficiaries of the low-income health care program turn to other hospitals.

“The only thing to screw up on this one is actually not enrolling patients,” says George Hovanec, a Medicaid director under former governors Jim Edgar and George Ryan.

The federal health care law calls for expanding Medicaid in 2014 to include adults with annual incomes that are up to one-third higher than the poverty level, which is $14,404 for an individual. County and state officials have asked the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to start treating those patients as soon as October. Most experts expect the federal agency will approve the application, which was filed in January.

But officials are seeing fewer than expected Medicaid patients at the county hospital system. Revenue from the program has plunged 40 percent, to $84 million, during the eight months ended July 31, down from nearly $140 million budgeted for that period at the start of the fiscal year.

“We still have a long way to go to improve patient care service to make it a very attractive place to go,” says Warren Batts, former county hospital board chairman.

While Dr. Raju says the enrollment target is aggressive, getting a head start on the Medicaid expansion is key to the system's success. “Nothing is sure until you get the money,” Dr. Raju says, “but this is a very good proposal.”

The proposed 2013 budget calls for other savings, including reducing spending by $25 million by using a new purchasing system.
Last year, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle pushed to reduce the taxpayers' subsidy to the county hospital.

The subsidy could fall 28 percent, to about $307 million in the current fiscal year, from nearly $424 million in fiscal 2011, according to a July 5 analysis by the Civic Federation, a Chicago-based fiscal watchdog group.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Preckwinkle says the administration has “put everything in place to succeed.” Even without a revenue boost from Medicaid, the county hospital could still avoid layoffs, she says.

Cutting jobs would not be as bad as turning to voters, says longtime Chicago political consultant Don Rose. “It would hurt her politically, but not as much as raising taxes,” he says.


Harry Brooks - Rip - Aug 26, 2012

A friend, fellow disability advocate and just a good person passed over the weekend. Harry was always there as a member of Ability Chicago, was a sounding board, but as a Public Transit advocate - disability related or not, the CTA was his Public Transit, and he did offer his insight (and his two cents). Harry was a regular at CTA Board meetings, with the follow up at RTA Board meetings as needed.

Harry also was a deeply religious man, offering his time for his church. Harry was also a sponsor with the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Illinois & would share information, and hound you until you would accompany him there, it was a nice day spent with my friend. And Harry was a great fan of Tina Turner and her music.

But Harry loved High School Basketball; below is a article from the Chicago Sun Times Aug 27, 2012....

Harry Brooks, 65, dedicated official scorer of Chicago Public League basketball

By CLYDE TRAVIS August 27, 2012 | Chicago Sun Times

He wasn’t a coach or a player, but Harry Brooks was an integral part of Chicago’s basketball community. Mr. Brooks was the city’s dedicated official scorer, working every big high school event and games for several colleges, including Chicago State.

Mr. Brooks, 65, suffered a stroke last month and was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital and then to Columbus Park nursing home, where he stayed for two weeks before being returned to Mount Sinai, where he died Saturday night.

“Harry was a very sincere and dedicated person,” said Public League Sports Director Calvin Davis. “He was one of the very best official scorers I have ever worked with and a true professional. We will all miss him.”

Mr. Brooks was a Chicago Public League Coaches Association board member and was inducted into both the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Chicago Public League Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

“Harry was an icon. Everyone in basketball knew Harry Brooks,” said Marshall athletic director Dorothy Gaters. “He was the consummate professional.”

Mr. Brooks worked at Westinghouse through four coaching regimes: Roy Condotti, Frank Grisetto, Chris Head and Quitman Dillard.

“I took over the program in 1985 “ said Condotti “He showed up and volunteered to do the clock for the varsity and sophomore games. He was dependable, never missed a game. Later, he started assigning officials. ”

“He was a big Tina Turner fan and used to always tell us that he was simply the best and that’s how I will always remember him,” said Head.

“He helped me become the person that I am today,” said Dillard.


Though Harry was born with disabilities, he never thought of himself as disabled, he just went forward in his live touching others lives, finding ways to support himself, and live the best quality of live as possible and just turned 65 yrs old in the last year. I will miss my friend Harry, who was a very rare person, and yes was 'simple the best'.

Jim Watkins
Ability Chicago



Mr. Brooks was born on April 1, 1947 and passed away on Saturday, August 25, 2012.

Mr. Brooks was a resident of Chicago, Illinois at the time of his passing.

Friday, August 31
10:30 AM to 11:30 AM

East Side Bible Church
10524 South Avenue N
Chicago, IL 60617
(773) 731-4674
Friday, August 31
11:30 AM to 12:30 PM

East Side Bible Church
10524 South Avenue N
Chicago, IL 60617
(773) 731-4674
Friday, August 31
1:00 PM to 1:30 PM

Mt. Glenwood Cemetery
Glenwood, IL

Disabled and Seniors at Risk of Hunger Due to Cuts to US Food Stamp Program (SNAP)

Information provided by Feeding America - Published:08-26-2012

Feeding America Warns That Cuts To The Food Stamp Program Will Put Nation's Seniors At Risk Of Hunger - Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief organization, warns that pending cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) will put many of our nation's seniors at risk of hunger.

The Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee in July cuts over $16 billion from SNAP. These cuts, if enacted, would cause two to three million individuals to lose their food assistance entirely. An additional 500,000 households would have their SNAP benefits cut by an average $90 per month.

"For many seniors living on fixed incomes, SNAP is a lifeline. Far too many of our nation's elderly are having to choose between putting food on the table and other household necessities," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. "Seniors have given us the America that we have today, we owe it to them to make sure that they have enough resources to fill their pantries and their prescriptions."

SNAP is a crucial safety net for low-income seniors, who often are at greater risk of food insecurity:

SNAP households with seniors receive an average per person benefit of only $111 per month, or $1.23 per person per meal.This meager benefit level underscores the importance of protecting SNAP benefits from cuts.

Nearly 16 percent of SNAP households include seniors.

Only 34 percent of eligible seniors participate in SNAP, in part due to program stigma and participation barriers.[i] Increasing duplication and administrative burden in the enrollment and eligibility determination process will further dampen participation rates.

The prevalence of food insecurity among older adults can have serious health consequences. Food insecure seniors are more likely to have lower intakes of major vitamins, significantly more likely to be in poor or fair health, and more likely to have limitations in activities of daily living.

Low-income seniors on fixed incomes must sometimes make difficult choices between important necessities. Among Feeding America food bank client households with seniors, 30 percent reported choosing between paying for food and paying for medical care. Additionally, 35 percent reported choosing between food and utilities, and 26 percent reported choosing between food and gas for a car.

Changing demographics will have a profound impact on the need for nutrition assistance among older adults. By 2020, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will increase by 36 percent over 2010, and the number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50 percent by 2025.

Senior SNAP households are disproportionately likely to see their benefits cut under proposed SNAP cuts. Elderly households are more likely to make use of the "Heat and Eat" policy when enrolling in SNAP and thus are disproportionately impacted by the policy change. Additionally, "Heat and Eat" states have a greater share of SNAP households with seniors to begin with. In the 15 "Heat and Eat" states (CT, DC, DE, ME, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, & WI), 18.8 percent of households include an elderly person, compared to about 15.5 percent of households nationally.[ii]

About Feeding America - Feeding America provides low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive. As the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity, our network members supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors. Serving the entire United States, more than 200 member food banks support 61,000 agencies that address hunger in all of its forms. For more information on how you can fight hunger in your community and across the country, visit http://www.feedingamerica.org. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/FeedingAmerica or follow our news on Twitter at twitter.com/FeedingAmerica.

[i] Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates: Fiscal Years 2002-2009. U.S. Department of Agriculture. August 2011. http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/SNAPPartNational.htm

[ii] Feeding America estimates using U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2010. Table B.5. September 2011. http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/SNAPPartHH.htm

University of Illinois sends Paralympians to London : video & article | Aug 2012

August 26, 2012 (CHAMPAIGN, Ill.) (WLS7 Chicago) Report by Karen Meyer
-- The 2012 Summer Paralympics Games start Wednesday in London. Athletes from all over with world will complete in 21 different sports classified by their disabilities.

The majority of Team USA's wheelchair racers are from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, home of the top wheelchair sport program in the nation.

Thirteen current, alumni and incoming Illini wheelchair racers qualified for Team USA's track events. To make things easier, the majority of them spend the summer training together on familiar tracks.

Daily training started at 8 a.m. with getting their racing chairs ready to roll over to the tracks. For an hour and half, they run through drills.

Adam Bleakney is both training coach and a member of Team USA.

"I'll do the 5,000 meters and the marathon," he said.

Even though the athletes are training together, most are not competing against each other in the Paralympics.

Susannah Scaroni, 21, is a first-time Paralympian. She will be competing in the marathon and is from the state of Washington.

"I came to Champaign to be on the wheelchair track and road racing team," she said.

Josh George is 28 years old and medalist from several Paralympics.

"I'll be running the 200, 400, 800, 1500 and the marathon," said George.

George graduated from University of Illinois in 2007. He is from northern Virginia.

"I was recruited to come out here to play wheelchair basketball, and I knew they had a good wheelchair racing program. So, that was a big reason why I came" he said.

Coach Adam also attended U of I.

"I was a student here from 1997 to 2002. I left for a couple of years and came back and took on the head coaching position in 2005," he said.

This will be his fourth trip to the Paralympics.

Coach Adam says China is favored to win the most medals.

"They won in Beijing, and they're favored to win the medial count again in London. So, we at the University of Illinois will do our best to get the US medal count up as high as we can," said the coach.

Fifteen wheelchair basketball players from U of I also qualified, but only five of them are on Team USA. The others are playing for their home countries.

# For more information go to http://disability.illinois.edu/athletics and www.london2012.com/paralympics/.

# For more of ABC7 Disability Issues:

(Copyright ©2012 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paralympics classify athletes' disabilities to ensure A fine balance fair competition | Aug 2012

MARIA CHENG AP Medical Writer
First Posted: August 25, 2012 - 8:54 am

LONDON — Double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius hasn't been able to skip one of the games' biggest bureaucratic hurdles: the Paralympics disability classification system.

It aims for fair competition, but with so many disabilities and degrees of severity, classifying Paralympic athletes can often seem like a sport in itself. According to that system, Pistorius is classed as a double amputee below the knee and eligible only to compete against other Paralympic athletes with a similar impairment.

The South African recently made history as the first disabled athlete to compete on the track at the Olympics, running in the 400 meters on carbon-fiber blades.

"We assume that Oscar is worse off than someone who has only lost one limb, but in fact he is a very balanced runner," said David Howe, a disability sport expert at Britain's Loughborough University and former Paralympic runner. "Someone who is running with one human leg and one prosthetic will be more unbalanced."
The classification, while "reasonably good," is still partly subjective and influenced by traditional assumptions, Howe said.

Paralympic athletes are divided into four main groups: amputees, the blind, those with cerebral palsy and those with spinal injuries or other physical disabilities. Depending on the sport, Paralympians either compete against others with the same disability, or across categories based on an evaluation of their ability to perform their chosen sport. Their classification is determined by a panel that includes experts in medicine and the sport's biomechanics.

"The goal is to make sure athletes in the same class have the same chance at a gold medal," said Peter Van de Vliet, science and medical director at the International Paralympic Committee.

He said they previously assessed athletes based on their disabilities but they now focus on their sporting potential, meaning athletes with different impairments can compete directly against each other.

"If you put a double leg amputee into a racing wheelchair and do the same for a paraplegic (who has non-functioning legs), they both are in the same position of needing to use their arms to propel the wheelchair," he said. "In that sense, classification is no different than age or weight categories."

The London Paralympics will once again include intellectually disabled athletes. Those events were suspended in the last two games after a scandal in which the winning basketball team from Spain was comprised mostly of players without any such disability. Van de Vliet said the classification for intellectually disabled competitors has been completely revamped since then and now includes stricter criteria, like a psychological evaluation.

Experts said the system is constantly evolving as officials get more experience with Paralympic sports.

Even the athletes admit the classification system isn't always straightforward.

British wheelchair sprinter Hannah Cockcroft, who is classified as having cerebral palsy and brain damage, has said skeptics sometimes wonder whether that's the right classification because she is so chatty. But she said it fits since two parts of her brain are damaged and she has trouble doing simple things like tying her shoes. Cockcroft said she occasionally wonders about the categories of other Paralympic athletes but without knowing their full story, it is impossible to judge.

Each of the 20 Paralympic sports has its own rules. For example, track and field divides athletes into categories based on their disability and its severity. Others, like judo and five-a-side soccer, are only open to blind athletes.

Swimming is one of a handful of sports that throws all of the athletes together, allowing amputees, those with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries and other disabilities to directly compete against each other.

That can make for a diverse line-up of athletes on the starting blocks, including swimmers with dwarfism, those missing a limb and others with cerebral palsy, who might look able-bodied but have coordination and movement problems. While the athletes with cerebral palsy have to work harder to coordinate their muscles to swim, those with dwarfism have a high level of drag in the water but may have better balance. In theory, the classification system is meant to even out those differences, Van de Vliet said.

"Classification is unique to Paralympic sport but it is crucial that the competition is fair and correct," Van de Vliet said. "For us, making sure athletes are in the correct class is as important as doping."

Illinois NFB protests wages outside Des Plaines Goodwill | Aug 25, 2012

By Melissa Silverberg | Daily Herald

While holding signs and chanting “disabled workers from Goodwill cannot pay their bills,” about 10 people from the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois marched outside the Des Plaines Goodwill store on Saturday morning, protesting what they said are unfair wages for disabled workers.

[photo: Protesters from the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois march outside the Des Plaines Goodwill Store and Donation Center for what they say are unfair wages paid to some employees.]

The march was one of 80 around the country as activists tried to put pressure on the national reseller to pay employees, most of which are disabled in some way, higher wages, said Patti Gregory-Chang, president of the federation.

According to a Freedom of Information request sent by the federation, at least one Goodwill employee in the U.S. is making 22 cents per hour, said Gregory-Chang, an attorney from Chicago.

“As long as any of us are exploited like that, we all are,” she said.

However, no Goodwill employees in Illinois are making less than minimum wage and the practice is protected under federal law, said Pat Boelter, vice president of marketing for Goodwill.

There is a section of the Fair Labor Standards Act that enables employers to pay wages below the federal minimum, commensurate with productivity, to employees who have disabilities that directly affect their job performance, she said.

Boelter said that working at Goodwill is about more than just a paycheck for employees who may have severe and multiple disabilities.

“One size does not fit all. To measure this legislation by wages is doing it a disservice,” Boelter said. “These people also receive services such as coaching, life skills, emotional security and more. We help give them a safety net.” While the group of protesters marched in the front of the Des Plaines store, Gregory-Chang said she hopes to overturn the law that allows companies like Goodwill to pay employees less than minimum wage, but Boelter said that would not be a good idea. “Our concern is that if the federal legislation changes we would not be able to employ them,” she said. “The very people they are trying to help would wind up being hurt instead.”


Saturday, August 25, 2012

People with Disabilities In Glen Ellyn, IL. have a new 'apartment development' | Aug 2012

Submitted by the Illinois House Development Authority

The Illinois Housing Development Authority recently held a celebration at the Brandon Court Apartments

A new development in Glen Ellyn means people with disabilities who might otherwise face homelessness now have a safe haven, and access to the supportive services they need to live independently.

On behalf of the administration of Governor Pat Quinn, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) recently joined community leaders to celebrate the grand opening of Brandon Court Apartments in Glen Ellyn. IHDA, the state’s housing finance agency, invested nearly $800,000 in zero-interest loans to build the development, 16-34 Greenwood Court.

Developed by Wheaton-based Community Housing Advocacy & Development (CHAD), Brandon Court Apartments features six one-bedroom apartments for people with disabilities. Residents are connected to supportive services, including counseling and job training. As an added benefit, the apartments are centrally located near public transportation and job opportunities.

“Brandon Court Apartments demonstrates Governor Pat Quinn’s commitment to creating more supportive housing opportunities to empower people with disabilities to lead independent lives,” IHDA Executive Director Mary R. Kenney said. “The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) has financed approximately 1,300 units of supportive housing under Governor Quinn to enable people with disabilities to achieve stability across Illinois.”

“We thank the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) for making this development possible,” said Jan Kay, interim director of Community Housing Advocacy & Development. “Brandon Court Apartments provides hope and stability for people who need it the most.”

DuPage County also provided financing to build Brandon Court Apartments. To qualify, residents must earn less than half the area median income, or $26,550 in DuPage County.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Justice Department Obtains Comprehensive Agreement Regarding North Carolina Mental Health System

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Press Release: Thursday, August 23, 2012
Settlement Will Expand Opportunities for Individuals with Mental Illness, Including Community-based Supported Housing, Ensuring That Necessary Services Are Provided in the Community
The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into an agreement with the state of North Carolina to ensure the state is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The agreement will transform the state’s system for serving people with mental illness. Under the settlement agreement, over the next eight years, North Carolina’s system will expand community-based services and supported housing that promote inclusion and independence and enable people with mental illness to participate fully in community life.

Under the ADA, as interpreted by the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Olmstead v. L.C., people with disabilities have the right to receive services in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. The settlement follows an investigation by the Department of North Carolina’s mental health service system that began in 2010. Since the department’s letter of findings was issued one year ago, in July 2011, the state has worked cooperatively with the department to negotiate an agreement..

“As the Supreme Court noted over a decade ago, the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities is based on the unsupported assumption that they are unworthy of participating in community life,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This agreement will enable North Carolinians with mental illness to live in community-based settings, enriching their lives and the lives of their neighbors, and recognizing their worth and dignity. I commend Governor Bev Perdue and North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Al Delia for their leadership, which played a crucial role in making this comprehensive agreement a reality.”

Over the next eight years, North Carolina will provide integrated supported housing to 3,000 people, expand Assertive Community Treatment teams to serve 5,000 individuals, and provide a range of crisis services. The agreement will also expand integrated employment opportunities for people with mental illness by providing supported employment services to 2,500 individuals. These services will allow the state to serve people with mental illness effectively in their communities while avoiding costly institutional settings.

“North Carolina has taken an important step towards offering a choice to individuals with mental illness who prefer to live in the community,” said Thomas G. Walker, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “The agreement, made possible by the coordinated and cooperative efforts of the state’s executive and legislative branches of government, will ensure that more North Carolinians with mental illness will be able to enjoy integrated lives in their communities.”

The agreement calls for a person-centered discharge planning process to help people move smoothly and successfully to community-based settings, while a pre-admission screening process will prevent people from unnecessarily entering institutional settings. Provisions of the agreement will ensure that people discharged from adult care homes designated as Institutions for mental disease are discharged in a safe, coordinated manner.

North Carolina will implement a comprehensive and robust quality assurance and performance improvement monitoring system to ensure that people are safe and are receiving integrated housing, services and supports that meet their needs. Compliance with the agreement will be monitored by an independent reviewer with extensive experience in mental health systems.

The Civil Rights Division enforces the ADA, which authorizes the attorney general to investigate whether a state is serving individuals in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. Visit www.justice.gov/crt to learn more about the Olmstead decision, the ADA and other laws enforced by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

This agreement is due to the efforts of the following Civil Rights Division staff: Alison Barkoff, Special Counsel for Olmstead Enforcement; Gregory Friel, Acting Chief; Anne Raish, Deputy Chief; Regan Rush, Joy Levin Welan, Travis England, and Regina Kline, Trial Attorneys; with support and assistance from Lance Simon.


Paralympics’ dirty little secret; 'Boosting' a cheating method used by athletes with spinal injures | Aug 2012

The common perception of the Paralympics is that they provide the international competition of the Olympics without any of the messy corporate overtones or attempted cheating. For the most part, that first aspect is largely true. But the idea that Paralympians never cheat couldn't be further from the truth.

That became clear just days before the Aug. 29 opening of the Games after the publication of a BBC report which cited a series of experts who claimed the practice of "boosting," or hurting oneself to increase blood pressure and performance, is rampant among elite Paralympic athletes. According to the BBC, a study conducted during the Beijing Paralympic Games found that approximately 17 percent of the athletes on hand admitted to using boosting in the past to gain a competitive advantage. More troublingly, one scientist estimated that a more accurate account of Paralympians might find as many as 30 percent have boosted, despite serious side effects.

The tactics used to bring the pain that leads to increased blood pressure are startling, too. According to BBC sources, they run the gamut from not releasing urine to cracking or breaking toes with a hammer. In between, athletes have tried sitting on a drawing pin, using tightened leg straps and sitting on their own scrotum.
At least one athlete has even stepped forward to admit that he used electrical currents attached to his body to jump start his boosting.
While the concept might seem strange, the results are backed up by simple science. Athletes with spinal chord injuries do not get the blood pressure and heart rate increases that come from vigorous aerobic exercise as able-bodied athletes typically do. To make up that difference -- and allow the body to train harder, thereby increasing fitness and results -- paraplegics will intentionally cause their bodies harm, which increases their blood pressure and allows them to compete more vigorously.
The ways these athletes hurt themselves are both everyday and much more elaborate, as one competitive climber attested to the BBC.

I tried several different ways of doing it. You can allow your bladder to fill, basically don't go to the bathroom for a few hours and let that pain from your bladder do it," Canadian quadriplegic climber Brad Zdanivsky told the BBC. "Some people do that in sports by clipping off a catheter to let the bladder fill -- that's the easiest and the most common -- and you can quickly get rid of that pain stimulus by letting the urine drain out.

"I took it a notch further by using an electrical stimulus on my leg, my toe and even my testicles."

That's right, a paralyzed athlete was using electrical stimuli on his testicles to help him perform better. That certainly seems about as sinister as some of the more traditional methods of cheating endorsed by able-bodied athletes.
Fittingly, just as blood doping and steroids come with serious side effects, so does boosting. According to Zdanivsky, boosting brings a significant risk of stroke. For those health risks and in the interest of fair competition, the International Paralympic Committee officially banned boosting in 1994. The enforcement behind enforcing that ban focuses on blood pressure checks for athletes before events begin, yet in limited use during the Beijing Games -- only 20 blood pressure checks were performed -- no athletes were found to be afoul of traditional blood pressure levels.
Those statistics aren't convincing for academics and medical professionals like the University of British Columbia's Dr. Andrei Krassioukov, who said the practice of boosting was a legitimate threat to the Paralympic community.
"As a physician I totally understand why these Olympians are doing this, but as a scientist I am horrified with these events," Krassioukov told the BBC.

By Cameron Smith | Yahoo Sports


Suzanne Thompmpson, named chairwoman of Special Olympics Illinois Board

Aug 2012 | Suzanne Thompson, of Seneca, was named the chairwoman of the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors. She has been a member of the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors since February 2007, previously serving on the area management committee. As board chairwoman, she serves on all of the board's committees.

Thompson is a recently retired special education teacher with 38 years of service to children who are "differently abled." During this 38-year period, she taught students from preschool age through high school, with her last 26 years of teaching being done with junior high-age students at Saratoga School, District 60C, in Morris.

Thompson lives with her husband, David, and is the mother of three children, including Caitlin, 24, who is a Special Olympics athlete who competes in Special Olympics swimming, bowling and golf.

Thompson received her bachelor's degree in special education from Illinois State University, Normal, and her master's degree in administrative leadership from Aurora University.

Thompson is passionate about speaking on behalf of those with special needs at schools, organizations and churches. "Through these venues I have been diligent in attempting to change the hearts and minds of society about embracing differences, rather than excluding those whom the world calls different," she said. She spoke during closing ceremonies on behalf of families with athletes participating at the first Special Olympics National Games in Ames, Iowa, in 2006, in which her daughter was one of the athletes representing Illinois.

Her hobbies include collecting antiques and antique jewelry, reading, writing poetry, gardening, sign language, public speaking, and spending time with her three granddaughters.

Special Olympics Illinois is a nonprofit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for more than 21,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 11,000 young athletes ages 2 to 7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics changes lives by empowering people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills and encourage family and community support.

If interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois, volunteering or providing financial support to help make Special Olympics programs possible, contact your local Special Olympics agency, call 800-394-0562 or visit the website www.soill.org.

Wal-Mart Settles EEOC Disability Lawsuit | Aug 2012

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Wal-Mart Settles EEOC Lawsuit for $50,000

Carlsbad Store Fired Long-Time Clerk, Refused Temporary Accommodation for Her Cerebral Palsy, Federal Agency Charged

DALLAS — Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. will pay $50,000 in back pay and damages in settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC had charged that a Carlsbad, N.M., Walmart store unlawfully fired a part-time sales clerk because of her cerebral palsy.

he EEOC had charged in its lawsuit, Case No. 2:11-CV-00834, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, that Wal-Mart fired Marcia Arney rather than attempting to return her to her job following a medical leave related to her cerebral palsy. When Arney, a 22-year Wal-Mart employee, showed the store manager a note from her doctor requesting an accommodation involving periodic breaks off her feet, he refused to return her to her job, and instead demanded that she obtain a medical release with no restrictions. The EEOC alleges that the medical restriction could have easily been accommodated by the giant retailer. In fact, had the employer inquired further, it would have learned that her need for accommodation was temporary.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, Wal-Mart will conduct annual live ADA training of management officials at its Carlsbad store. It will also post a notice on its agreement with the EEOC so that employees are aware of procedures for reporting disability discrimination. The company has committed to not requiring disabled workers to produce a full release from their doctor upon returning from a medical leave. Further, the company will engage in an interactive process with disabled employees to find a reasonable accommodation to assist them in performing their jobs. Future charges and lawsuits alleging disability discrimination will be reported to the EEOC for the duration of the decree, as well as requests by employees for accommodation of a disability.

“Federal regulations explaining amendments to the ADA made it clear that many impairments, cerebral palsy among them, do not require a lengthy analysis to determine whether or not they are 'substantially limiting,' which is the standard for coverage,” said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “Employers who used to argue otherwise should get up to speed on the clarifications Congress made to the ADA to ensure that most people with disabilities will be covered."

Janet V. Elizondo, director for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, added, “We are hopeful that our work in this case can generally serve to educate the employer community in southern New Mexico that the Dallas District stands ready to address discrimination issues at the furthest reaches of its jurisdiction.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

International Center on Deafness and the Arts through Education (ICODA) - Illinois | info, resources...


The primary mission of the International Center on Deafness and the Arts through Education (ICODA) is to educate, enrich and empower Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Hearing children and adults through the provision of quality artistic and educational experiences. Through its work, ICODA demonstrates the relationship of arts and learning, encourages the development of individuals, amplifies public awareness of Deaf Culture, and creates an environment which strengthens bonds among diverse populations.


ICODA strives to become the world wide leading institution in the coordinated use of artistic and educational experiences that enhance learning by providing a variety of unique programs and resources which empower and enhance the quality of life for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing individuals.

For more information: http://www.icodaarts.org/

Illinois Advocate for homeless and disabled veterans charged with fraud | Aug 23, 2012

Feds indict Crystal Lake veterans advocate

By STEPHEN Di BENEDETTO | Northwest Herald

ROCKFORD – The director for a Crystal Lake nonprofit lauded for its work with homeless and disabled veterans was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury for defrauding veterans, businesses and the federal government.

John C. Blanchard of Crystal Lake and four employees of National Association of Systems Administrators Education Corp. and Liberating Solutions Corp. were indicted on six counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and 10 counts of providing material false statements and documents.

The charges focus on NASA Education’s securing of government contracts, and the company’s relationship with Liberating Solutions, a Crystal Lake business that has done contract work for federal and local governments.

Blanchard did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.

The indictment did not surprise leaders of some McHenry County veterans groups. Alan Belcher, executive director for Traditional Living Services, a group similar to NASA Education, said he had heard rumors for years of NASA Education’s mismanagement of veterans.

“In this time of limited money and people struggling to meet ends meet, we have someone that appears to be taking advantage of the federal government ... and not taking care of the veterans out there,” Belcher said. “It’s extremely upsetting to me.”

Mary Margaret Maule, founder of the Voices of Veterans writing group at the Lake-McHenry Veterans Drop-In Center in McHenry, said she also had heard rumors of questionable business practices and wasn’t shocked by the indictment.

“It’s a shame that anybody would take advantage of funds that were dedicated to people who dedicated themselves to their country,” Maule said.

Representatives of other veterans organizations couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The indictment alleges that NASA Education and Liberating Solutions falsely represented Liberating Solutions as a “service-disabled veteran-owned business,” the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois said in a news release.

Under federal law, a business gets preferential consideration for certain government contracts when the company is majority-owned and operated by a veteran who was injured or disabled during active duty.

According to its website, Liberating Solutions works with NASA Education’s “Fresh Start Program,” which trains and places homeless or disabled veterans with companies. Liberating Solutions has done event planning, construction and landscaping work, and has worked with the Army, Air Force and the city of O’Fallon, its website states.

he indictment also charges that Blanchard and the four other defendants failed to pay legally required wages to veterans for work under federal and local contracts.

It further charges the defendants with fraudulently keeping excess federal grant funds related to NASA Education’s semi-annual “Stand Down” event. The event provides veterans throughout the suburbs with food, clothing, consultation and networking opportunities.

The U.S. Labor Department sponsors the event to the tune of $10,000 and requires receipts for costs. The indictment alleges NASA Education falsely claimed that Liberating Solutions incurred certain expenses.

An invoice claimed that a company called “Bull Dog Security” provided security for the Stand Down event, when in fact unpaid veterans provided the security, the news release said.

The others charged in the indictment are Blanchard’s wife, Joanne Blanchard, who managed NASA Education’s finances; Blanchard’s brother, James Blanchard, who was project manager for Liberating Solutions; and Eric R. Behler, and Amy B. Johnson.

Behler is listed as a contract officer for Liberating Solutions. Johnson, the government said, oversaw NASA’s Education Fresh Start program.

Johnson also did not respond to calls for comment.

John Blanchard, a Navy veteran, started NASA Education Corp. in 1998, and soon after started its Project Fresh Start program.

Blanchard has received community recognition for NASA Education. In 2008, Tammy Duckworth, then-director for the state veterans department and now the Democratic congressional candidate in Illinois’ 8th District, presented Blanchard with an award given to veterans who inspire their community through continued service.

In the same year, the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation recognized Blanchard for his work with NASA Education.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

FCC to Host Accessible Technology Event for Developers - September 6 - 7, 2012 - live webcast

Developing with Accessibility

September 6-7, 2012 / FCC Commission Meeting Room and Training Rooms | TW-C305, 445 12th Street S.W., Washington, DC

On September 6th and 7th, 2012 the FCC's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative (A&I) will be hosting the "Developing with Accessibility," event at the FCC’s headquarters. The event is designed to spur increased collaboration on accessibility solutions among developers from industry, consumer, and government sectors. The event will encourage the use of accessibility APIs (application programming interfaces), as well as publicly available data sets, in order to build accessible apps for mobile phones and websites. One of the key objectives is to promote the concept and practice of developing applications within accepted accessibility guidelines, thereby maximizing their usability for everyone, including people with disabilities.

The event will offer training on development topics, in-person collaboration on programming projects, and professional networking among developers. The event will be collaborative in electronic spaces before, during, and after the event. Rather than limit this to accomplishments that can be achieved during a single, in-person event, this Developer event is not intended to be an end in itself, but will instead serve as an organizing opportunity to create mechanisms for ongoing collaboration among developers who are interested in building accessible technology solutions.

It is also a goal of the A&I to make smart use of new media tools to create electronic spaces for such collaboration. We encourage others to also activate online collaboration spaces associated with this effort. To this end, we suggest use of hashtag, #DevAcc as a tag that facilitates searching and coordination of the upcoming events on the web, Facebook, Twitter, & other new media outlets.

Please pre-register for the event by sending your name, affiliation, and contact information to devacc@fcc.gov by August 31, 2012.

If there are particular ways that you'd like to participate, or related activities that you'd like to inform us about, also feel free to write to devacc@fcc.gov.

The meeting site is fully accessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility aids. Open captioning and assistive listening devices will be provided on site. Other reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request. Include a description of the accommodation you will need and tell us how to contact you if we need more information. Make your request as early as possible. Last minute requests will be accepted, but may be impossible to fill. Send an e-mail to: fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (tty).

The general session of the event will be webcast with open captioning at http://www.fcc.gov/live.

Live Webcast

Watch the Live Webcast: http://www.fcc.gov/live

Important Accessibility Links : http://www.fcc.gov/events/developing-accessibility

FCC Disability Portal

Accessibility and Innovation Initiative

Accessibility Clearinghouse

Implementation of the Communications and Video Accessibility Act

.Gov Developer Meet-Up

Summary of the Previous Accessibility Developer Event

U.S. Access Board is reopening the comment period on proposed updates to its ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles | Aug 21, 2012

U.S. Access Board Seeks Information on Bus Ramps in Update of Vehicle Guidelines

The Access Board is reopening the comment period on proposed updates to its ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles to collect additional information on bus ramps. As part of this effort, the Board will hold public meetings in September and October to discuss the usability and impacts of certain bus ramp designs that have been implemented more recently. This information will be used to finalize proposed updates to sections of the guidelines covering buses and vans.

In 2010, the Board released for public comment a proposal to update sections of the vehicle guidelines covering buses and vans. The proposed rule included revisions to technical specifications for vehicle ramps, onboard circulation routes, wheelchair spaces, and securement systems. To improve accessibility, the Board proposed reducing the maximum slope of vehicle ramps.

The Board, which is finalizing the updated guidelines according to the public comments received, recently has been made aware of a specific bus ramp design that is responsive to the proposed slope reduction but that may impact usability. This design allows a portion of deployed ramps to remain inside the vehicle to minimize their exterior projection. Questions have arisen about this type of design, including grade breaks that occur on ramp runs, reduced maneuvering space at the top of ramps, and access to fare collection devices. This information and correspondence received by the Board have been placed in the rulemaking docket which is available online at regulations.gov.

To further examine this ramp design and to collect additional information and feedback from the public, the Board is re-opening the docket, as indicated in a published notice. The Board will hold a public meeting on the subject on September 19 from 9:30 to 1:30 at its conference center at 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 800 in Washington, D.C. The Board plans to hold a second meeting the first week of October at the annual meeting of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) in Seattle and will release further details at a later date. Bus and ramp manufacturers, transit operators, disability organizations, researchers, and interested individuals are encouraged to attend these meetings and to submit comment. Written comments will be accepted until October 31 and can be submitted through the regulations.gov website.

For further information, visit the Board’s website or contact Scott Windley at windley@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0025 (voice), or (202) 272-0028 (TTY).

Public Meetings on Bus Ramps and
Updates to the ADA Vehicle Guidelines

September 19, 9:30 – 1:30
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC

A second meeting is planned for early
October at the APTA annual meeting in Seattle

Monday, August 20, 2012

Implement Affordable Care Act in Illinois : Opinion

The State Journal-Register | Springfield, IL
Posted Aug 19, 2012

Our Opinion: Implement Affordable Care Act in Illinois

It’s time to accept that the Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare for those who have tried to demonize the law and the president — is the law of the land.

In Illinois, that means the General Assembly should vote to accept federal funding for the law’s expansion of Medicaid if necessary and create an insurance exchange for those who will need to purchase insurance because their employer does not provide it.

Illinois Republicans hope to participate in the same kind of obstruction their colleagues in other statehouses are practicing by throwing up false arguments against the state implementing the law.

Under the law, Medicaid, the state and federal program for the poor, will be expanded to cover more people at higher income levels. Medicaid would be available to adults in Illinois who don’t have minor children in their homes if their household income doesn’t exceed 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or less than $15,415 a year for an individual and $31,800 for a family of four.

Today, adults without children qualify for Medicaid in Illinois only if they are senior citizens or have permanent disabilities and incomes at or below the federal poverty level. Disabled adults can be on Medicaid if they get Social Security disability benefits.

The federal government will foot 100 percent of the bill for the first three years and 90 percent in subsequent years.

Last month, Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, floated what’s become a standard talking point amongst Republicans: That the federal government may not keep paying the bills in subsequent years, leaving the state of Illinois on the hook for the cost.

If that happens — and let’s face it, the only reason it would is if congressional Republicans are successful in yanking funding — then the state has an out provided by the U.S. Supreme Court: It can back out of the Medicaid expansion.

While the justices decided Obamacare was constitutional, they also told the federal government it could not coerce the states into participating in the Medicaid expansion by yanking their existing Medicaid funding. If the federal government quits paying the bills, Illinois should quit participating in the program.

Brady also offered up another false choice, noting the state’s decrepit financial state.
“We’ve got $7.5 billion in unpaid bills,” he said.

None of those bills can be paid for with the money being offered under Obamacare. It’s a separate program.

The Affordable Care Act requires every American to have insurance, either through Medicaid, Medicare, their employer or purchased from a state-based health insurance exchange. The exchanges are basically a health insurance superstore with competing plans aimed at driving premiums down.

Those who don’t have employer-based insurance or who aren’t eligible for a government program will buy off of the exchanges. The government will subsidize some of the costs of premiums based on income level.

Some Republican governors are threatening not to accept the federal Medicaid money, leaving their poorest citizens uncovered. This is particularly cruel given that subsidies given to people participating in the exchanges who make too much money to be Medicaid-eligible won’t go to those who are.

Illinois should not join those who would be heartless in order to score political points.


Livingston County Law and Justice Center (Illinois) - over 100 ADA violations - updated info Aug 2012

PONTIAC, Ill. (AP) Aug 19, 2012 - A new $16 million court facility in Pontiac has been cited with more than 100 alleged violations of state and federal disability laws.

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph reports (http://bit.ly/SaunBu ) that Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office has leveled 105 violations since the Livingston County Justice Center opened last November.

Problems include a 7-inch single-step barrier to the witness stand, bathrooms that lack enough floor space for a disabled person and tactile panels designed to help blind pedestrians into a crosswalk that instead lead them into an intersection.

More than two dozen security concerns were raised by the 11th Judicial Circuit, including alarms not installed on fire doors and no deadbolt locks on doors from the courtroom.

County officials say the security violations have been corrected and they're working on the accessibility problems.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Talks to address changes to law center ongoing

August 19, 2012 6:00 am • By Edith Brady-Lunny | Pantagraph.com

PONTIAC — The committee that worked with architects to design the Livingston County Law and Justice Center relied on a 2006 report from a national committee studying accessibility issues for guidance to make the facility accessible for disabled people, the county told Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.

In a July 27 reply to Madigan on how it intends to address more than 100 alleged violations of disability access rules, the county said it used a report compiled by the Courthouse Access Advisory Committee. The document was created “in part to help fill in the absence of requirements, the information gap and inconsistencies that existed in the 1991 ADA,” County Board Chairman Bill Fairfield told the AG’s office.

Last week, Fairfield said he thinks the state will be satisfied with its plans.

“I’m cautiously optimistic. I believe we’ve answered their questions,” he said.

Construction manager Jack Hayes, with Frederick Quinn Corp. in Addison, declined to answer questions about the responses he helped prepare for the county, or the building’s design.

“We’re the construction manager. We had nothing to do with planning and design,” said Hayes.

In its first response to the state in January, the county agreed to comply with the least serious citations involving signs and adjustments to the force required to open interior doors. But the county stood its ground that some items did not require fixing.

A mandate that the court clerk’s area in three courtrooms be accessible to disabled workers solicited this response from the county: “The court clerk must be an ambulatory person due to the required fast paced moving from the bench to the file rooms, to the copy machines etc.”

Madigan’s office repeated its demand that the area be accessible and warned the county that “your response regarding the court clerk having to be an ambulatory person could violate Title I of the ADA” that prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability.

Suggesting that disabled people would not be able to do the work of a court clerk runs counter to the progress made to employ such individuals, said Laura Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Americans with Disabilities Association.

“For a government body to state that it intends to violate the law by discriminating is an astonishing position. Following the law is a requirement and not an option and governments are not an exception. They should be leading the way on ADA compliance,” said Schwartz.

Bill Flott, chairman of the County Board’s Law and Justice Committee that oversaw the building project, outlined the county’s possible strategy in a Feb. 15 email to another board member: “I think we need to hear the people from Madigan’s office before we take additional action. If they are real a-holes and won’t listen to logic and common sense then I think we need to look at attorneys that deal with this stuff as well as get help from Cultra, Barickman, Rutherford etc.,” referring to area elected officials. Last week, Flott said the email reflected his frustration with the ongoing ADA issues.

The board also suggests in the July 27 reply to the state that accessibility to the clerk’s area and witness stand can be answered with removable ramps. But the board continues to disagree with the AG that counters in several offices must be lowered because the surfaces are not service counters.

The state is reviewing the latest responses.

Meanwhile, some County Board members are demanding answers as to how the $16 million building could be constructed outside federal and state disability guidelines.

One, District 2 board member Joe Steichen of Kempton, is calling for members of the Law and Justice Committee to resign, saying last week, “This is such a mess I can see us having to close the building” until the issues are resolved.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Horse Therapy for Children with Disabilities | video & article

Posts By Bridget Marquardt | Animal Nation – Fri, Aug 10, 2012

We recently visited a clinic for children with developmental disabilities where therapists are using horses to provide occupational and physical therapy. It's called hippotherapy and at McKenna Farms in Dallas, Georgia, the patients range from autistic children to those with physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy.

We met one four year-old boy named Noah, whose cerebral palsy prevents him from sitting upright or fully using his hands or legs. For Noah, doing his therapy while riding on the horse helps him build strength in his trunk muscles that will help him work towards the goal of keeping his body upright and head up. His therapists also say that, since the stride length and pace of the horse so closely mimic the human stride, these hippotherapy sessions are helping his brain and muscles learn the patterns involved in walking. They are also of the the few times he gets to experience what it might feel like to walk.

Noah's mom says the horses have made a huge difference in her son's life. He loves the animals and finds motivation to work harder. And what's more, he's found something he truly loves doing.


AbleGamers Foundation: Ensuring There Are No Barriers to Fun

by Guest Blogger Steven Spohn, Editor-in-Chief, AbleGamers

Video games, love’em or hate’em, are quickly becoming one of today’s most popular forms of entertainment. They are not just for kids anymore, and reach many different segments of our population. From hardcore Call of Duty to casual Angry Birds, there is a game for just about everyone. But what if you can’t play the same games everyone else is playing because of your disability?

That’s where AbleGamers comes in. AbleGamers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization advocating for game accessibility in the digital entertainment space. Really fancy words for: if you want to play video games and you can’t play or have trouble playing, we help you to do so.

Between the amazing amounts of assistive technology available today and the ingenuity of those with disabilities, there’s always a way around any obstacle in life. Gaming is no different. Our mission is to make sure that every video game is as accessible as it can be to the widest possible audience.

I always find it difficult to sum up what we do in just a few words, but perhaps I can give you just a glimpse into what our foundation is doing every day. First, we start out with a large community that helps anyone and everyone by providing suggestions from our own life experiences.

You’d be surprised what kind of things you can repurpose. I know someone who plays games with pencils, another who only plays with his feet, and a very good friend of mine used a telegrapher’s straight key device once used to send Morse code in order to play.

Second, we have the largest database of games reviewed specifically for their accessibility. On a 1 to 10 scale we tear apart video games based on the kind of options they have built in, how easy it would be to play with the various disabilities and what kind of workarounds there might be to play the game whether you only have one hand, no arm movement, colorblind, Deaf, etc.

After all, if you weren’t able to play the game anyway, who cares how fun it might be, right?

We also reach out to and work with developers to help add accessibility options to their games to include as many people with various disabilities as possible. We’ve been able to help the likes of Microsoft, Harmonix, Rockstar, Bioware, Blizzard and many more.

Third, we have what we like to call the Accessibility Arcade, which is simply two to four stations of Xbox and PC games setup with assistive technology. This does two things. One, it allows those that do not have a disability to see what someone with a disability might go through just to be able to play like everyone else. And two, it allows those who do have difficulties to see what is available for assistive technology to help them game and be able to try out expensive equipment before they purchase.

Fourth, we raise awareness for a cause that often has a negative stigma attached. It’s unfortunate that video games were given a bad rap early on in their creation; just like anything in life, video games should be used in moderation. But there is a whole other world of reasons why they are so important to those with disabilities.

If you are someone who is bedbound in a facility, shut-in at home or recuperating in a hospital, video games can be a window into an otherwise inaccessible world. Many, many of our members, including yours truly, have been able to find great joy in virtual worlds where running, jumping and flying are all completely possible. It’s a place where you can make friends, do something together as a family and even find love.

These virtual worlds are far more than games. They are communities with real people on the other side of the screen. Ten years ago it was considered odd to have made a friend online; today, almost everyone has met someone through some kind of online interaction, either at work or play. Our archives are filled with stories of individuals who have had experiences that would not have been possible without such wonderful technology.

Fifth, sixth and beyond, we do so many cool things that I am very happy and very lucky to be a part of every day. We give out codes. We recommend various setups so individuals with assistive technology can use games. We go to conventions and raise awareness about gamers with disabilities. We do consulting. We give presentations and speeches.

I could go on for hours about everything that helps me smile every day. You see those smiles are important because they are the only payment we get for doing what we do.

Yep. We are all volunteers. Our entire organization, from president on down to the newest volunteer, gets paid absolutely zero, zilch, zip, nada. We take 100 percent of every donation we get and throw it right back into doing something else for the community. (To learn more about volunteer opportunities with AbleGamers, visit http://www.ablegamers.com/Volunteer.html.)

And that all leads up to the reason I’m writing this today. When funding allows, we get the greatest joy from taking requests from the community and giving out assistive technology. This month the AbleGamers Foundation opened the Children’s Grant Program, an opportunity for young gamers to apply for a grant to help get them back in the game.

This particular grant application period is open August 1 – 31, but we hold these as often as we can. Sometimes it’s for Veterans (our president, Mark Barlet, is an injured Air Force Veteran). Other times, it’s for adults with disabilities, like me. This time we’re helping our younger fans (ages 15 years and younger).

We know we can’t help everyone but, with the help of our friends, we can bring just a little bit of joy to some very special people in need.

After all, there should be no barriers to fun!

For more Information

Visit the AbleGamers website at http://www.ablegamers.com/, “Like” us Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Steve Spohn is the Editor-in-Chief of AbleGamers and Outreach Chair for the AbleGamers Foundation. He has been interviewed as an expert in gaming with disabilities and assistive technologies by MSNBC, CNN, PC World, G4, and multiple international journals. Steve has travel a crossed the country as a speaker at various events including PAX East, Games for Health, Assistive Technology Centers, universities and many developer studios. In his off time, he is a web designer, gamer, writer, and on to his newest endeavor, learning Japanese. He holds degrees in Visual Communication, Information Technology, Web Design and Writing, with an MFA in Fiction Writing as his next goal. Steve is an active social media user and you can always find him on Twitter, Facebook and on AbleGamers forums.

The above information is shared from Disability.gov:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Earning $11,000 is too much : Anti-Medicaid states | Aug 14, 2012

By CARLA K. JOHNSON and KELLI KENNEDY | Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — Sandra Pico is poor, but not poor enough.

She makes about $15,000 a year, supporting her daughter and unemployed husband. She thought she'd be able to get health insurance after the Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama's health care law.

Then she heard that her own governor won't agree to the federal plan to extend Medicaid coverage to people like her in two years. So she expects to remain uninsured, struggling to pay for her blood pressure medicine.

"You fall through the cracks and there's nothing you can do about it," said the 52-year-old home health aide. "It makes me feel like garbage, like the American dream, my dream in my homeland is not being accomplished."

Many working parents like Pico are below the federal poverty line but don't qualify for Medicaid, a decades-old state-federal insurance program. That's especially true in states where conservative governors say they'll reject the Medicaid expansion under Obama's health law.

In South Carolina, a yearly income of $16,900 is too much for Medicaid for a family of three. In Florida, $11,000 a year is too much. In Mississippi, $8,200 a year is too much. In Louisiana and Texas, earning more than just $5,000 a year makes you ineligible for Medicaid.
Governors in those five states have said they'll reject the Medicaid expansion underpinning Obama's health law after the Supreme Court's decision gave states that option. Many of those hurt by the decision are working parents who are poor — but not poor enough — to qualify for Medicaid.

Republican Mitt Romney's new running mate, conservative Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, has a budget plan that would turn Medicaid over to the states and sharply limit federal dollars. Romney hasn't specifically said where he stands on Ryan's idea, but has expressed broad support for his vice presidential pick's proposals.

Medicaid now covers an estimated 70 million Americans and would cover an estimated 7 million more in 2014 under the Obama health law's expansion. In contrast, Ryan's plan could mean 14 million to 27 million Americans would ultimately lose coverage, even beyond the effect of a repeal of the health law, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation of Ryan's 2011 budget plan.

For now, most states don't cover childless adults, but all states cover some low-income parents. The income cutoff, however, varies widely from state to state.

Most states cover children in low-income families. Manuel and Sandra Pico's 15-year-old daughter is covered by Medicaid. But the suburban Miami couple can't afford private insurance for themselves and they make too much for Florida's Medicaid.

Manuel Pico, a carpenter, used to make more than $20,000 a year, but has struggled to find work in the last three years after the real estate market collapsed. He occasionally picks up day jobs or takes care of the neighbor's yard. Sandra Pico would like to work full time, but can't afford to pay someone to watch her 34-year-old sister, who has Down syndrome.

"No matter how hard I work, I'm not going to get anywhere," Sandra Pico said. "If you're not rich, you just don't have it."

In San Juan, Texas, 22-year-old Matthew Solis makes about $8,700 a year — too much to qualify for Medicaid in that state. Solis, a single father with joint custody of his 4-year-old daughter, said he works about 25 hours per week at a building supply store making minimum wage and is a full-time college student at the University of Texas-Pan American. He aspires to be a school counselor.

He recently sought medical care for food poisoning, visiting a federally funded clinic. But he doesn't see a doctor regularly because he can't afford private insurance. The new health law allows young adults to remain on their parents' insurance until age 26. But that doesn't help Solis, whose father is uninsured and whose mother died of leukemia when he was 8.

"I voted for him (Obama) because he promised we would have insurance," Solis said. "I'm pretty upset because I worked for Obama and I still don't have coverage."

His governor, Rick Perry, like Pico's governor, Rick Scott, is rejecting the Medicaid expansion. So Solis too is out of luck unless his circumstances dramatically change.

In most of the states where governors are rejecting or leaning against the expansion, the income level that disqualifies a parent from Medicaid is stunningly low. Only in New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie has said he's leaning against the expansion, is Medicaid available to parents with incomes at the poverty line and slightly above. New Jersey will cover a parent making $24,645 in a family of three.

Most states base Medicaid eligibility for parents on household income and how it compares to the federal poverty level, which was $18,530 for a family of three in 2011, the year being used for easier state-by-state comparisons.

In Louisiana, the eligibility cutoff for a working parent is 25 percent of federal poverty, or $4,633 for a family of three. In Nevada, it's 87 percent of the federal poverty level, or $16,121 for a family of three.

That's been the range in states where governors are likely saying no to expanded Medicaid.

In contrast, states where governors have said they'll expand Medicaid are more generous with working parents. The Medicaid eligibility cutoff ranges in those states from Washington's $13,527 to Minnesota's $39,840.

To be sure, some states with generous coverage for parents have been forced to cut back. Illinois, facing a financial crisis, ended coverage last month for more than 25,000 working parents. Even so, the state still covers working parents with incomes slightly higher than the poverty line.

The national health law's Medicaid expansion would start covering all citizens in 2014 who make up to roughly $15,400 for an individual, $30,650 for a family of four.

The federal government will pay the full cost of the Medicaid expansion through 2016. After that, the states will only pick up 5 percent of the cost through 2019, and 10 percent of the cost thereafter.

So why would any governor say no to such a great deal?

These governors are in favor of smaller government. In principle, they don't want the federal government to expand — even if that expansion would help their own citizens. And they say they don't want their own states paying any more of the Medicaid tab even if it's years down the road.

"We don't need the federal government telling us what to do when it comes to meeting the needs of the citizens of our states," Florida Gov. Rick Scott wrote recently in an opinion piece for U.S. News and World Report. "And we don't need Washington putting states on the hook for future budget obligations."

Also, many conservatives view Medicaid as a wasteful, highly flawed program, akin to no health coverage. Many doctors across the country won't treat Medicaid patients because the payments they receive are so low.

When the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of the health law's Medicaid expansion, it raised the chances for inequity at a time when more Americans have fallen from the middle class into poverty, said Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"Why should a sick person in Connecticut have access to health care when they don't in Mississippi and Texas?" Sawhill asked. "We really do have a very high level of poverty as a result of the recession. And the safety net is weaker than ever."

Medicaid, the nation's single largest insurer, is a state and federal program created in 1965 as a companion program to welfare cash assistance to single parents. Today, the elderly and disabled cost nearly 70 cents of every Medicaid dollar, not the stereotypical single mother and her children.

What's largely unknown to many Americans is who is left out of the safety net, said Cheryl Camillo, a senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research. "A huge chunk of the populace is not covered, even by Medicaid," she said.

The political rhetoric during a presidential campaign focuses on the middle class and leaves the uninsured working poor largely invisible, said Rand Corp. researcher Dr. Art Kellermann.

"We hear a lot of talk about unemployment and the aspirations of middle-class Americans. But we don't hear about the consequences of unemployment and the consequences of the collapsing middle class," Kellermann said. Losing health insurance is one of those consequences.

"It's like the public just doesn't want to believe anything else until it hits home," he said, "Until it's their own child, brother or parent that got laid off when they were 58, until then, it's not real."


AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson reported from Chicago. AP Writer Christopher Sherman contributed to this report from San Juan, Texas.

Stop Bullying Video Challenge - Contestants must submit their videos between August 7 and October 10, 2012

Join the Stop Bullying Video Challenge to help prevent and end bullying in schools and communities.

Everybody Contestants must submit their videos between August 7 and October 10, 2012 explaining how you can be more than a bystander and prevent bullying.

Published on Aug 7, 2012 by StopBullyingGov

Kids witness bullying every day. Tell us how you can be more than a bystander and help kids who are involved in bullying.

On behalf of the Federal Parnters in Bullying Prevention, Education Secretary Arne Duncan invites youth to submit PSAs on how they can be "more than a bystander" for bullying. Learn more at StopBullying.Challenge.Gov.

Please visit Challenge.gov by clicking 'headline' or at: http://stopbullying.challenge.gov/

Illinois Families with disabled young adults cope with funding changes | Aug 2012

Downers Grove, IL — Like so many young adults, Bill Yoakam of Naperville is still living at home with his parents. They’re happy to have him, but as their son gets older, the reality that soon he’ll need to leave home becomes profound, and carried with it many challenges.

Bill, 25, was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome when he was 17-years old. It’s a developmental disability caused by a chromosomal defect.

He’s non-verbal, but uses an electronic device to convey wants and needs. Bill also has mental delay and suffers from seizures. Although the disorder is often characterized by the inability to walk, Bill is able to get around on his own.

“He’s relatively high functioning,” Linda Yoakam said. “It’s considered a rare neurological disorder, but I question how rare it actually is.”

According to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, the disorder occurs in one in every 15,000 births, although it’s often misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy or autism.

The test to diagnose Angelman Syndrome was only developed in the past 10 years, so official data about its prevalence is unknown.

When Bill turned 22-years old, he was no longer eligible to attend the Aurora Education Center, which teaches life skills training for post-high school students. State law requires that school districts provide education to special needs students until the day before they turn 22.

Today, Bill attends a day program at the Keeler Center, an entity of the Association for Individual Development. Three days a week he goes to Keeler Center and the rest of the time he’s at home where his dad, Marvin, cares for him.

The system worked well until recently. With Linda and Marvin in their 60s, the reality that Bill won’t live at home forever has crept into the forefront of their minds. Marvin’s health problems have made it increasingly difficult for him to care for Bill at home.

“He has major issues with his back, and is on crutches and a walker,” Linda Yoakam said. “If something happened to one of us, we would be in crisis mode.”

For Bill, moving out isn’t a matter of saving some money, securing a job and finding his own place, like many 20-somethings. Instead, his parents are left at the mercy of the debt-ridden state, waiting until their son gets approved for a Medicaid-funded waiver that will help him move out.

And so, like more than 2,000 families in DuPage County, the family waits.

Waiting for word
Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services, commonly called PUNS, is an organization system overseen by the state’s Department of Human Services.

Individuals with developmental disabilities are entered into the database, usually by families, friends or caseworkers, and categorized based on need of services and severity of disabilities.

In DuPage County alone, there are more than 2,000 people waiting to receive Medicaid funding that will allow them to move into residential programs. Throughout the state, there are more than 22,200 people waiting for funding to get necessary services, be they residential or day programs, life skills training, respite, therapy and more.

For years, the appropriate funds were released at a relatively steady rate, but as the state plunged deeper into debt, the Medicaid distributions began to dwindle. Today, things are essentially at a standstill, said Kim Zoeller, president and CEO of Ray Graham Association, which provides a variety of services to people with disabilities in DuPage County.

“The economy has played a big role in why they aren’t getting waivers for residential placement,” she said.

Right now, the only people receiving funding for residential programs are those families facing emergency situations, Zoeller said. In Illinois, “emergency” means the person will be left homeless.

“It must feel like to families that there is this black hole,” Zoeller said. “We don’t have that much leverage to advocate for a person.”

The Yoakams placed Bill on the PUNS list when he was still in elementary school at the encouragement of a school case worker. Bill recently moved up on the list because of his father’s health problems. Although she’s not ready to see him leave home, if Bill’s name came up on the list and the funds became available, Linda said she’d jump at the chance to secure him placement in a residential program.

“My worst fear is that something would happen to us and he’d be yanked out of this home and placed on an emergency basis,” she said. “I’d like to see a placement in the next five years. Something could happen to us at any time. We’re at that age.”

Linda said Bill doesn’t transition easily and she worried about the effect an emergency placement might have on him.

“He has anxiety and can’t calm down enough to relax,” she said.

Changes to the state
As futile as conditions may seem for families, things are slowly beginning to change and momentum is starting to build, Zoeller said.

In June 2011, a federal judge approved a settlement to a long-running class action lawsuit between the state and people with developmental disabilities who were unhappy with their living conditions.

Commonly known as the Ligas Lawsuit, the settlement gave people with disabilities a voice regarding where they live and what services they receive, and ruled that people who want to receive services in their own community can have that option.

Shortly after the settlement, Gov. Pat Quinn announced two state-operated institutions would be closed by the end of 2012 – Jacksonville Developmental Center and Choate Mental Health Center, both located in southern Illinois.

Combined, the facilities housed more than 400 people who are now slowly being relocated to community-based residential programs.

The Ligas decision and Quinn’s move to close two state institutions shifts the momentum toward a focus on community-based residential services and programs. Examples of these programs are the CILAs, group homes or other community-living situations operated by local providers like Ray Graham Association, Seguin Services of Cicero and more.

People who live in community-based residential programs have a higher quality of life than people living in institutions, Zoeller said. Plus, from the perspective of a state deep in the red, the economics are better.

It costs about $160,000 for a person to live in a state-operated institution. It costs about $50,000 for that same person to live in a community-based program, according to a study conducted by Don Moss & Associates of Springfield.

A glimmer of hope?
In a state where financial support is trickling down to families at what might seem like a snail’s pace, and there are thousands of people waiting for this support, the situation seems bleak, but Zoeller said there are things the families can do to make things better.

One of the first things is families need to do is get on the PUNs list as early as possible and keep it updated every year, she said.

“The family often thinks, ‘I don’t have to worry about that for a long time,’ but it’s so important,” she said.

Aside from the PUNs list, she said families need to get aggressive, write to local legislators and call their representatives to tell them about their situations.

“It’s a hard situation for families right now,” she said. “They’re responsible for making legislators know. It is he who screams the loudest who gets served. Families have got to create change.”

By Sarah Small, ssmall@mysuburbanlife.com
Suburban Life Publications
Posted Aug 10, 2012 @ 01:00 PM