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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Illinois Benefit Access - People with Disabilities Ride Free Program & Senior Ride Free Program, (Formerly Circuit Breaker Program)

If you are an Illinois resident, and currently enrolled in the Illinois Department on Aging’s Benefit Access Program (Formerly Circuit Breaker Program) as a person with a disability, or senior citizen (aged 65 or older) , you are eligible for free public transit on fixed routes.

Every other year, submit a completed Benefit Access Application. Check the box for yourself (and for your spouse) in the application to indicate that you/ or you and your spouse want to apply for the transit benefit.

You must meet all of the requirements of the Illinois Benefit Access program. See Do I qualify? for details.

Once you have filed for your benefits and are approved, you will be able to print a letter of eligibility from the Benefit Access program to show your local fixed-route transit system. It is your responsibility to contact the transit system you wish to ride. Please note that your local fixed-route transit system may still require a local transit ID.

To be determined eligible for these benefits, you must submit a Benefit Access Application on the Internet. Paper applications are not available.

For more information, call 1-800-252-8966 or 1-888-206-1327 

In northeastern Illinois (Chicago area) you may also contact the Regional Transit Authority for additional info; call (312) 913-3110 or visit, http://www.rtachicago.com/fare-programs/circuit-ride-free.html

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Videogames for the Blind, the Deaf, the Motion Impaired - 7-128 Software

as shared by 7-128 Software ...

7-128 Software is pleased to announce the results of its seventh annual Top Web Sites competition
We review and rank Web sites for gamers who are Blind, or Deaf, or Motion Impaired.

The set of FREE resources includes:
•       Top 25 Web Sites for Gamers who are Blind
•       Top 22 Web Sites for Gamers who are Motion-Impaired
•       Top 11 Web Sites for Gamers who are Deaf
•       Top Web Sites of Industry and Community Leaders

Each entry includes:

•       What the site offers
•       How popular it is
•       How navigable and accessible it is

To develop these lists, we surveyed over 100 Web sites relevant to accessible gaming, including: developers, reviewers, news and information sites, organizations, special interest, and academic sites.

To our knowledge, our Top Web Sites is the only place in the world where you can get this information in one place.

That place is: www.7128.com

ABOUT 7-128 Software

7-128 Software a small Salem software company that is unique in that many of its mainstream computer games are designed from the start to be playable also by the blind, the deaf, or the motion impaired.

Its more than 40 games include the Inspector Cyndi in Newport series, word games, arcade, and puzzle games.

Its game, Here Comes the Duck! is possibly the only computer game anywhere playable by a blind two-year old.

Anixter Center - Disability Services in Chicago - HIRING: Job Evaluation Program Asst. Manager

as shared by Anixter Center - Disability Services in Chicago...

Job Description
 On-the Job Evaluation Program
Asst. Manager

Qualifications:   B.A./B.S. Degree in Social Service or related field from an accredited college or university and at least one year of paid supervisory experience working with special populations. Valid Driver’s License and acceptance as an agency approved designated driver.  Bi-lingual (Spanish) preferred; working knowledge of MS Office - WORD.

Reports to:         Manager - Employment Services, OJE Coordinator

Supervises:       On-the-Job Evaluation program staff and coaches

Hours:                 Full time.  Scheduled hours will be flexible; usual hours will be Monday through Friday daytime hours.

Job Objective:   To assist the Program Manager in ongoing curriculum development and refinement for the On-the-Job Evaluation Program at participating community business sites.  To insure that policies and procedures of the host business are observed by clients and representatives of Anixter Center.  With, or in the absence of, the program Manager, to interact with business management, DRS Counselors and potential hiring employers on behalf of Anixter Center and individual program participants.  To implement the curriculum on behalf of people referred to the program.


1.    To assist the manager in achieving program goals for billable weeks and placements coming out of the program.  This can include providing information and feedback to DRS counselors, marketing the program to prospective host businesses, and job development with community employers.  Usual goals for the current program size are: 250 billable weeks and 10 90-day competitive placements.

2.    Assist program Manager in the recruitment, hire and supervision of staff.

3.    To assist staff in their professional development and growth.

4.    Work with Manager to gain an ongoing awareness of budget opportunities and constraints

5.    To participate in Management and Staff meetings of the department and the agency whenever possible.

6.    Primary direct responsibility will be to insure the on-site implementation of the OJE curriculum – intake paperwork, progress notes, 4 and 8 week Staffing Reports, observation of work for the purpose of assessment of employment readiness and preparation for work.  Employment Counseling, resume preparation, interviewing practice and job development assistance will be provided.

7.    Submit client and staff payroll information in a timely manner.

8.    Oversee the Job Development for those program participants referred post OJE for employment services – either competitive or Supported Employment.  With the program Manager and any staff of the OJE, to work as a placement Team of Anixter Center’s Employment Program.

9.    Oversee the management of individual participant files according to agency and CARF standards

10. Complete Agency required trainings.

11. Follow all agency safety rules and regulations.

12. Represent Anixter Center in a professional manner.

13. Act as part of the Anixter Center team to promote the mission of the agency and of the department, to promote new ideas, to encourage and recognize staff efforts; to share information with the department which will assist others in the performance of their responsibilities; to assist program manager as requested.


Important! When sending a résumé via e-mail attachment, please:
  • Indicate what position you are applying for
  • Send it in a Microsoft Word compatible file format
  • Indicate that you have scanned it for viruses before sending

Interested individuals should forward their résumé, plus a cover letter indicating the position of interest to:
Human Resources Department
Anixter Center
2001 N. Clybourn Av, 3rd Floor, Chicago, IL 60614
Fax: (773) 973-5268
Click here to send e-mail.

Anixter Center is an Equal Opportunity Employer, M/F/D/V, and is a smoke-free workplace.

Chicago Do you love to volunteer? The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired welcomes volunteers

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The Chicago Lighthouse welcomes volunteers who wish to share their skills and experience to help serve people who are blind or visually impaired. Our volunteer opportunities include direct service to our clients, support for agency external relations, including help with our fundraising events. Whatever your interests and abilities, The Chicago Lighthouse offers an opportunity to make a difference.

For more information about volunteer opportunities at The Chicago Lighthouse, visit;

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Can & how autism can help you land a job

SAP, Freddie Mac recruit autistic workers to fill roles that call for precision; debugging software

Turning a disability into an asset on the job (Ciaran Dolan/The Wall Street Journal)

By Shirley S. Wang | The Wall Street Journal – Fri, Mar 28, 2014 

DUBLIN—Some employers increasingly are viewing autism as an asset and not a deficiency in the workplace.
Germany-based software company SAP AG has been actively seeking people with autism for jobs, not because of charitable outreach but because it believes features of autism may make some individuals better at certain jobs than those without autism.
It's a worthy initiative, according to disability experts, since 85% of adults with autism are estimated to be unemployed.
Piloted in Germany, India and Ireland, the program is also launching in four North American offices, according to an announcement Thursday.
SAP aims to have up to 1% of its workforce—about 650 people—be employees with autism by 2020, according to Jose Velasco, head of the autism initiative at SAP in the U.S.
People with autism spectrum disorder—characterized by social deficits and repetitive behavior—tend to pay great attention to detail, which may make them well suited as software testers or debuggers, according to Mr. Velasco, who has two children with the condition.
In addition, these people bring a different perspective to the workplace, which may help with efficiency and creativity as well, he said.
"They have a very structured nature" and like nonambiguous, precise outcomes, Mr. Velasco said. "We're looking at those strengths and looking at where those traits would be of value to the organization."
Autistic employees at SAP take on roles such as identifying software problems, and assigning customer-service queries to members of the team for troubleshooting.
One employee works in "talent marketing," issuing communications to employees internally. The company is looking for someone to produce videos and is considering an applicant with autism who has experience in media arts.
SAP is also considering other positions, such as writing manuals to give clients very precise instructions on how to install software.
Individuals with autism might excel at going step by step, without skipping details that others may miss, said Mr. Velasco. The business procurement process, such as getting invoices or managing the supply chain, is another area in which an individual with autism might shine, he said.
SAP isn't the only company to have such a program. In the U.S., mortgage lender Freddie Mac has offered career-track internships since 2012, including in IT, finance and research.
The lender hired its first full-time employee from the program in January, according to a Freddie Mac spokeswoman. In IT, the company has found that interns often perform well in testing and data-modeling jobs that require great attention to detail and focus as well as a way of seeing things that might not have been anticipated by the developers.
"Harnessing the unique skills of people on the autism spectrum has the potential to strengthen our business and make us more competitive," according to the lender's policy.
To be sure, as with any group, people with autism have a range of interests and abilities. SAP is working with a Danish autism-focused training and consultancy firm, Specialisterne, which carefully screens and interviews the candidates to find the appropriate matches before sending them to SAP to evaluate.
Patrick Brophy, 29 years old, has a bachelor's degree in computer science in software systems and a master's in multimedia systems, which includes website development and editing. Mr. Brophy says he has Asperger's, a term commonly used to describe a milder form of autism spectrum disorder.
He had been looking for full-tine work for a few years but said that in the handful of interviews he went to, he would sometimes stutter or misinterpret questions, which he felt reflected poorly on him in the interviews.
When he arrived at SAP for the screening day, however, he had the technical qualifications and he appeared to have skills to work in a corporate setting, according to Peter Brabazon, Specialisterne program manager. Mr. Brophy was hired by the quality assurance department in July, where he identifies glitches in software prior to it being issued to clients.
"Four weeks before joining, I was steadily more and more nervous," said Mr. Brophy, who worried about his adjustment to a new environment. "Within a month, [the work] was second nature. I had found myself."
Mr. Brophy said there have been challenges with his job, particularly when he has to revamp how he does a certain task.
From a social standpoint, he found it easy to integrate into his team, said both Mr. Brophy and David Sweeney, a colleague assigned to be his mentor.
About 1% of the population in the U.S.—or some three million people—is thought to have an autism-spectrum disorder. The latest figures issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in 68 children have been identified with an autism-spectrum disorder.
Their lifetime employment rate is extremely low even though many want to work, said disability experts. Among young adults between 21 and 25 years old, only half have ever held a paid job outside the home, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Though many people with autism go on to higher education and are qualified for employment, they may have trouble getting in the door of a workplace because of difficulties with networking or interviews, according to Wendy Harbour, executive director of the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, at Syracuse University.
There are a number of companies and outreach efforts that aim to hire people with autism, seeking to tailor work to their abilities.
But SAP and employers like Freddie Mac said their effort is specifically a business decision to take advantage of what they see as unique skill sets.
SAP said that individuals being considered to work there usually have had at least some higher education.
In Dublin, the candidates arrive at the company's software design center, dubbed the "AppHaus," which features open spaces, movable desks and whimsical furniture. They are asked to work in pairs on a task building a motorized robot. Candidates are given the instruction manual and brief instructions.
Assessors from Specialisterne look to see if the candidates listen to instructions and pick up on cues, and how they react to challenges such as how the colors of the pieces to the robot look different from the instruction manual. "I want to see how they work together and their technical skills," said Debbie Merrigan, one of the assessors for Specialisterne.
She wants them to be meticulous, she says. If they aren't it doesn't mean they aren't employable, but they may not be a good fit for working at SAP. Sometimes candidates get overwhelmed and simply leave.
After Specialisterne identifies a candidate as being a good fit, SAP then conducts further interviews, as they would with any other applicant, says Kristen Doran, a program manager in human resources at SAP Dublin. At this facility, 15 candidates were screened and interviewed in order to hire the three who are currently placed as contractors. Mr. Brophy works in the quality assurance department while the other two individuals are in the troubleshooting division.
The candidates are paid market rate and if they succeed on the job, they will be hired as full-time employees after a year, said Liam Ryan, managing director of SAP Labs Ireland.
Difficulties with social interaction and inflexibility can sometimes pose significant problems for individuals with autism, and SAP has a mentoring system and in some cases has made changes to the work schedule to accommodate these new employees. The company also conducts a month of employee-adaptation training to increase employees' comfort level at working with the team as well as another month or more of job training.
"It's hard to go into a corporate space if you prefer order to disorder," says Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne. "Our biggest effort is to work with them…to define and strengthen their comfort zone," said Mr. Sonne, who has a son.
For the video interview for this article, visit:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Performance project of artists with disabilities! Excerpts from Sins Invalid Come to Chicago! - April 11 to 13, 2014 - FREE ADMISSION

Excerpts from Sins Invalid Come to Chicago!

Live excerpts from Sins Invalid performances and the Sins Invalid film, an entryway into the absurdly taboo topic of sexuality and disability, manifesting a new paradigm of disability justice.

Bodies of Work, Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago and Victory Gardens Theater present...

There are three distinctive and unique events! Please read on for more details!
Sins Invalid is a disability justice based performance project of artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists. Since 2006, its performances have explored themes of sexuality, beauty, and the disabled body, impacting thousands through live performance. Conceived and led by disabled people of color, we develop and present provocative work where normative paradigms of "normal" and "sexy" are challenged, offering instead a vision of beauty and sexuality inclusive of all individuals and communities.
Friday, April 11th, 2014
12:00-2:00 pm
Social Justice Initiative's
Pop Up JUST Art (PUJA)
729 W Maxwell St, Chicago, IL 60607
Discussion with artists on disability, gender, race, sexuality and how they intersect through disability justice!
Light lunch and refreshments will be served!
Please refrain from using scented products.
Real-time captioning will be provided.
Requests & questions contact Sandie Yi cyi9@uic.edu
This event is brought to you by
Bodies of Work: Network of Disability Arts and Culture
UIC Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities
UIC Department of Disability and Human Development
UIC Disability Resource Center
UIC Gender & Sexuality Center
UIC Social Justice Initiative

Friday, April 11th, 2014
6:30-8:00 pm

Access Living
115 W. Chicago Ave
4th Floor

Space is limited, first come first serve.
Please refrain from using scented products.
Audio description, ASL Interpretation and Personal Assistants will be provided.

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency; This program is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

contact information:
Sandie Yi
Artist-In-Residence at Access Living
Website: http://www.accessliving.org/
Email: syi@accessliving.org

Ph D Student in Disability Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago
Graduate student assistant for Bodies of Work: Network of Disability Arts and Culture


Sunday, April 13th, 2014
7:30-8:45 pm

Victory Gardens
2433 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
FREE Admission, but please reserve your ticket
TEL: 773.871.3000
Captioning, sign language interpretation and audio description will be provided. Please refrain from using scented products. Victory Gardens Theater is proud to be an ADA standard accessible theater.
Crip Slam
a series of performances, readings, movies and other events that promote, explore and celebrate disability culture.
This event is brought to you by:
Victory Gardens Theater and Bodies of Work: Network of Disability Arts and Culture
HideLocation and contact
UIC Social Justice Initiative's Pop Up JUST Art (PUJA)
729 W Maxwell St
chicago  Illinois  60607
United States

Housing Action Illinois - State/Federal Budget Advocacy Webinar Friday, April 4, 2014 - rsvp

as shared by...

Housing Action Illinois

Housing Action Illinois State/Federal Budget Advocacy Webinar

Join us for a Webinar on April 4

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
On this webinar, we’ll cover the most important current issues related to the state and federal budgets for housing and homeless programs, including:

STATE BUDGET: The focus will be on the FY15 state budget for Emergency and Transitional Housing, Homeless Prevention, Supportive Housing Services, the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund and related programs. Governor Quinn released his budget proposal on March 26 and the House and Senate have until May 31 to page their budget.  Housing Action’s work between now and end of May will be focused on preserving certain parts of Governor’s proposal and increasing funding for other line items.  We need your help!

President Obama released his FY15 budget proposal on March 4 and the House and Senate are ramping up efforts on passing their own versions of the budget. We'll review advocacy efforts regarding a number of key line items (such as McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, Housing Choice Vouchers, Project-Based Section 8 contracts and Housing Counseling) and put them in the context of bigger issues, such as the impact of sequestration and negotiations over deficit reduction and tax reform. We’ll also talk about which members of the Illinois Congressional delegation are most important for us to reach out to.

PROACTIVE SOLUTIONS: Working on state and federal budget issues has obviously been challenging in recent years. However, there are proactive campaigns to increase affordable housing and end homelessness that we’ll provide brief updates on. At the federal level, Housing Action supports the United for Homes campaign to reform of the mortgage interest deduction and use the savings for the National Housing Trust Fund. At the state level, we’ve endorsed the A Better Illinois campaign to amend the State of Illinois Constitution to allow for a fair income tax.  We'll provide updates on those efforts and let you know how you can support them.

Title:    Housing Action State/Federal Budget Webinar
Date:    Friday, April 4, 2014
Time:    11:00 AM - 12:00 PM CDT

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer
Mobile attendees
Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet

Housing Action Illinois 
11 E. Adams #1601
Chicago, IL 60603

Illinois - Doctor Naeem Mahmood Kohli, Indicted on Charges of Health Care Fraud and Illegal Dispensation of Controlled Substances

PRESS RELEASE: March 26, 2014
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Illinois

A federal grand jury sitting in East St. Louis, Illinois returned a 15-count indictment against an Effingham County doctor, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. The indictment was opened today upon the arrest and arraignment of the doctor in Benton, Illinois.
Naeem Mahmood Kohli, 59, of Effingham, Illinois, operated the Kohli Neurology and Sleep Center, located on North Maple in Effingham, Illinois. The indictment alleges that, for some patients, Kohli did not operate a legitimate medical practice but instead was engaged in a scheme to illegally distribute controlled substances by running what was in essence a prescription service for drug addicts, commonly known as a pill mill. The indictment also alleges that Kohli defrauded Health Care Benefit Programs, namely, Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, by billing for services not provided.
In the indictment, Kohli is charged with the following offenses: (1) health care fraud in counts one through three, which carry penalties of a maximum of 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, a maximum of three years’ supervised release; (2) illegal distribution of a Schedule II controlled substances (oxycodone, hydromorphone, and methadone) in counts four through 13, which carry penalties of a maximum of 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $1,000,000, no less than three years’ supervised release; and (3) money laundering in counts 14 and 15, which carry penalties of a maximum of 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and one year of supervised release. A $100 special assessment must be imposed on each count.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.
The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Illinois State Police, Medicaid Fraud Control Bureau. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael J. Quinley and Ranley R. Killian.
If you suspect or know of an individual or company that is not complying with health care laws or public aid programs, you may report this activity to the local office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, or you may call 1-800-447-8477.

Autistic Self Advocacy Network Issues Statement on Latest CDC Autism Prevalence Data - 1 in every 68 children in U.S.

as shared by ...

Latest CDC numbers reflect better understanding of autism; racial and gender disparities persist.

Washington, DC — March 27th, 2014 — The Autistic Self Advocacy Network issued the following statement in response to the unveiling of new data on the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) today.

“These numbers are in line with our expectations based on previous studies showing that autistic people represent between 1 and 3% of the population,” said ASAN President Ari Ne’eman. “The CDC numbers show that while we are gradually improving diagnosis and identification of autistic people, significant disparities persist. African-American and Hispanic autistic children continue to go under-diagnosed, as do women and girls on the spectrum.”

According to the latest CDC data, approximately 1 in every 68 children in the United states is on the autism spectrum. However, vast diagnostic disparities exist–boys were 4-5 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls, with a prevalence rate of 1 in 42 for boys compared to a rate of 1 in 189 girls. In addition, girls who received an ASD diagnosis were more likely than boys to have been identified as having an additional disability, implying that less obvious cases were being missed. This data supports previous studies which showed gender disparities in diagnosis to be largely a problem of identification, as opposed to indicative of lower occurrence.

Nor were diagnostic disparities restricted to gender. White children were approximately 30% more likely to be identified with ASD than black children and were almost 50% more likely to be identified with ASD than Hispanic children. Children of color, when diagnosed, were more likely to be identified as having additional disabilities. These alarming disparities indicate that while improvements in diagnosing autism have been made for some populations, considerable efforts are still needed to make diagnosis and services available to all.

“This disparity data highlights the need for serious action to ensure progress in autism diagnosis and services is available to all, regardless of diagnosis or gender,” said ASAN’s Director of Programs, Julia Bascom. She went on to add, “The lack of any data on adults represents a serious gap in CDC’s efforts. When the United Kingdom conducted an adult prevalence study, it found the same rate of autism in adults as children, helping to debunk public hysteria over a so-called ‘autism epidemic’.”

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for Autistic people. ASAN’s supporters include Autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators and friends. Its activities include public policy advocacy, community engagement to encourage inclusion and respect for neurodiversity, leadership trainings, cross-disability advocacy, and the development of Autistic cultural activities.

Donate to ASAN »   Become an ASAN member »
Autistic Self Advocacy Network: PO Box 66122 | Washington, DC 20035

Thursday, March 27, 2014


as posted by...

Advocacy groups push to end subminimum wage law, which allows bosses to give scant payment to people with disabilities

by Kaelyn Forde | Al Jazeera America | March 27, 2014

Mary Jones takes pride in the neatly tucked corners of her bed and the spotless countertops of her kitchen in the small efficiency apartment she calls home in northern New Jersey. A little sign next to the front door reminds her: “Success starts with a single step!”
Born partially blind and with cerebral palsy, Jones savors the independence of living on her own with just weekly visits from an aide. So when she was offered work at a local Goodwill charity store in the fall of 2012, Jones said, she looked forward to the independence of a job. But the reality was much different.
“They had me downstairs in their store, trying to hang clothes up on the hangers,” Jones said. “And to make a dollar, I had to hang a hundred pieces. If I was lucky, I made 50 cents. It was a penny per item of clothing. I felt worthless. I just didn’t want to go. They made me feel bad because I couldn’t work fast enough.” Jones is not using her real name out of a fear of retribution.
Jones’ pay stubs, which she shared with Al Jazeera, show the subminimum wages she was paid by Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey Inc. Between September 2012 and January 2013, she made as little as $3.27 for 24.88 hours of work. The biggest check she received was $18.18 for 35.87 hours of work. She paid state taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare deductions, on her wages.
But the subminimum wage Jones was paid is legal, thanks to section 14C of the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. Passed in 1938 and known as the Special Minimum Wage Certificate, the law allows more than 3,300 employers nationwide to pay people with disabilities below federal minimum wage.
Goodwill Industries said less than 7 percent of its workforce — about 7,500 employees — is paid this way nationwide. Goodwill has defended its use of the Special Minimum Wage Certificate, saying, “Eliminating this program would harm, not help, people with significant and multiple disabilities.” 
Goodwill declined to be interviewed for this article, but previously, company spokesman Brad Turner-Little has told Al Jazeera: “We at Goodwill believe work is an important part of the human experience and the human spirit, and the certificate allows us to incorporate people into our workforce that we otherwise wouldn’t necessarily be able to without the certificate.”
Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey Inc. reported assetsof $38 million in 2012. Tax returns show its CEO earned $467,000 in compensation.
The subminimum wage Jones was paid is legal, thanks to section 14C of the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. Passed in 1938 and known as the Special Minimum Wage Certificate, the law allows more than 3,300 employers nationwide to pay people with disabilities below federal minimum wage.
More than 170,000 people have signed a petition asking Goodwill to pay all of its workers at least the federal minimum wage. Arthur Jacobs of the National Federation of the Blind helped deliver the petition to Goodwill’s offices in New York City late last year. “When you hear ‘subminimum wage,’ you think that only happens in China, and other places that don’t have the kind of regulations that the United States has,” said Jacobs. “But we have found that there are people who are making as little as 3 cents an hour. It’s crazy. They say the wages are performance-based, but the way that they evaluate that performance is very arbitrary.”
In February, disabilities rights groups succeeded in pressuring the White House to include federal contractors with disabilities who had been earning less under the Special Minimum Wage Certificate in the new $10.10 per hour federal contractor minimum wage.
Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, estimated that between 7,000 and 15,000 federal contractors had been paid subminimum wages. He said the White House’s decision has set an important precedent.
“In addition to directly impacting thousands of federal contract workers, it places the issue of minimum wage for disabled workers squarely at the center of the minimum wage conversation for the first time,” he said.
“We are now really putting those in the private sector who are defending subminimum wages in the public eye, and making the public see them as we in the advocacy community have seen them all along — as employers defending worker exploitation,” Ne’eman said.
For Jacobs, who is blind, and other workers with disabilities, it is also about shattering stereotypes.
“The biggest thing that I encounter in finding a job is that it’s not my disability that stands in my way,” said Jacobs. “It’s really more the attitudes of the people I encounter and their ideas about what I am able or am not able to do that stand in my way. So it’s not really about capacity, it’s about attitude and misconception.”

‘We Have Criminalized Mental Illness In This Country’ - Illinois Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart testifies to U.S. Congress

(below are a couple of recent articles on Sheriff Dart, & prisons have become institutions for people with mental illness)

CBS2 Chicago | March 26, 2014

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart
WASHINGTON (CBS) – Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has taken his appeal for more help for mentally ill jail inmates to Capitol Hill.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Dart testified Wednesday morning before a Congressional subcommittee looking at mental health services.
The sheriff told members of Congress the Cook County Jail remains the nation’s largest mental health facility, with at least 30 percent of its 9,000 inmates suffering from serious mental illness.
“The unfortunate undeniable conclusion is that, because of the dramatic and sustained cuts in mental health funding, we have criminalized mental illness in this country; and county jails and state prison facilities are where the majority of the mental health care and treatment is administered,” Dart said.
Many inmates are awaiting trial for relatively minor – often drug-related – offenses.
He said those people should be getting medical and psychological help, not simply incarcerated awaiting trial.
“What we have done in our county now, is my staff interviews every detainee before they appear in bond court regarding their mental health history. Those who admit to a history are identified for the Public Defender’s office, and then we make efforts to try to appeal to the judges for alternative programs,” he said. “Unlike state prisoners who have fixed release dates, pretrial detainees may be released at any time, which significantly complicates our ability to provide discharge planning.”
Even so, Dart said he tries to get help for those leaving the jail, too.
However, cuts in mental health funding make it hard to find help for those who need it.
“The question that plagues me, that keeps me up at night, is where do we go from here?” Dart said.
Division 1, the oldest building in the Cook County jail complex.

Cook County Sheriff Rips Mental Health Cuts: ‘We Have Criminalized Mental Illness In This Country’

BY SY MUKHERJEE | ThinkProgress.com | March 26, 2014

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart isn’t mincing words when it comes to his frustrations with Chicago’s — and America’s — broken and underfunded mental health care system.
“Every single day, I am faced with the mental health crisis in this county,” said Dart during testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation on Wednesday. “The unfortunate and undeniable conclusion is that because of dramatic and sustained cuts in mental health funding, we have criminalized mental illness in this country, and county jails and state prison facilities are where the majority of mental health care and treatment is administered.”
Illinois made the fourth-largest cuts to mental health services of any state in the country between 2009 and 2012, including the shuttering of two state-run psychiatric facilities. Combined with a lack of affordable housing units, those cuts have propagated a system wherein Americans with mental illnesses wind up in jails rather than clinics.
Dart said that the Cook County Jail houses approximately about 3,500 inmates with serious mental illnesses on any given day (about a third of its total inmate population), making it the largest de facto mental health provider in the nation.
To be clear, these inmates shouldn’t be in a jail setting. The most common illnesses that Dart encounters are mood and psychotic disorders, including severe depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. And many wind up in jail because they’re simply trying to grapple with a mental health safety net riddled with holes. “While some mentally ill individuals are charged with violent offenses, the majority are charged with crimes seemingly committed to survive, including retail theft, trespassing, prostitution and drug possession,” said Dart.
Keeping the inmates in jail is a pricey endeavor, as caring for a prisoner with mental illness is “easily” two or three times as expensive as the $143 per day that it costs to keep an average person in jail, according to Dart. The care isn’t particularly effective, either. Dart told ThinkProgress that the doctors who treat inmates with mental illnesses are more focused on simple triage rather than holistic care. “Their mission is to get [the inmates] stabilized, make sure they’re on their meds, and when they’re on their way out, [the doctors] give them a plastic baggie with two weeks’ worth of meds,” he said.
Dart also recounted several tragic stories about sick prisoners who were released into a society where they had little recourse for medical care or even simple housing during Wednesday’s hearing. “We’ve had inmates get released and try to break back into the jail so they can keep getting treatment,” he told the House committee. He then urged the committee to consider legislation that would make it easier to keep track of severely mentally ill patients’ cases.
One bill that might go a long way toward achieving that goal has actually already been proposed by the head of the Oversight and Investigation subcommittee, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA). Murphy’s Behavioral Health IT Act, introduced right around the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, would increase community mental health treatment funding, appropriate more money for emergency psychiatric care facilities, set up screening programs in schools, and create electronic infrastructure to keep track of available mental health beds — an infrastructure that only about half of all states currently have — and the sickest patients’ records.
That electronic records system alone would “help in terms of identifying people who are becoming ill, who are actively psychotic, and allow for an emergency room to electronically transmit to a community agency information on someone they need to follow up on,”according to Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health.

Psychiatric Patients With No Place to Go but Jail

By BRIDGET O'SHEA | The New York Times | February 18, 2012
A version of this article appeared in print on February 19, 2012, on page A25A of the National edition with the headline: Psychiatric Patients With No Place to Go but Jail.

The sounds of chaos bounce off the dim yellow walls. Everywhere there are prisoners wearing orange, red and khaki jumpsuits. An officer barks out orders as a thin woman tries to sleep on a hard bench in a holding cell. This is a harsh scene of daily life inside what has become the state’s largest de facto mental institution: the Cook County Jail.

About 11,000 prisoners, a mix of suspects awaiting trial and those convicted of minor crimes, are housed at the jail at any one time, which is like stuffing the population of Palos Heights into an eight-block area on Chicago’s South Side. The Cook County sheriff, Tom Dart, estimated that about 2,000 of them suffer from some form of serious mental illness, far more than at the big state-owned Elgin Mental Health Center, which has 582 beds.

Mr. Dart said the system “is so screwed up that I’ve become the largest mental health provider in the state of Illinois.” The situation is about to get worse, according to Mr. Dart and other criminal justice experts. The city plans to shut down 6 of its 12 mental health centers by the end of April, to save an estimated $2 million, potentially leaving many patients without adequate treatment — some of them likely to engage in conduct that will lead to arrests.

“It will definitely have a negative impact on jail populations,” said Mr. Dart, who noted that the number of people coming into the jail with mental health problems was already increasing. “It will have direct consequences for us in my general jail population and some of the problems I have here, because a lot of the people with these issues act out more, as you would expect, so that’s a direct consequence.”

It costs an estimated $143 a day to house a typical detainee in the Cook County Jail. The cost to house someone with serious mental health issues is two to three times that amount. Mr. Dart said that prisoners with mental health problems are in a disproportionate number of fights and make more suicide threats, and managing them takes more resources.

“And then there’s the humane side of it,” he said. “Not treating people with mental illness is bad enough, but treating them like criminals? Please, what have we become?”

The city’s mental health clinics serve thousands of people, many of whom are uninsured. Dr. Bechara Choucair, Chicago’s commissioner of public health, said those that remained open would treat all those who needed help or send them to private clinics paid by the city to accept the overflow of patients. But city data provided to aldermen showed that the cuts could cause a patient increase of up to 71 percent at some clinics, with no additional staff.

The police and mental health experts fear that without adequate resources to treat them, mentally distressed people will be more likely to end up in dealings with the police.

“It’s going to increase the number of calls they get,” Amy Watson, associate professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois, Chicago, said of the Police Department, “because it is the only place left to call.”

Mr. Dart said the cutback in mental health clinics would lead to changes in behavior that in turn would foster criminal activity.

“It’s a vicious circle,” said Dr. Carl Alaimo, past director and chief psychologist of the mental health service at Cook County’s Cermak Hospital, which serves the jail population. He said the jail provides prisoners who are released up to two weeks’ worth of medication, but if those with mental-health problems do not receive help before they run out, they are likely to resort to street drugs or commit other offenses.

Dr. Alaimo said that the jail had a program to refer released prisoners to public mental health centers, but the waiting lists are likely to be long.

Mr. Dart said that everyone entering the jail undergoes a physical and mental examination by Cermak staff members. Based on their evaluation, the most acute cases are sent to Cermak. Some other inmates go to units at the jail for detainees with mental health issues.

Mr. Dart said he feared that the closings would add to the jail’s already overcrowded conditions.

“The overcrowding, when it gets to be an issue, when it gets to be serious, what I do is corner off an area and say ‘part of Division 2 now is going to house mental health people who are less acute,’ and so we’ll have more of them in there,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily designed for this purpose, but we’ll make it work.”

Dr. Alaimo said the jail was not equipped to be a major mental health provider. Correction officers receive continuing training on dealing with mental health issues, but administrators are not sure it is adequate. “We shouldn’t be treating people in the jail, but that’s where they’re going to be treated,” Dr. Alaimo said.

Ms. Watson, the University of Illinois Chicago professor, said she believes that the reason the Cook County Jail has become the state’s largest mental health provider was the lack of resources at public mental health care centers. “We’re more willing to fund criminal justice than mental health,” she said.

The city described the clinic closings as consolidations, but Mr. Dart said the effect would be to limit the ability of patients to get to the remaining clinics.

“So many of these people are on a razor’s edge,” he said. “The fact that you have shut down this facility that was two miles from that individual, and you combined it over here, and now it’s 10 miles away is very likely the difference between that person following the program or not.”

The cutbacks could also add to the burden at emergency rooms and on ambulances.

“We have an upsurge in crisis calls when services are cut,” said Jeffry Murphy, a retired Chicago police officer and a consultant in crisis-intervention training. “We’re not saving any money closing down these clinics.”

He disputed the city’s claim that consolidation would minimize the impact of the closings. “It’s extremely shortsighted for a community to close down these mental health centers,” Mr. Murphy said. “We are reinstitutionalizing the mentally ill by incarcerating them.”

Benjamin S. Wolf, associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the impact of the closings should prompt a re-evaluation of the way the mentally ill are served in Chicago.

“We need to step back and rethink how we allocate mental health services,” he said. “We’re starving the system in the ways it helps people best.”