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

Friday, June 28, 2013

Working Group on Prescription Drug Container Labels to Present Report to the U.S. Access Board on July 10, 2013

An advisory panel on access to prescription drug container labels will present its report at a meeting of the U.S. Access Board on July 10. The Working Group on Accessible Prescription Drug Container Labels will submit recommended best practices for making information on prescription drug container labels accessible to people who are visually impaired or who are elderly. This 18-member stakeholder panel, which was comprised of representatives from advocacy organizations and industry, explored various access alternatives, including braille, large print labels, and auditory technologies such as “talking bottles” and radio frequency identification tags. The working group’s recommendations are advisory only, not mandatory, and will not have the force of guidelines or standards. This guidance is being developed under the "Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act" which was signed into law last summer.

Meeting of the U.S. Access Board
July 10, 1:30 – 3:30
Access Board Conference Room
1331 F Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20004
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.

Call-in option (listening only):
Dial: (888) 790-2060 (toll-free)
Passcode: 6317703

Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART):
The web streaming link will be posted on the Board's website.

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

Strollers And Chicago CTA Buses !!! - 'some people are just plain ignorant!' - video

Had to share this one, the poster quote of 'some people are just plain ignorant!' is amazing...

YouTube Published by HunyBuny6979 on Jun 19, 2012

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CTA Policies and Practices

Children in strollers
Children in open strollers are welcome on CTA, however we encourage parents to be considerate of other customers and adhere to these rules when traveling with a stroller.

Keep strollers clear of aisles and doorways aboard buses and trains.

Seniors and customers with disabilities have priority use of the Priority Seating area aboard buses and trains. If these seats are not in use, open strollers may be parked in this area. This will help you to avoid blocking the aisle. Please yield this space if a customer with disabilities, a senior, or a person using a mobility device wishes to board. On buses, you may request use of the access ramp or lift to help you board and exit.

Please fold your stroller in the event that a bus or train becomes crowded, in order to make room for others. Be aware that in the event that a bus or train is crowded, a CTA employee may ask you to fold your stroller or wait for another vehicle. Please follow their instructions. Also, during certain periods of high ridership, we may require that all strollers be folded before you board.

Children in an open stroller should be seated and secured in the stroller before boarding the bus or train.

Note that strollers are never allowed on escalators. If traveling with an open stroller in a multi-level facility, please use elevators or ramps where available. On train station platforms, position your stroller parallel to the platform edge (not facing it), use wheel locks/brakes and stay with it at all times.

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Please remember


New App To Link Chicago Disabled Commuters With Accessible Taxis

CHICAGO (CBS) – A local tech start-up and a disabled advocacy group will make getting a wheelchair-accessible taxi in Chicago a lot easier starting in August.
“Oftentimes, people with disabilities are faced with long wait times or no-shows,” said Commissioner Karen Tamley, of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.
She expected a new mobile phone app would change that.

“This is a very innovative, new concept,” said Commissioner Rosemary Krimball, with the Department of Business and Consumer Protection, which oversees the taxi industry.

Krimball said the city has doubled the number of wheelchair-accessible cabs to 175.

However, “we needed to now make sure they get dispatched to the right people.”

Enter the Open Doors Organization – disability advocacy group – and Humboldt Park-based tech start-up Driven Solutions – which created the mobile phone app “Snag Wave.”

“Snag Wave is going to connect a consumer to a taxi driver, and the taxi driver will have a 10-inch tablet installed in the cab,” Driven Solutions CEO Victor Arellano said.

A smart phone or tablet will be able to find the nearest wheelchair-accessible taxi with the app.

If the person needing a cab only has a basic cell phone – or just a landline – the system will still work, because cab dispatchers will have tablets with the Snag Wave app.

Open Doors founder Eric Lipp said, “We are going to create a communication between the driver, the passenger, and the dispatch that doesn’t currently exist; so that everybody gets picked up.”

The system is expected to be in place on August 1.


Judges: Social Security pushes approval of Disability claims

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER | Associated Press | June 27, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Driven to reduce a huge backlog of disability claims, Social Security is pushing judges to award benefits to people who may not deserve them, several current and former judges told Congress Thursday.

Larry Butler, an administrative law judge from Fort Myers, Fla., called the system “paying down the backlog.”

A former Social Security judge, J.E. Sullivan, said, “The only thing that matters in the adjudication process is signing that final decision.” Sullivan is now an administrative law judge for the Department of Transportation.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating why many judges have high approval rates for claims already rejected twice by field offices or state agencies. Two current and two former judges spoke at a subcommittee hearing.

The number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits has increased by 44 percent over the past decade, pushing the trust fund that supports the program to the brink of insolvency.

Social Security officials say the primary reason for the increase is a surge in baby boomers who are more prone to disability as they age. Deputy Social Security Commissioner Glenn Sklar noted that the vast majority of disability claims are initially denied.

“I think the data kind of speaks for itself,” Sklar told lawmakers.

To qualify for benefits, people are supposed to have disabilities that prevent them from working and are expected to last at least a year or result in death.

According to Social Security data, there were errors in 22 percent of the cases decided in 2011, Sklar said. He said some errors were procedural and did not necessarily result in incorrect decisions.

“The true wrong rate would be less than 10 percent,” Sklar said.

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

An additional 8.3 million people get Supplemental Security Income, a separately funded disability program for low-income people.

Social Security disability claims are first processed through a network of local Social Security Administration field offices and state agencies called Disability Determination Services. About two-thirds of initial claims are rejected, according to agency statistics.

If your claim is rejected, you can ask the field office or state agency to reconsider. If your claim is rejected again, you can appeal to an administrative law judge, who is employed by Social Security.

In 2007, the average processing time for a hearing was 512 days. Today it is 375 days, Sklar said. The agency has reduced the wait time even as the number of applications has increased.

But the judges who testified Thursday said the quality of their decisions has suffered.

So far this budget year, the vast majority of judges have approved benefits in more than half the cases they’ve decided, even though they were reviewing applications typically rejected twice by state agencies, according to Social Security data.

Of the 1,560 judges who have decided at least 50 cases since October, 195 judges approved benefits in at least 75 percent of their cases, according to the data analyzed by congressional investigators.

“The Social Security Administration has failed to take steps to address the problem of rapid disability growth, probably because the agency has failed to recognize many of the problems,” said Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., the subcommittee chairman.

None of the judges who testified spoke of being specifically ordered to award claims. Three said they had been pressured to decide cases without fully reviewing medical files.

The judges described a system in which there is very little incentive to deny claims, but lots of pressure to approve them. It requires more documentation to deny a claim than to approve one, said Sullivan, the former Social Security judge. Also, rejected claims can be appealed while approved claims are not.

“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to push cases out the door as soon as possible,” Sullivan said in an interview after the hearing. “There’s a push to pay mentality.”

Butler, the current judge, told the subcommittee, “I think you need to look at the issue of paying down the backlog. It’s not media hype, its real and for six years it’s been going on.”

The union representing administrative law judges says judges are required to decide 500 to 700 cases a year in an effort to reduce the hearings backlog. The union says the requirement is an illegal quota that leads judges to sometimes award benefits they might otherwise deny just to keep up with the flow of cases, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the judges’ union in April.

The agency denies there is a case quota for judges and says the standard is a productivity goal.

If Congress doesn’t act, the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money in 2016, according to projections by Social Security’s trustees. At that point, the system will collect only enough money in payroll taxes to pay 80 percent of benefits, triggering an automatic 20 percent cut in benefits.

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


Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

ALERT: "the UN Disability Treaty." ACTION DAY - June 27, 2013

sharing from our colleagues at Access Living...

Dear Access Living friends and allies,

Tomorrow, June 27, is the last day the US Senate will be in session before the July 4 holiday. They will go back to DC the week of July 8. WE NEED YOUR HELP to make June 27 an awesome day of action for the UN CRPD, also known as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities or "the UN disability treaty."

Anti-CRPD advocates have been calling up Senator Mark Kirk's office by the hundreds. While this week we have heard that several people who are FOR the CRPD have made calls, we need to RAMP IT UP!

Please activate your networks TOMORROW, Thursday June 27, to call Senator Kirk at two offices:

Chicago Phone: 312-886-3506
DC Phone: 202-224-2854
Just call the office and say: "Hello, my name is ________ and I am a disability advocate in Illinois. I am calling to urge Senator Kirk as a person with a disability to PUBLICLY support the UN disability treaty. We need to know that he is with us." The office will note your call as part of their call log.
Here at Access Living we will be having an Open House all day tomorrow (Thursday June 27) from 11 am to 4 pm and we will be asking attendees to call Senator Kirk too.

Let's go Illinois! We are counting on you (and your friends, and your families, and your colleagues!). Please report back the number of calls you get back to me at asmock@accessliving.org as we are keeping a tally.

Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living

# # #

For Access Living homepage: CLICK HERE


Dear Access Living friends and allies,

Pat yourself on the back! After an amazing day with at least 115 calls made to Senator Kirk's office by disability advocates yesterday and some hard work by our friends in Washington DC, it has been confirmed by Kirk staff that Illinois Senator Mark Kirk SUPPORTS THE UN CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES!!!!

Having our own Senator Kirk, a man with a disability, stand with us on the CRPD is an amazing feeling. Take time today to CELEBRATE!!!! Thank you to the leadership of our CEO Marca Bristo, our friends at DREDF and USICD, all of our CIL and disability community friends who worked together yesterday. We did it!!!

Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living

ADHD Leaves Kids More Susceptible To Disability Following Brain Injury

Children with ADHD were far more likely to experience a moderate disability following a mild brain injury than others.

BY MATTHEW MIENTKA | Medical Daily | JUN 25, 2013

Children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to develop a disability following a minor head injury resulting in a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Thus, experts say parents may wish to steer such children away from full-contact sports and hobbies carrying a greater risk of TBI.

For years, researchers and parents of children with ADHD had wondered whether the condition exacerbated the effects of brain injury, minor and major, following an accident. In research published Tuesday, investigators at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Chicago report findings that children with ADHD have a greater chance of developing a moderate disability after sustaining a mild TBI, when compared to children without the condition.

Reviewing patient records between January 2003 and December 2010 at Children's Hospital of Pittsburg, the investigators analyzed data from cases in which children suffered mild "closed-head injury," which requires no neurosurgical treatment, resulting in mild TBI, as measured by an initial score of 13-15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. Against this group of patients, 48 in total, the researchers compared outcomes from another 45 patients who suffered the same type of trauma, but were not diagnosed with ADHD.

After eliminating possible confounders relating to demographics and injury types, the researchers found that a quarter of the patients with ADHD had a moderate disability while 56 percent had made complete recoveries after a period of 25 or so weeks. By that time, only two percent of patients without ADHD had developed a disability as a result of their brain injury, while the vast majority — 84 percent — had recovered fully after only seven weeks or so.

Statistical analysis of this study showed that "patients with ADHD were statistically significantly more disabled after mild TBI than were control patients without ADHD, even when controlling for age, sex, initial [Glasgow Coma Scale] score, hospital length of stay, length of follow-up, mechanism of injury, and presence of other [extracranial] injury," the researchers wrote

The evidence of a relationship between ADHD and exacerbated effects from brain injury came as no surprise to the investigators, leaving them to speculate about the possible reasons, including not only a greater vulnerability to such injury but an impaired healing process within the brain afterward, or perhaps a factor rendering rehabilitation programs less effective.

"Our study provides evidence that for children with ADHD who sustain a TBI, different treatment and patient and family education may be necessary to achieve optimal outcomes." Dr. Christopher M. Bonfield, a co-author of the study, told reporters.

Aside from recommending children with ADHD refrain from more dangerous sports and hobbies, Bonfield and his colleagues said doctors must monitor such patients more closely following brain injury, counseling parents and other family members about possible outcomes in the weeks following. More study is needed, Bonfield said, on the effect of ADHD on more severe brain injuries, as well as the underlying mechanisms of the relationship between the two conditions.

Source: Bonfield CM, Lam S, Lin Y, Greene S. The impact of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on recovery from mild traumatic brain injury. Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics. 2013.

Read more at http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/16851/20130625/adhd-disabilities-traumatic-brain-jury-children-health.htm#EPHWm5JzGmj8Aahg.99

Impassioned Plea for You To Participate in Macy Act Call-in Day June 27, 2013 : American council of the Blind

we wanted to share a 'time sensitive' request from Ray Campbell, Chair, American council of the Blind Education Task Force...


I come before all of you, figuratively, on bended knee. I am joining with
others in asking you to take a few minutes, tomorrow, to do something simple
and powerful for the future of education of children with visual

Tomorrow, June 27, is the birthday of one of the most beloved and
accomplished iconic figures in the blindness community, Helen Keller. It is
also National Macy Act Call-in Day. Join me and many others in celebrating
this important day by calling your Member of Congress and your two United
States Senators, asking them to sponsor the Anne Sullivan Macy Act.

Named for Helen Keller's beloved teacher, the Anne Sullivan Macy Act if
passed and signed into law will insure that school districts are held
accountable to provide children who are blind or visually impaired with
educational services to meet their unique learning needs. Children who are
blind or visually impaired are among the most highly successful
academically, but among the least likely to be employed because they do not
always receive appropriate training in such things as Braille, Orientation
and Mobility, Activities of Daily Living and Adaptive Technology.

Just last week, the United States Department of Education stated that
children who are blind or visually impaired should receive instruction in
Braille, reiterating guidance contained in the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA). This letter can be read in PDF form at:

What do you need to do tomorrow? Call your Members of Congress and your two
United States Senators. Thanks to the American Foundation for the Blind
(AFB), this has been made easy with the provision of two toll free numbers
which are currently active. To contact your Representative in the United
States House of Representatives, call 855-882-macy (6229). When you call
this number, you'll be prompted to enter your 5 digit zip code after hearing
a brief description of the Macy Act. To contact your U.S. Senators, call
877-959-macy (6229). Again, after a brief intro to the Macy Act, you will
be prompted to enter your zip code. You will then be prompted to choose
which of your Senators you wish to talk with. Keep in mind with the Senate,
you will need to make two calls.

What do you do once connected to your Member of Congress or Senator's
office? Ask them to sponsor the Anne Sullivan Macy Act. Now, since this
legislation has not yet been introduced, you do not have a bill number to
give them. When asked for a bill number, indicate that the legislation has
not been introduced, tell whomever you talk with that you'd be very pleased
if your Representative or Senator introduced this legislation and direct the
person you are talking with to www.afb.org/macyact.

Are there other ways you can participate? Sure. You can Tweet to your
Representatives and Senators if you're on Twitter. I just tried
www.tweetcongress.org. While the option to search by zip code doesn't
appear to be working, if you know the name of your Representative or
Senators, you can enter that, search by name and you'll get the Twitter
handle of that individual if they are on Twitter.

What else can you do? You can go to www.afb.org/macyact to find full text
of the legislation, sign an on-line petition indicating your support, post
information on FaceBook and other things. Get your families, friends,
business associates and others to call in as well. If you're receiving this
message and are part of an agency serving children and/or adults who are
blind, forward this message agency wide and encourage people to call in.

Is tomorrow the only day I can call in? Absolutely not. In fact, the two
numbers given, 855-882-macy and 877-959-macy are currently active. So, if
you're busy tomorrow but can call in today, do it! If you're busy today and
tomorrow, and can't call till Friday or next week, do it whenever you can!

What's most important? That you call and encourage Congress to introduce
and pass the Anne Sullivan Macy Act. Once you've made your calls, AFB wants
to know how it went. Send a note to Rebecca Sheffield at AFB,

Our children are our future. They are the ones who will be the future
employers, educators and leaders of our country. Let's do all that we can
to make sure children with visual impairments receive all of the educational
services they need to meet their unique learning requirements so they can be
successful at whatever they choose. Tomorrow, on Anne Sullivan Macy Act
Call-in Day, we the people can take a big step toward doing this by asking
our Representatives and Senators to sponsor the Anne Sullivan Macy Act.
Join me, make those calls and let Congress know we want and need this
legislation introduced and passed.

Ray Campbell, Chair, American council of the Blind Education Task Force
# # #

For the American council of the Blind: CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Public Hearing - U.S. Access Board Releases Proposed Guidelines for Passenger Vessels: July 10, 2013

as posted from the May/ June 2013 U.S. Access Board newsletter...

The Access Board has released for public comment proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. Developed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the guidelines provide design criteria for large vessels when newly constructed or altered to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines address various features of vessel accessibility and include provisions for onboard routes, vertical access between decks, doorways and coamings, toilet rooms, guest rooms, alarm systems, and other spaces and elements used by passengers.

“The Board is pleased to unveil proposed guidelines that will ensure access to vessels for passengers with disabilities,” states Access Board Chair Karen L. Braitmayer, FAIA. “We know from experience that barriers to accessibility are often due to a lack of clear and detailed design guidance, and this rule will fill a long-standing gap in making passenger vessels accessible to all.”

As proposed, the guidelines would apply to cruise ships and other vessels that carry over 150 passengers or at least 50 overnight passengers. They also cover ferries designed to carry 100 or more passengers and tenders allowed to carry 60 or more passengers. The Board is not proposing requirements for smaller vessels due to design challenges, space constraints, and other factors. The guidelines would apply to newly built or altered vessels.

In laying the groundwork for this effort, the Board conducted research on the feasibility and impacts of integrating accessibility into the design of vessels. This information includes case studies on vessels of various types and sizes, examination of design solutions to identified design and engineering constraints, and cost and impact analyses. The Board previously released advance drafts of the guidelines for comment which were based on recommendations from two advisory panels organized by the Board, the Passenger Vessel Access Advisory Committee and the Passenger Vessels Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee.

The Board is developing these guidelines under the ADA, which requires access to transportation and other services and to places of public accommodation. Under the law, the Board is responsible for developing minimum guidelines covering access to transportation systems and to the built environment. The vessel guidelines, once finalized, will join the Board’s ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Vehicles, which are currently being updated, and its ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities. The new guidelines will be used by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice in setting mandatory standards.

The proposed guidelines and related information can be accessed, and comments submitted, through the federal government's rulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov. Instructions for submitting comments are included in the proposal. The deadline for comments is September 23, 2013. The Board will hold a public hearing on the guidelines in Washington, D.C. on July 10.

Visit the passenger vessels homepage on the Board’s website for more information or contact Paul Beatty at pvag@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0012 (v), or (202) 272-0072 (TTY).

UPDATE NOTE: The May/June issue of "Access Currents," the Access Board’s newsletter, issued earlier today neglected to note the availability of communication access real-time translation (CART) for upcoming board events on July 10. These include a public hearing on proposed guidelines for passenger vessels and the next meeting of the Board. This information should have noted that links for web streaming CART will be posted on the Board’s website as indicated below at a later date. The Board regrets any confusion caused by this omission.

Public Hearing on the Proposed Guidelines for Passenger Vessels
July 10, 9:30 – Noon
Access Board Conference Room
1331 F Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20004
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.

Call-in option (listening only):
Dial: (888) 603-7094 (toll-free)
Passcode: 6317703
To submit comments by phone, contact Al Baes in advance at baes@access-board.gov, (202) 202) 272-0011 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY)

Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART):
The web streaming link will be posted on the Passenger Vessels homepage.

Meeting of the U.S. Access Board
July 10, 1:30 – 3:30
Access Board Conference Room
1331 F Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20004
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.

Call-in option (listening only):
Dial: (888) 790-2060 (toll-free)
Passcode: 6317703

Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART):
The web streaming link will be posted on the Access Board's homepage.

Are you Disabled, employed or with concerns about entering the workforce : AAPD is looking for your story

Are you considering taking a higher paying job or a promotion but would end up losing your health care and other public benefits if you earned more? Are you not on any government assistance but your salary does not help you fully cover your personal care needs? Are you graduating and/or have a job offer but worried that you won’t be able to access the services and supports to be able to go to work?

If this sounds like you, then tell AAPD your story - CLICK FOR SURVEY

Help us create a powerful narrative that will help elected and appointed officials better understand the choices you face as a person with a disability. Your story is the most powerful tool we have for creating change. Whether we are making our case with a Congressional staffer, a member of the press, or our neighbors, we are most successful when we can describe the real human impact of an issue—and give the issue a name and a face.

In particular, we are looking to tell the following stories. Can you relate to any of these situations?
Someone who fears that if they earn or save too much that they will be denied or lose access to the services and supports they need;

Someone who is forced to give up trying to find work and be economically independent due to fear of losing the services and supports that only come through Medicaid;

Someone who is working but pays for personal assistance and/or other health related services out of pocket because health care insurance does not cover the cost of these services;

A college graduate or someone with a job offer who could earn a decent living and leave government assistance but fears losing the services and supports that makes living and working in the community possible;

A college graduate or someone with a job offer who wants to avoid applying for Medicaid just to get the services and supports that are not available through health care insurance.
If so, share your story and help AAPD educate your fellow Americans about the powerful, ambitious, excellent person you are, and help us break down stereotypes and show lawmakers that there is a better way.

Submit your story today by filling out a quick survey

Thank you,

Henry Claypool
Executive Vice President
American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

Police use Taser on unarmed, nude child with autism wandering on Oregon highway

One we wanted to share, if Oregon State Police had disability sensitivity training - then there is a bigger issue...

By: Pam Spaulding Friday June 21, 2013

This is madness. I haven’t posted a Taser piece in a while, but this abuse of the “non-lethal” shock device is outrageous. Since when is an unarmed, naked child on the side of the road a threat to a law enforcement officer? This occurred in Ashland, Oregon, where motorist Adam Bednar saw her wandering at 4 AM.
Bednar says he drove alongside her while he called police. He says the trooper who arrived called for her to stop, and when she didn’t respond threatened twice to taze her. After giving no response, two little red dots appeared on her back, then metal barbs.

“She seized up and she fell face first on the ground,” said Bednar.

State police officials say it was necessary to prevent her from wandering further into the road and putting herself in danger. Bednar, who helped troopers apprehend the girl on the hood of his car, says he isn’t so sure.

“She wasn’t going off the road, she was set on walking down the freeway,” said Bednar. “And I think that, had [the trooper] waited for back up, they could have gotten her without the Taser.”
Didn’t wait for backup, didn’t use what should have been standard police training to physically subdue the child (how about tackling, wrestling her to the ground, blocking her path with the vehicle, anything — are these not procedure anymore?). The girl, who was unaware of her surroundings — she has severe autism — was returned to her family and not charged with any crime.
Hampson says — his daughter has a severe case of autism. He says she cannot carry on a conversation and she tends to run away from home often. “You can just tell you’re not dealing with a regular person who’s either on drugs or anything else,” explained Hampson. “Physically (she) does not look like an average 11-year-old. She’s kind of, you know, husky,” he added. Hampson believes this is why his pre-teen daughter was mistaken for a woman by authorities.

“Maybe its a little overused. It was not necessary. There wasn’t any threat to the officers. And from the witness report, it wasn’t like she was in any immediate threat,” he said. The cab driver who originally called 911 told NewsWatch 12 that the girl was along the edge of the road and not in traffic. Oregon State Police Lt. Kelly Collins say tasing her most likely saved her life. Lt. Collins was not the trooper who responded to the call but spoke on behalf of OSP. He says the trooper saw the girl in danger and running onto the interstate.

YouTube Published by KDRV12 on Jun 21, 2013



EEOC Issues Revised Publications on the Employment Rights of People with Specific Disabilities 2013

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

WASHINGTON --The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued four revised documents on protection against disability discrimination, pursuant to the goal of the agency's Strategic Plan to provide up-to-date guidance on the requirements of antidiscrimination laws.

The documents address how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to applicants and employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities. These documents are available on the agency's website at "Disability Discrimination, The Question and Answer Series," http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm.

"Nearly 34 million Americans have been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, or epilepsy, and more than 2 million have an intellectual disability," said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. "Many of them are looking for jobs or are already in the workplace. While there is a considerable amount of general information available about the ADA, the EEOC often is asked questions about how the ADA applies to these conditions."

In plain, easy-to-understand language, the revised documents reflect the changes to the definition of disability made by the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) that make it easier to conclude that individuals with a wide range of impairments, including cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities, are protected by the ADA. Each of the documents also answers questions about topics such as: when an employer may obtain medical information from applicants and employees; what types of reasonable accommodations individuals with these particular disabilities might need; how an employer should handle safety concerns; and what an employer should do to prevent and correct disability-based harassment.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.


DOJ and HUD Issue Guidance on the Fair Housing Act 2013

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development Release New Guidance on “Design and Construction” Requirements Under the Fair Housing Act

New guidance released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice reinforces the Fair Housing Act requirement that multifamily housing be designed and constructed so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex and familial status. The Fair Housing Act also requires that multifamily housing with four or more units, built for first occupancy after March 1991, contain accessible features for persons with disabilities.

The new guidance is designed to help design professionals, developers and builders better understand their obligations and help persons with disabilities better understand their rights regarding the “design and construction” requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act.

“Everyone who is involved in designing and building multifamily housing must ensure that the required accessible features are present so that people with disabilities can use and enjoy their homes,” said Eric Halperin, Senior Counsel and Special Counsel for Fair Lending in the Civil Rights Division. “This guidance will help design professionals and builders understand their obligations under this important component of the Fair Housing Act.”

“With one of five persons in this nation having a physical disability, housing units that include the required features of accessibility are more important than ever.” stated John TrasviƱa, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). “This new guidance will assist developers in constructing housing that complies with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements from the start and avoid having to deal with costly retrofitting later.”

HUD and the Justice Department share responsibility for enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act. HUD is the agency with the primary responsibility to investigate individual complaints of discrimination. The Secretary of HUD, on his own initiative, may also file complaints alleging discrimination. The Attorney General may commence a civil action in federal court when there is reasonable cause to believe that someone is engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or that a group of persons has been denied rights protected by the act.

Under the act, new multifamily housing must include:
Public and common use areas that are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; and

· Doors that are designed to allow passage into and within all premises of covered dwellings and that are sufficiently wide to allow passage by persons with disabilities, including persons who use wheelchairs.

In addition, all premises within covered dwellings must contain:

· An accessible route into and through the dwelling unit;

· Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls in accessible locations;

· Reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow the later installation of grab bars;

· Usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual using a wheelchair can maneuver about and use the space.
The new guidance, issued in the form of questions and answers, supplements previously-issued guidance and answers such questions as:
What are the design and construction requirements?

· Who must comply with the design and construction requirements?

· What types of dwellings are covered by the design and construction requirements?

· What are accessible routes?

· What is an accessible entrance?

· What is an accessible public and common use area?

· What safe harbors are available for compliance with the design and construction requirements?
The new guidance is available here. Information about the guidance is also available at www.fairhousingfirst.org .

Since January 2009, HUD and its Fair Housing Assistance Program partners have investigated and either conciliated or charged nearly 5,000 cases that alleged discrimination based on disability, and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed 141 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 19 of which have alleged discrimination based on a failure to design and construct multifamily housing in compliance with the act.

For more information about HUD and the civil rights laws it enforces, go to www.hud.gov/fairhousing and click on “Learn more about FHEO.” More information about the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt/index.php .

Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or go to HUD’s web site: www.hud.gov/fairhousing , or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch .

In addition, individuals may contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743 or by email at fairhousing@usdoj.gov .


Avril Lavigne Announces CAMP S.T.A.R.S. Summer Camp Scholarship For Kids With Disabilities

By Easter Seals

CHICAGO/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Avril Lavigne Foundation announced that it will launch CAMP S.T.A.R.S., a program to give children with disabilities the chance to attend summer camp. The program is an expansion of the Avril Lavigne Foundation's Rockstar Club at Easter Seals, designed to support recreational programming for kids and youth with disabilities to explore their talents, make friends, have fun and learn new skills.

The CAMP S.T.A.R.S. program was inspired by Avril Lavigne's visit last summer to Easter Seals Camp Oakes in Southern California where she met with campers and learned of the importance of the summer camp experience for kids and young adults with disabilities. A former summer-camp-kid herself, Avril Lavigne personally knows what attending summer camp means.

"I loved going to camp as a kid. Being able to participate in fun activities and make new friends was a great feeling that inspired the vision I had for The Avril Lavigne Foundation," said Avril. "So I'm thrilled we will be able to provide the opportunity for kids to go to camp who otherwise might not be able to afford it."

The CAMP S.T.A.R.S. program, which stands for Summer Time Avril Rock Stars, will launch at five Easter Seals camps this summer across the U.S. and Canada, including Easter Seals Southern California, Easter Seals Washington, Easter Seals North Carolina & Virginia, Easter Seals Greater Houston, and Easter Seals Alberta, Canada. The Avril Lavigne Foundation will fund camp scholarships for 50 children during the summer of 2013, most of whom live at or below the poverty level and would otherwise not be able to attend camp.

Camper Joy Durkee has been attending Easter Seals Camp Oakes in Southern California for 20 years. "Camp helped me make friends, learn to take care of myself and become more independent," she said. "It is truly the happiest place on earth!"

About Avril Lavigne Avril Lavigne is a multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and philanthropist. Her experience working with and meeting children who are seriously ill or who have disabilities inspired her to form The Avril Lavigne Foundation in 2010. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Nancy Davis Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis and has publicly supported a number of charitable organizations over the years, including Amnesty International, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, War Child, and YouthAIDS.

About The Avril Lavigne Foundation Award-winning singer/songwriter and philanthropist Avril Lavigne created The Avril Lavigne Foundation in early 2010. The Avril Lavigne Foundation R.O.C.K.S.: Respect, Opportunity, Choices, Knowledge, and Strength in support of children and youth living with serious illnesses or disabilities. The Foundation partners with leading charitable organizations to design and deliver programs, raise awareness and mobilize support for children and youth living with a serious illness or a disability.

About Easter Seals Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For over 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Support children and adults with disabilities at www.easterseals.com.

SOURCE Easter Seals

• Read more articles by Easter Seals
• For The Avril Lavigne Foundation : CLICK HERE

Social Security Disability judges are too lax: House investigators

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER : Associated Press : Jun 24, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) - Social Security is approving disability benefits at strikingly high rates for people whose claims were rejected by field offices or state agencies, according to House investigators. Compounding the situation, the agency often fails to do required follow-up reviews months or years later to make sure people are still disabled.

Claims for benefits have increased by 25 percent since 2007, pushing the fund that supports the disability program to the brink of insolvency, which could mean reduced benefits. Social Security officials say the primary driver of the increase is demographic, mainly a surge in baby boomers who are more prone to disability as they age but are not quite old enough to qualify for retirement benefits.

The disability program has been swamped by benefit claims since the recession hit a few years ago. Last year, 3.2 million people applied for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income.

In addition, however, management problems "lead to misspending" and add to the financial ills of the program, investigators from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee say.

"Federal disability claims are often paid to individuals who are not legally entitled to receive them," three senior Republicans on the House committee declared in a March 11 letter to the agency. Among the signers was the committee's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa of California.

Social Security acknowledges a backlog of 1.3 million overdue follow-up reviews to make sure people still qualify for benefits. But agency officials blame budget cuts for the backlog, saying Congress has denied the funds needed to clear it.

Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle said the agency follows the strict legal definition of disability when awarding benefits. In order to qualify, a person is supposed to have a disability that prevents him from working and is expected to last at least a year or result in death.

"Even with this very strict standard, there has been growth in the disability program, and the primary reason for this growth is demographics," Hinkle said. He noted that approval rates have declined as applications for benefits have increased.

The most common claimed disability was bone and muscle pain, including lower back pain, followed closely by mental disorders, according to the program's latest annual report.

"Pain cases and mental cases are extremely difficult because - and even more so with mental cases - there's no objective medical evidence," said Randall Frye, a Social Security administrative law judge in Charlotte, N.C. "It's all subjective."

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

An additional 8.3 million people get Supplemental Security Income, a separately funded disability program for low-income people.

If Congress doesn't act, the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money in 2016, according to projections by Social Security's trustees. At that point, the system will collect only enough money in payroll taxes to pay 80 percent of benefits, triggering an automatic 20 percent cut in benefits.

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

The House oversight subcommittee on entitlements is scheduled to hold the first of several hearings on the disability program Thursday. The hearing will focus on the role of administrative law judges in awarding benefits.

Most Social Security disability claims are initially processed through a network of local Social Security Administration field offices and state agencies, usually Disability Determination Services, and most are rejected. If your claim is rejected, you can ask the field office or state agency to reconsider. If your claim is rejected again, you can appeal to an administrative law judge, who is employed by Social Security.

The hearing process takes an average of a little more than a year, according to Social Security statistics. The agency estimates there are 816,000 hearings pending.

So far this budget year, the vast majority of judges have approved benefits in more than half the cases they've decided, even though they were reviewing applications that had typically been rejected twice by state agencies, according to Social Security data.

Of the 1,560 judges who have decided at least 50 cases since October, 195 judges approved benefits in at least 75 percent of their cases, according to the data, which were analyzed by congressional investigators.

"This is not one or two judges out there just going rogue and saying they are going to approve a lot of cases," said Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Energy, Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements. "This is a very, very high rate" of approving claims.

The union representing administrative law judges says judges are required to decide 500 to 700 cases a year in an effort to reduce the hearings backlog. The union says the requirement is an illegal quota that leads judges to sometimes award benefits they might otherwise deny just to keep up with the flow of cases, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the judges' union in April.

"I wouldn't want to suggest publicly that judges are not following the law or the regulations," said Frye, the North Carolina law judge who also is president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges , But, he added, "Would you want your surgeon to be on a quota system, to have to do so many surgeries every morning? Mistakes are going to be made when you force that kind of system on professional folks whose judgment, skill and experience are critical to coming to a good result."

The agency denies there is a case quota for judges, saying the standard is a productivity goal. The agency has declined to comment on the lawsuit. Former Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said he set the goal in 2007 to help reduce the hearings backlog.

Once people get benefits, their cases are supposed to be reviewed periodically to make sure they are still disabled. The reviews are called continuing disability reviews, or CDRs.

For people whose disabilities are expected to improve, CDRs should be done in six to 18 months, according a 2010 report by the agency's inspector general. If improvement is possible - but not necessarily likely - reviews should be done every three years. People with disabilities believed to be permanent should get reviews every five to seven years.

At the end of 1996, there was a backlog of 4.3 million overdue reviews. In response, Congress authorized about $4 billion to fund a seven-year effort to wipe it out, and the backlog was erased in 2002.

But after the funding dried up, the number of annual reviews performed by the agency decreased and the backlog grew. Last year, the agency conducted 443,000 continuing reviews.

President Barack Obama's proposed budget for next year includes $1.5 billion to address the backlog, a nearly 50 percent increase over present funding. With the increase, the agency says it would be able to conduct slightly more than 1 million reviews.

"We have completed every CDR funded by Congress, but our administrative budget has been significantly reduced, resulting in three straight years of funding levels nearly a billion dollars below the president's budget requests," Hinkle said. "As a result, we have lost more than 10,000 employees since the beginning of (fiscal year) 2011. We currently have a backlog of 1.3 million CDRs, which we would be able to address with adequate, dedicated program integrity funding from Congress."


Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap

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

Monday, June 24, 2013

Disabled workers paid just pennies an hour at Goodwill Industries and it's legal

One of the nation's best-known charities is paying disabled workers as little as 22 cents an hour, thanks to a 75-year-old legal loophole that critics say needs to be closed.

(Video; article below)

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By Anna Schecter, Producer, NBC News | (TY to NBC and Anna Schecter for this wonderful report) Goodwill Industries, a multibillion-dollar company whose executives make six-figure salaries, is among the nonprofit groups permitted to pay thousands of disabled workers far less than minimum wage because of a federal law known as Section 14 (c). Labor Department records show that some Goodwill workers in Pennsylvania earned wages as low as 22, 38 and 41 cents per hour in 2011.
"If they really do pay the CEO of Goodwill three-quarters of a million dollars, they certainly can pay me more than they're paying," said Harold Leigland, who is legally blind and hangs clothes at a Goodwill in Great Falls, Montana for less than minimum wage. "It's a question of civil rights," added his wife, Sheila, blind from birth, who quit her job at the same Goodwill store when her already low wage was cut further. "I feel like a second-class citizen. And I hate it."
Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was passed in 1938, allows employers to obtain special minimum wage certificates from the Department of Labor. The certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers according to their abilities, with no bottom limit to the wage. Most, but not all, special wage certificates are held by nonprofit organizations like Goodwill that then set up their own so-called "sheltered workshops" for disabled employees, where employees typically perform manual tasks like hanging clothes. The non-profit certificate holders can also place employees in outside, for-profit workplaces including restaurants, retail stores, hospitals and even Internal Revenue Service centers. Between the sheltered workshops and the outside businesses, more than 216,000 workers are eligible to earn less than minimum wage because of Section 14 (c), though many end up earning the full federal minimum wage of $7.25. When a non-profit provides Section 14 (c) workers to an outside business, it sets the salary and pays the wages. For example, the Helen Keller National Center, a New York school for the blind and deaf, has a special wage certificate and has placed students in a Westbury, N.Y., Applebee's franchise. The employees' pay ranged from $3.97 per hour to $5.96 per hour in 2010. The franchise told NBC News it has also hired workers at minimum wage from Helen Keller. A spokesperson for Applebee's declined to comment on Section 14 (c). Helen Keller also placed several students at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Manhasset, N.Y., in 2010, where they earned $3.80 and $4.85 an hour. A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman defended the Section 14 (c) program as providing jobs to "people who would otherwise not have [the opportunity to work]." Most Section 14 (c) workers are employed directly by nonprofits. In 2001, the most recent year for which numbers are available, the GAO estimated that more than 90 percent of Section 14 (c) workers were employed at nonprofit work centers. Critics of Section 14 (c) have focused much of their ire on the nonprofits, where wages can be just pennies an hour even as some of the groups receive funding from the government. At one workplace in Florida run by a nonprofit, some employees earned one cent per hour in 2011. "People are profiting from exploiting disabled workers," said Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. "It is clearly and unquestionably exploitation." Defenders of Section 14 (c) say that without it, disabled workers would have few options. A Department of Labor spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News that Section 14 (c) "provides workers with disabilities the opportunity to be given meaningful work and receive an income." Terry Farmer, CEO of ACCSES, a trade group that calls itself the "voice of disability service providers," said scrapping the provision could "force [disabled workers] to stay at home," enter rehabilitation, "or otherwise engage in unproductive and unsatisfactory activities." Harold Leigland, however, said he feels that Goodwill can pay him a low wage because the company knows he has few other places to go. "We are trapped," he said. "Everybody who works at Goodwill is trapped." Leigland, a 66-year-old former massage therapist with a college degree, currently earns $5.46 per hour in Great Falls. His wages have risen and fallen based on "time studies," the method nonprofits use to calculate the salaries of Section 14 (c) workers. Staff members use a stopwatch to determine how long it takes a disabled worker to complete a task. That time is compared with how long it would take a person without a disability to do the same task. The nonprofit then uses a formula to calculate a salary, which may be equal to or less than minimum wage. The tests are repeated every six months. Leigland's pay has been higher than $5.46, but it has also dropped down to $4.37 per hour, based on the time-study results. He said he believes Goodwill makes the time studies harder when they want his wage to be lower. "Sometimes the test is easier than others. It depends on if, as near as I can figure, they want your wage to go up or down. It's that simple," he said. His wife, Sheila, 58, spent four years hanging clothes at the Great Falls Goodwill for about $3.50 an hour. She said the time study was one of the most degrading and stressful parts about her job. "You never know how it's going to come out. It stressed me out a lot," she said. She quit last summer when she returned to work after knee surgery and found that her wage had been lowered to $2.75 per hour, a training rate. "At $2.75 it would barely cover my cost of getting to work. I wouldn't make any money," she said. Harold said he believes Goodwill can afford to pay him minimum wage, based on the salaries paid to Goodwill executives. While according to the company's own figures about 4,000 of the 30,000 disabled workers Goodwill employs at 69 franchises are currently paid below minimum wage, salaries for the CEOs of those franchises that hold special minimum wage certificates totaled almost $20 million in 2011. In 2011 the CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southern California took home $1.1 million in salary and deferred compensation. His counterpart in Portland, Oregon, made more than $500,000. Salaries for CEOs of the roughly 150 Goodwill franchises across America total more than $30 million. Goodwill International CEO Jim Gibbons, who was awarded $729,000 in salary and deferred compensation in 2011, defended the executive pay. "These leaders are having a great impact in terms of new solutions, in terms of innovation, and in terms of job creation," he said. Gibbons also defended time studies, and the whole Section 14 (c) approach. He said that for many people who make less than minimum wage, the experience of work is more important than the pay. "It's typically not about their livelihood. It's about their fulfillment. It's about being a part of something. And it's probably a small part of their overall program," he said. And Goodwill and the organizations that run the sheltered workshops are not alone in their support for Section 14 (c). In many cases, the families of the workers who have severe disabilities say their loved ones enjoy the work experience, enjoy getting a paycheck, and the amount is of no consequence. "I feel really good about it. I don't have to worry so much about him," said Fran Davidson, whose son Jeremy has worked at Goodwill in Great Falls, Montana, for more than a decade. "I know he's not getting picked on, and he's in a safe place. He enjoys what he's doing, and he's happy, and that's what we like for our kids." Jeremy started out working for a sub-minimum wage but did well on his last time study and is currently earning $7.80 an hour, Montana's minimum wage. But foes of Section 14 (c) have hopes for a new bill that's now before Congress that would repeal Section 14 (c) and make sub-minimum wages illegal across the board. "Meaningful work deserves fair pay," the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Gregg Harper, R.-Miss., told NBC News. "This dated provision unjustly prohibits workers with disabilities from reaching their full potential." The bill is opposed by trade associations for the employers of the disabled, and past attempts to change the law have failed. But Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind and a foe of the sheltered workshop system, is cautiously optimistic that this time the bill will pass, and end what he called a "two-tiered system." That system, explained Maurer, says "'Americans who have disabilities aren't as valuable as other people,' and that's wrong. These folks have value. We should recognize that value." Monica Alba contributed to this report. Read Goodwill's full statement CLICK HERE For more on disabled workers and sub-minimum-wage pay watch 'Rock Center' CLICK HERE http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/21/19062348-disabled-workers-paid-just-pennies-an-hour-and-its-legal?lite

Mark Karner; obituary of a Disability Rights Activist | June 2013

BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL | Chicago Sun Times | June 22, 2013...

Polio stole things from Mark Karner, bit by savage bit.

After the disease scourged him as a toddler, he was unable to walk. Lingering complications took away most of the freedoms people take for granted. Scoliosis bent his back. He could only turn his head and move his arms a little. He fought diabetes, congestive heart failure and glaucoma. He had 12 corrective surgeries on his muscles and bones. To breathe, he had to wear a special mask 24 hours a day.

He was so small that his mother could carry him, even when he was a grown man. In the parlance of the disabled community, he was a “full assist”—someone who needed help for 15 hours a day, in order to get out of bed; use the bathroom, and bathe, dress, and eat.

Still, his blue eyes danced.

The breathing mask obscured them, so his longtime companion, Adrianne Olejnik, sometimes asked him to lift off the apparatus so she could peek at the face she loved.

Moments like that took the edge off all those days in all those hospitals.

The refracted magic touched Mr. Karner’s service dog, Elu. In the past year, for the first time, she saw her master’s face without his mask.

She was enthralled.

Elu didn’t have an easy start in life, either. A former owner dumped the young Great Pyrenees-Dalmatian mix alongside a highway. Through training, she became a skilled service dog, one so capable, she could use her mouth to take clothes out of the dryer, put them in a laundry basket, and tug it over to Adrianne Olejnik. “Everything short of folding them,” said Olejnik, who has multiple sclerosis.

Elu’s introduction to Mark Karner’s face happened in an Emergency Room. “I had taken her for a visit with Mark just to perk him up,” Olejnik said. “She had never seen him without his mask.” As hospital staffers changed the device, Elu crept closer and closer to the bed, tail wagging.

“He said, ‘Baby girl,’ and it was like she recognized him for the first time. That bond, I will take with me forever. She just so gently went up to him.”

“He couldn’t breathe without the mask, but a couple of times, he would say to his assistant, ‘Take off my mask,’ and he would say, ‘Elu, it’s Daddy. It’s Daddy.’ ’’

“I absolutely empathized with Elu, because I would take every opportunity just to see the face of the man I fell in love with.”

“There was nothing more beautiful than the dog knowing that love and connection,” she said.

Mr. Karner, who lobbied for independent living for people with disabilities, died June 9 at Adventist LaGrange Memorial Hospital of complications from polio. He was 60.

He contracted polio only months before a vaccine was found, Olejnik said. His family was indefatigable in trying to assist him. “His father even built contraptions with pulleys and clotheslines to try and help him use his arms, as little as he was,” she said.

He went to Chicago’s Spalding school, which focused on educating children with disabilities. He studied music composition at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he had one of the finest nights of his life with one of the greatest of bluesmen.

In the late 1970s, he went to see the legendary Muddy Waters perform. During the break, Waters came over and talked with him, and asked if he’d like to join him onstage, Olejnik said. He sang with Waters for over an hour, said Olejnik’s brother, Steve Gutschick. “When Mark told this story, he was as excited as lighting,” said Gutschick, who is sharing the story in the eulogy he wrote.

Mr. Karner believed that people with disabilities should be given every opportunity to be independent. He lobbied and protested and pushed for assistance with transportation, housing and personal assistants.

For 16 years, he worked at the Progress Center for Independent Living. “In my 12 years there, I saw how much respect he had, and how he worked well with legislators, policy-makers and many advocates,” said Diane Coleman, now with the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, NY. “He helped win key initiatives--and changed the lives of countless people with disabilities--that gained their freedom.”

“He’s probably gotten over 500 people out of nursing homes and back into their homes, back into the real community,” said Larry Biondi, advocacy coordinator at the Progress Center. (Some in the disability community have called Biondi “Robin,” while Mr. Karner was “Batman.”)

Mr. Karner is also survived by his mother, Dorothy Karner; his sisters, Julie Mazurski and Jan Toth; his brothers, Joe and Gary Karner; his companion’s children, April Neely and Denielle Noe; and her three grandchildren.

Visitation is 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 11007 S. 76th Ave., Worth, with a memorial service from 5 to 6 p.m.

The service is expected to be crowded. Olejnik is still trying to decide whether to bring Elu. She will always remember how, despite Mr. Karner’s limited movement, “He could glide his right fingertips over her back.”


Community searching for answers - Slaying of boy with severe autism

June 23, 2013|By Vikki Ortiz Healy, Christy Gutowski and Matthew Walberg, Chicago Tribune reporters...

Illinois -- On a Saturday afternoon in March, Alex Spourdalakis, a 14-year-old boy with severe autism, sat in a darkened room at Loyola University Medical Center with his mother and godmother nearby.

In a hushed voice, Dorothy Spourdalakis told an autism care advocate who had come to offer help that she had been at her son's bedside around the clock for weeks. The only time she stepped out of the room, she said, was when he slept — in short catnaps.

"She was very calm," said Mary Kay Betz, executive director of the Autism Society of Illinois. "She seemed like a very caring, loving mother who wanted what was appropriate with her son."

Three months after that quiet visit, Spourdalakis' relatives arrived at the family's River Grove apartment to discover a grisly sight: Alex had been stabbed to death in his bedroom. His mother and godmother lay nearby after swallowing multiple pills in an apparent suicide attempt, according to officials.

The women survived and now face charges of first-degree murder.

Though no one condones the crime, experts across the country say the case serves as a shocking example of the toll autism can take on an entire family.

While the boy was not familiar to the public, his case was known in some autism circles, and photos of him — often strapped to a bed — appeared in videos and Facebook posts from around the world as people argued about treatments and causes.

The slain teen has become a celebrity of sorts for a group of critics who contend that hospitals routinely ignore other physical issues they contend are at the root of the autism.

The criticism is flatly rejected by medical experts, autism researchers and advocacy groups that maintain the predominant form of treatment — early diagnosis and intervention — offers the best chance for improving a child's progress and outcomes.

Still others say the case spotlights a need to make more resources available to families caring for someone with developmental disabilities. Because of limited state resources, such families can face a 141/2-year wait to receive assistance at their home through the state Department of Human Services, advocates say.

"When you look at the gap in services, and what families have to go through ... it makes you want to scream," said Shawn Jeffers, executive director of the Little City Foundation, a Palatine nonprofit that offers assistance to those with autism and other disabilities.

The River Grove Police Department was used to getting calls from the neat, well-kept second-floor apartment on West Grand Avenue where Minas and Dorothy Spourdalakis, described as "really nice, hardworking people," lived for nearly two decades, Chief Rodger Loni said.

On seven occasions, the couple requested help in getting their strong, unwilling, 200-pound son to the doctor's office. Six to eight police officers were needed to assist ambulance personnel in strapping the boy to a stretcher, Loni said.

There were never signs of abuse, and police never responded to the apartment for any other types of problems, Loni said. "They were under a lot of pressure and burden because of the situation," he said. "We never had a problem there."

But on June 9, police received a 911 call from Ski Wysocki, Dorothy Spourdalakis' younger brother. He and the boy's father, Minas, had rushed to the apartment when they couldn't reach Alex's mother or the godmother and caretaker, Jolanta Skrodzka, by phone.

After kicking in a locked bedroom door, the men discovered Spourdalakis and Skrodzka semiconscious in Alex's bedroom, where the boy lay dead, prosecutors said.

In a letter found in the apartment and in statements to authorities, Spourdalakis, 50, and Skrodzka, 44, spelled out a pact to kill Alex, who they believed received subpar treatment from medical providers and was suffering after his most recent prolonged illness, officials said.

According to prosecutors, the women allegedly gave Alex an overdose of his prescribed sleeping medication; when he remained alive several hours later, Spourdalakis used a kitchen knife to stab him four times — twice in the heart — and slit his wrist.

She then gave the knife to Skrodzka, who killed the family cat so it would not end up in a shelter after they were dead, prosecutors said.

The women had met at a family wake in 2000 and remained close despite Skrodzka being in the country illegally on an expired visa, Loni said. They requested in a letter that their bodies be cremated and the ashes spread in Michigan's sand dunes, he said.

Members of the Spourdalakis family declined to comment, but on various social media sites they described Alex as smart and said he loved music, cards, nature, balloons and the color yellow.

Police, court documents and autism advocates offered a glimpse into the family's history that, in some ways, parallels the stress of many families dealing with autism, which affects 1 in 50 school-age children, Betz said.

In 2005, Minas and Dorothy Spourdalakis filed for bankruptcy, records show. Minas, an optician, worked in an optical office managed by his wife. The couple allegedly had more than $400,000 in credit card, medical and other debts, according to records.

Among the family's regular expenses were $300 per month spent on diapers for Alex.

By February of this year, after nearly 23 years of marriage, the couple filed for divorce. Alex required full-time, round-the-clock care. His mother asked the court to grant her sole custody of the boy, while the parents agreed their older daughter should stay with her father, records show.

The father and daughter moved to Oak Park, but Minas Spourdalakis returned to the River Grove apartment routinely to check on Alex, Loni said.

Help for families dealing with autism can come from a variety of places, depending on a child's diagnosis, advocates say.

Children from birth to 3 years old can receive early intervention at one of dozens of state-funded Child and Family Connection programs. Public school districts are required to offer free and appropriate education to school-age children with developmental disabilities.

In addition, more than 2,000 providers in Illinois — from churches to for-profit practices — offer services paid for either out-of-pocket, by health insurers or by Medicaid.

But in recent years, many of those providers have stopped accepting Medicaid patients because the state has been slow to send money, citing budget constraints, advocates say.

Januari Smith, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Human Services, said care for the vulnerable is a crucial part of the state's mission, with numerous services serving thousands of children with disabilities.

"Over the last several years, like all other state agencies, IDHS' budget has decreased," Smith wrote in an email.

It is unclear what type of assistance the Spourdalakis family received over the years to deal with Alex's autism.

A state Department of Children and Family Services investigator visited Alex on Jan. 24 in response to a hotline allegation of neglect but found no wrongdoing, officials said.

Family members refused DCFS referrals to community-based services ranging from respite to psychological counseling, said Dave Clarkin, DCFS spokesman.

Two months later, when Alex was admitted to Loyola and diagnosed with what was identified in his parents' divorce papers as "aggression and a sleep disorder," Dorothy Spourdalakis began publicly voicing her disapproval of her son's medical treatment, including in a report on Chicago Fox station WFLD-Ch. 32.

A spokesman from Loyola University Medical Center declined to comment.

Groups around the world known for their criticism of mainstream autism treatment approaches quickly embraced Alex's story. They posted updates from representatives who visited the boy's bedside, including now-discredited Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose 1998 study planted one of the first seeds of fear about an alleged link between vaccines and the disorder.

Wakefield eventually was stripped of his right to practice medicine in the United Kingdom, and his study was retracted by the journal that printed it after it was found that he made up data and that his paper was fraudulent.

In a video appeal posted online in May, Wakefield appeared next to a shirtless Alex, arguing that the teen should not be institutionalized in a psychiatric facility, as hospital officials had recommended.

Wakefield contended that Alex instead needed a "safe place" with treatments, necessary diet and assistance for his aggressive behavior.

It was around that time that Betz, of the Autism Society, discovered Alex's story online.

Although her agency, by policy, does not endorse any autism treatments, therapies or philosophies, Betz saw reports of the Spourdalakis family's struggles and felt compelled to offer help.

She worked with hospital officials to schedule a visit with Dorothy Spourdalakis. And on that Saturday, the mother welcomed her into her son's room.

A "don't knock" sign hung on the door in respect for the boy's noise sensitivity. They sat in a corner away from Alex's bed as Skrodzka, the caretaker, silently watched.

Betz recalled how she told Dorothy Spourdalakis that, although she couldn't promise her state money, she would do whatever she could to help get the support the mother needed.

Spourdalakis said all she wanted was an attorney.

Betz found a lawyer and thought the boy's mother was doing better. Then she learned that Alex had been stabbed to death in his bed.

"It really was a gut punch," she said. "We thought everything ... was going good."


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Former Marine's $50K Prosthetic Leg, Truck Stolen From California Theme Park Parking Lot

By Connor Burton | ABC News

Police in Santa Ana, Calif., announced yesterday that a former Marine's pick-up truck and custom-fit prosthetic leg were stolen from the parking lot of Knott's Berry Farm last month.

Juan Hernandez, 53, went to the amusement park with his family on May 26, a day intended to honor military personnel. Instead of using his prosthetic leg, Hernandez opted to use a wheelchair, he says, leaving the leg in the back seat of his truck. When Hernandez returned, he discovered that his blue Chevrolet pick-up was gone. "They probably didn't realize what was in the truck," Hernandez told ABCNews.

Now police say they are looking not only for the person who stole the truck but for the man who caused Hernandez to lose his leg three years ago in a gang-related incident.

Hernandez told ABC News that the leg, valued at around $50,000, was given to him after his story appeared on "America's Most Wanted" in 2012.

In 2010, Hernandez was almost killed after being repeatedly run over by a truck on Thanksgiving Daywhen he tried to intervene in a fight between local gang members who were tagging a wall near his house in Santa Ana and his son, who was trying to stop them.

"[Hernandez] was trying to stop the fighting. The gang members left and then came back with more people. That's when our primary suspect ran over Hernandez," Corporal Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police told ABCNews.

Bertagna said the suspect, Jose Luis Berruette, ran his truck into Hernandez and then his car got stuck on a brick wall. Berruette then went "back and forth," said Bertagna, repeatedly trying to get off the wall, running over Hernandez multiple times. His injuries resulted in his leg's being amputated from the knee down. Berruette has not been caught.

Bertagna told ABCNews that he believes Berruette is now going by a different name, Luis Avilla, and is smuggling drugs and people across the border between Mexicali and Orange County.

"[Hernandez] is really lucky to be alive," said Bertagna.

Although Hernandez's truck was stolen, he said he really only cares about getting his leg back.
"I could walk. The leg made me feel normal," Hernandez explained. "If they want the truck that's fine, but my leg is going to be hard to replace. It was so comfortable and it really was the perfect fit. It's depressing now. This set me back to the accident because now I'm crippled again."
Despite his trials, Hernandez remains optimistic about his future.

"It's not all bad. There are some good things in life and I have a lot to be thankful for," said Hernandez, who has 11 grandchildren.

Hernandez also asked for everyone to be on the lookout for his leg so he can get back to his normal life.

"Please have a heart. That leg means a lot to me," said Hernandez. "Please contact someone if you see my leg and I will be very thankful."


Friday, June 21, 2013

College Students: Don't Hide the Disability

article by Lynn O'Shaughnessy : WealthManagement.com : June 20, 2013

Eleven percent of college undergraduates have a disability, the majority being learning disabilities, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Yet many colleges and universities do not publicize their learning disability programs. Schools worry that if their LD services are well-known, it might scare away students with no learning issues.

Here are some things families should know about finding and paying for schools for children with learning differences:

1. Don’t keep it a secret.

Parents and teenagers often wonder if they should keep a disability a secret out of fear that it will harm admission chances. That’s a mistake for a variety of reasons.

For starters, when prospective students contact a college’s disability staffer, that query will never reach the institution’s admissions office. The two departments are prohibited from talking to each other about applicants.

Joy App, an independent college consultant in Houston, who has advised many applicants with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other learning differences, urges students to share the information during the admission process.

It’s important to know if the institution is going to be helpful to LD students. “If a school is like Princeton and isn’t friendly to LD students, I want to know,” App says. And if a school holds a disability against an applicant, that’s not the kind of school the student should attend, she added.

2. Turn the disability into an advantage.

Students with learning disabilities may actually have an advantage at schools that evaluate applicants holistically. Private schools, in particular, look at more than just a student’s grade point average, test scores and class rank.

Having a learning disability can also be a plus at colleges that are looking for a diverse student body, says David Montesano, an independent college consultant with offices in Bellevue, Wash. and others cities on the coasts.

In addition, colleges may look at the student’s lower grades, class rank and standardized test scores in a different light. For instance, a student with a 3.4 GPA, who discloses his/her learning disability, may be competitive with an applicant pool with higher grades.

3. Look for strong programs.

A growing number of colleges are creating more structured learning support programs for their LD students. There is a demand for these services, but they can also be institutional moneymakers. Here’s a list of schools with strong LD programs, compiled with the help of consultant Joy App.
EAST:Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.), Curry College (Mass.), Farleigh Dickinson University (N.J.), Franklin Pierce University (N.H.), George Washington University (Washington, D.C.), Hofstra University (N.Y.), Landmark College (Vt.), Lesley University (Mass.), Mitchell College (Conn.), Northeastern University (Mass.).

MIDWEST: Augsburg College (Minn.), DePaul University (Ill.), Muskingum University (Ohio), Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (Ill.), University of Indianapolis, Westminster College (Mo.).

SOUTHEAST:Davis and Elkins College (W.Va.), East Carolina University (N.C.), Flagler College (Fla.), High Point University (N.C.), Lynn University (Fla.), Marshall University (W.Va.), University of the Ozarks (Ark.).

SOUTHWEST: Baylor University (Texas), Schreiner University (Texas), Southern Methodist University (Texas), Texas Tech University, Trinity University (Texas), University of Houston (Texas), University of Tulsa (Okla.).

WEST: Marymount College (Calif.), University of Arizona, University of Denver (Colo.), University of Montana, University of Redlands (Calif.), Western Colorado State University, Westminster College (Utah), Whittier College (Calif.).
4. Ask questions.

Visiting a school’s disability services office can provide a better idea of what the institution offers.

Here are some questions to ask when researching a school’s programs:
1. How many students use your services?

2. What assistive technology (AT) services do you offer? Do you have an AT expert on staff?

3. Does the office for students with disabilities act as a liaison between the students and their professors, or does it help the student to self-advocate?

4. Are the services limited (i.e. numbers of visits, advising sessions, among others)?

5. What is the retention rate and four-year graduation rate for students with learning disabilities?

6. Do you track students who have used your services after graduation? If so, what do your findings show about their success?

7. What do you consider the most difficult majors/classes for disabilities support students on this campus?

8. What is the procedure to get extended time on exams?

9. Do your services cost extra?
Finally, when evaluating a school’s learning disability programs, teenagers should also ask current students for their opinions on the school’s LD services.


Palatine, IL gets heat over housing plan for disabled from community

[photo: Students from the Illinois Shotokan Karate Club protest outside of Palatine Village Hall over a proposed housing project for people with disabilities. (Sally Ho, Chicago Tribune / June 21, 2013)]

By Sally Ho, Chicago Tribune reporter, June 21, 2013

After a five-hour meeting in which some residents expressed fear of having mentally ill neighbors and others pleaded for homes for their disabled adult children, the Palatine Plan Commission recommended approval of a $10.5 million housing development for people with disabilities.

Of the safety concerns, the commission's chairman, Dennis Dwyer, said: "It's based on fear rather than data."

The preliminary hearing was held June 18 to discuss Catherine Alice Gardens, a proposed 33-unit apartment building at 345 N. Eric Drive for people with mental and physical disabilities.

The 1.6-acre lot includes a warehouse that has been vacant for more than a decade, and the area is zoned for manufacturing but is adjacent to other residential homes and some commercial businesses.

Some neighbors, business owners and parents told the commission that they had concerns about safety, property values, rezoning and the long-vacant lot's proximity to the popular Illinois Shotokan Karate Club.

"We feel it would impede our businesses to have to look over our shoulder for fear there could be a pedestrian there," said John DiPasquale, owner of the karate studio. "It's unfair to the businessmen and unsafe for the residents."

Of the 150 people who attended the meeting, about two dozen speakers said they didn't support the development, while another dozen told the board about the urgent need for such housing in the village.

Some older residents gave emotional pleas saying that, should they die, they want a place for their dependent adult children to live. With sizable groups from both sides, the hearing was also at times hostile with shouting, booing and bickering among the crowd.

Commissioner Gavin Muldowney supported the proposed location, saying "it's a good use of the property, given that there's no other use."

UP Development, the Chicago-based affordable housing development company behind the proposal, offered an hourlong presentation. The session included expert testimony and statistics showing property values aren't affected by supportive housing, as well as research indicating that violence and emergency services use aren't correlated with such developments.

Jessica Berzac, the project manager, said the opponents' reactions were based on emotions, not on facts.

"This is a proven, safe, effective and wonderful solution," she said.

The proposed apartment building is billed as permanent, affordable housing that also offers residents case management services through partnerships with the Kenneth Young Center and Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health. Case managers would check in with residents and counsel them on their independent-living goals, which might include things such as getting education or job training, or reconnecting with estranged family members. An on-site property manager would also live in the building.

If the project ultimately meets approval, adult tenants could apply for one-year apartment leases for studios, one-bedrooms or a few two-bedrooms. The admission criteria are strict, Berzac said, and would exclude those who have intensive medical needs or criminal backgrounds.

More than half of the $10.5 million housing project is expected to be paid for by federal money through tax credits, Berzac said. The three-story residential complex would have a fitness room, community room and library. Developers also touted the location as being within walking distance of the downtown Metra train station, post office, grocery store and bank.

This is the latest supportive housing project being pushed in the northwest suburbs, and the development group said it wants one in every community, despite a level of push-back that's become common with other projects. In Wheeling, developers settled a lawsuit with the village over its denial of a proposed facility there. In Arlington Heights, a lawsuit filed by the developer was dismissed, and in Mount Prospect, a similar housing development, Myers Place, recently opened.

Critics said the Arlington Heights location would be next to a karate studio full of kids, which they claimed would mean "forced interaction" with the disabled residents.

Others who lived in the area simply said they would be uncomfortable with the type of residents who would live in the facility, claiming people with mental illness could be unstable or violent. And some said the location was wrong for the proposal.

"We support the need for quality construction," said Todd Shaffer, who lives in the Cornell Commons town houses across the street from the development site. "What we're opposed to is placing people with supportive needs in an industrial zone."

Supporters, including those from within the religious community, rejected those claims as unfounded.

Although the commission voted to approve a recommendation in favor of the project to the full Palatine Village Council, Commissioner Jane Robins cast a solo dissenting vote. Robins argued against the development because the village would also lose a parcel of manufacturing space at a time when she said industry is gaining traction again.

"You are setting a precedent," Robins said.