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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Indiana Middle School student Alyssa Candiano is becoming a cross country running sensation, and she’s legally blind

as reported by WGN9 Chicago

A Hobart, Indiana Middle School student is achieving what may seem to be the impossible.
Alyssa Candiano is becoming a cross country running sensation, but (and*) she’s legally blind. Her success is thanks in part to high school athlete Hayley Collins.
The two young ladies are proving anything is possible with the right amount of determination, and a positive attitude.
Alyssa and Haley are two of Chicago’s Very Own.
*edit as addition to original article. 

International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3rd of December 2014

as posted by the United Nations 

2014 theme · Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology
This year the International Day of Persons with Disabilities will focus on the role of technology in:
- Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Responses
- Creating Enabling Working Environments
- Disability-Inclusive Sustainable Development Goals

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. 
Since 2009, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs organizes a film festival as a part of the events at UN Headquarters to commemorate the Day. The United Nations Enable Film Festival (UNEFF) includes short disabilty-related films selected on the basis of their content and message that can help raise awareness of disability issues and further promote the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society.

How you can commemorate IDPD 2014

Include: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for participation by all stakeholders – Governments, the UN system, civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities – to focus on issues related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development, both as beneficiaries and agents of change.
Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the themes of IDPD 2014 to find innovative and promising ways in which technology can lead to a greater inclusion and integration of persons with disabilities in the lives of their societies.
Celebrate: Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase - and celebrate - the contributions made by persons with disabilities as agents of change in the communities in which they live.
Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action to highlight how technology can impact the inclusion and contribution of persons with disabilities in social life and development on the basis of equality. Highlight best practices, innovative technological solutions for the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in their societies.
United Nations Enable Film Festival 2014
Send us your films: If you think that your short film can help achieve the objectives of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and is suitable to be presented to a diverse international audience, please send us information and a link to the online version of the film (or a hard copy of the film) for consideration. Further details and submission guidelines are available at:http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1562.

Themes for previous years:

Friday, November 28, 2014

U.S. Education Dept. Agreement with Texas Schools, Equal Access for Students with Disabilities, & English Language Learner Students

U.S. Education Department Reaches Agreement with Texas' Harmony Public Schools to Ensure Equal Access for English Language Learner Students and Students with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Harmony Public Schools in Texas, to ensure compliance by its charter schools with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, national origin and disability.
Harmony operates a network of 43 public charter schools throughout Texas serving over 28,000 students. The agreement ends the Department's investigation and commits Harmony to providing English language learner (ELL) students and students with disabilities with equal access to and equal opportunity to participate in the Harmony charter schools in Texas.
"Like all public schools, Harmony's charter schools must be open to all students, including ELL students and students with disabilities, and must provide students with the important educational services they need to fully participate in the schools' educational programs," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. "OCR will work closely with Harmony as it implements this agreement for the benefit of thousands of current and future charter school students in Texas."
OCR's investigation confirmed that ELL students and students with disabilities were significantly underrepresented in Harmony's charter schools compared to their enrollment in the public school districts in which the charter schools were located. The enrollment rate of the 1,152 ELL students at the 18 Harmony charter schools specifically examined by OCR for the 2011-12 school year was approximately half that at the local school districts (11.5 percent compared to 22.5 percent) and the enrollment rate of the 273 students with disabilities was even lower (2.7 percent compared to 7.3 percent).
OCR's investigation further uncovered admissions and enrollment policies at HPS charter schools that provide that HPS may exclude students with disciplinary problems and also require students to provide enrollment documentation that may chill or discourage the participation of students based on their or their parents' or guardian's citizenship or immigration status. Not all HPS schools provided translation of admission materials or interpreter services at open house events for limited English proficient (LEP) parents.
OCR's investigation also revealed that HPS policies and procedures do not ensure that, once admitted, students will receive adequate educational services, including language development for ELL students and special education and related services for students with disabilities.
Under the agreement, Harmony will:
  • Review its admissions policies, procedures and practices to identify any potential barriers to increased participation by ELL students and students with disabilities and, as needed and following OCR review and approval, modify its admission policies, procedures and practices to ensure equal access and equal opportunity for ELL students and students with disabilities to HPS charter schools.
  • Develop an "ELL Communication Plan" to ensure meaningful access to LEP parents with respect to student admissions and enrollment in HPS charter schools, including through interpretation and translation services.
  • Implement a comprehensive plan for all HPS charter schools regarding the provision of services to ELL students that appropriately identifies and assesses ELL students for language development services and provides these services to the students; appropriately staffs and provides instructional resources to HPS' English-as-a-second-language (ESL) program; that its ESL program, ensures that ELL students are appropriately exited and monitored; and evaluates the overall HPS alternative language program.
  • Review and revise existing evaluation and placement procedures for students with disabilities to ensure that students are evaluated with appropriate evaluation materials and that schools properly document the educational needs of students in their records.
  • Collect and evaluate data on an ongoing basis to assess data related to the acceptance of students for admission to its charter schools in order to determine whether ELL students and students with disabilities are accepted at lower rates than other students and, if so, take necessary action to ensure that its admissions policies and procedures are fair and equitable. And,
  • Provide training to administrators and relevant staff at all HPS charter schools regarding revisions to its admissions and enrollment policies and procedures, communications with LEP parents, and language assistance services for ELL students and communication and outreach to LEP students and parents/guidance about admission to the HPS charter schools.
A copy of the resolution letter can be found here, and the agreement is posted here.
OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.
For details on how OCR handles civil rights cases, please click here.

Strength and Success of Native Americans with Disabilities

as posted by Disability.gov 

A photo of a Native American woman in a wheelchair who is carrying a sign for an awareness march.
By Guest Blogger Therese E. Yanan, Attorney at Law, Co-Director for Program Services, Native American Disability Law Center
According to the 2010 Census, 16 to 18 percent of Native Americans have a disability, compared to 11 percent of Anglos who have a disability. Consistently high rates of poverty and unemployment in many Native American communities are dramatically increased for those with a disability. Transportation, housing and accessing community-based services are significant issues for Native Americans with disabilities.
For the past 20 years, I have worked on the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation and with other Native American communities across Arizona and New Mexico. I have also worked with other communities and organizations across the country that focus on addressing barriers for them. What I have learned is the strength of humor and community. Many times, I have talked with friends, who have faced situations that would push me to the edge of my patience.
I have a friend who is Navajo and has a spinal cord injury. She lives independently and drives her own van. I was once talking with her and apologized for keeping her from getting home. It was winter and getting dark, and I knew that she had a long drive that included a dirt road to her home. She laughed and assured me that she had more than enough time to chat, and it would actually help her because she had to wait for the mud on her road to freeze before she could get home anyway. Many in her community could park their cars at the pavement and then walk to their homes – a path she is unable to navigate because of her wheelchair. Was she impatient or frustrated by her delay getting home at the end of the day? Not at all, she merely stayed and we continued to talk.
Throughout my years working within the Navajo and Hopi communities, I have watched the disability advocacy community go from virtually non-existent (due to the distances and the lack of transportation keeping people from working and advocating together to address their issues and express their needs) to a vibrant, supportive and effective force. Individuals with disabilities and their families have come together to support and learn from each other. For example, Hopis with disabilities participate in the Navajo Disability Self-Awareness Walk. Navajos with disabilities attend the Hopi Special Needs Activity Day.
Several years ago, individuals with disabilities came together and created a grassroots organization called the Native American Advocacy Group (NAAG – I love that acronym). NAAG organized the first Navajo Disability Self-Awareness Walk, scheduled meetings with government officials to discuss their needs and came together as friends to celebrate their successes. As a result of the various community-based activities, Hopi parents of children with disabilities convinced the Hopi Tribe to create the Hopi Office of Special Needs. The Navajo Nation also passed the Vulnerable Adult Protection Act to address the abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities. Furthermore, both communities have annual Disability Conferences to provide training and information about services and how to access them. All of these and other accomplishments required the community to come together regardless of the barriers and support each other.
Native Americans with disabilities face many challenges that are unique. I could describe in detail these difficulties; the adults who live in institutions because their family homes lack necessary plumbing or electricity; the students with disabilities who are excluded from their schools for weeks and their inability to achieve their potential; the families who live in poverty because they are denied benefits for which they are eligible. I know these issues and their impact. I also know that there is much work to be done. I am privileged to work in this community and alongside these advocates. They have taught me patience, grace and strength. They are indomitable and will achieve more success in the future. I think my friends and colleagues deserve to be recognized for their strength and commitment to making their lives better and obtaining the respect that they deserve. 
Therese Yanan began working in Mexican Hat, Utah for DNA – Peoples Legal Services, Inc. in 1993. Since 1994, she has been the director of the Native American Protection & Advocacy Project, which began as an office of DNA. In October 2005, the Native American P&A was established as a separate nonprofit organization now known as the Native American Disability Law Center. The Native American Disability Law Center is one of the few disability advocacy offices in the country that focuses on the special legal needs of Native Americans with disabilities. Ms. Yanan specializes in representing adults and children with disabilities. She has represented children in every level of the special education process in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and in schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She has also been involved in major efforts to improve protections for the civil rights of Native Americans with disabilities in federal and tribal courts, to increase statutory protections for Native Americans with disabilities and to expand the understanding of the unique issues facing Native Americans with disabilities.
For more from Disability.gov, visit: https://www.disability.gov/

EEOC Settles Disability Discrimination Suit with Hospital that Refused Job Accommodation for Nurse with Cancer

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


Angel Medical Center to Pay $85,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Hospital Failed to Accommodate and Then Fired Nurse Undergoing Cancer Treatments, Federal Agency Charged
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Angel Medical Center, Inc., a full-service critical access hospital located in Franklin, N.C., will pay $85,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the hospital unlawfully refused to accommodate a nurse undergoing cancer treatments and subsequently fired her because of her disability.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Susan Williams began working for Angel Medical Center in December 2009 as a full-time registered nurse. In December 2011, following an absence for treatment for cancer, Williams attempted to return to work at the hospital. At the time, she was still undergoing chemotherapy treatments. According to the suit, Williams sought an accommodation that would allow her to complete the necessary chemotherapy treatments while remaining a full-time employee. The EEOC alleged that the hospital refused to accommodate Williams and instead fired her.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations unless doing so would be an undue hardship for the employer. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Bryson City Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Angel Medical Center, Inc.; Civil Action No. 2:13-CV-00034) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary damages, the two-year consent decree settling the suit requires that Angel Medical Center revise its disability accommodation process policy, and provide annual training to the hospital's managers, supervisors and employees on the ADA, its reasonable accommodation requirements and the revised Disability Accommodation Process policy. Additionally, the hospital will post an employee notice concerning the lawsuit and employee rights under federal anti-discrimination laws, and will provide periodic reports to the EEOC identifying individuals who request accommodations under the ADA and the outcome those requests.
"We hope that this case reminds employers that they must accommodate disabled employees' requests for leave for medical treatment unless granting leave would pose an undue hardship," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. "We are happy to have resolved this matter for Ms. Williams and hope that we have prevented similar situations from happening to other persons with disabilities."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Illinois Secretary of State Police targets holiday shoppers abusing Disability Parking at malls statewide

Jesse White Targets Holiday Shoppers Abusing Disability Parking at Malls Statewide
Marks the 9th Year Secretary of State Police Conduct Stings

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced today the Secretary of State Police will conduct statewide parking stings targeting people illegally parking in spaces reserved for persons with disabilities at shopping malls beginning Black Friday, November 28th.

Secretary of State Police will be enforcing the provisions of the Parking Program for Persons with Disabilities at downtown shopping areas in Chicago, Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook as well as malls in Champaign, Peoria, Fairview Heights, Marion, Moline, Rockford and Springfield on November 28th, the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and the busiest shopping day of the year. Other enforcements will take place during the holiday season in Chicago, the suburbs and across the state.
“Our mission is not to issue tickets, but to ensure that accessible parking spaces are available to those who need them,” White said. “Parking illegally in a space reserved for people with disabilities means a possible driver’s license suspension and a hefty fine which could otherwise be used on gifts. Remember, if you don’t belong there, don’t park there.”
Last year, more than 90 citations were issued to those violating the Parking Program for Persons with
Disabilities. Drivers caught misusing a placard face a six-month driver’s license suspension and
$600 fine. Repeat violators will face a one-year driver’s license suspension and $1,000 fine for a
second offense, and for the third or subsequent offenses they face a $1,000 fine plus a one-year
driver’s license revocation. The fine for parking in an accessible parking space without a disability
placard or license plates is up to $350. Using a deceased person’s placard or a fraudulent placard can
result in a $2,500 fine and one-year revocation of the driver’s license.

There are 691,858 disability placards and 76,046 disability license plates in Illinois.

Secretary White urged people to report abuse of parking spaces for people with disabilities by calling 217-785-0309. Callers should be prepared to report placard and license plate numbers as well as locations of vehicles.

People can also report abuse via the Secretary of State’s website at www.cyberdriveillinois.com and complete the Parking Program for Persons with Disabilities Abuse Complaint Form.

Seniors being Scammed with Bogus IRS calls

NILES, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) - A phone scammer pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service is targeting seniors and demanding money, police in north suburban Niles are warning.

“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling,” Niles Police Sgt. Robert Tornabene said.

The callers often use common names and fake IRS bad numbers, and know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security number, Niles police said.

Scammers can also alter caller ID information to make it look like the IRS is really calling, and can even send bogus IRS emails to support their scam, police said. Sometimes, scammers call a second time claiming to be with the police or the department of motor vehicles.

Legitimate officials from the IRS usually contact people for the first time by mail, and not by phone. The IRS will never ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer, and will never ask for a credit card number over the phone, police said.

Anyone who receives a scam phone call should hang up immediately and report it to police.

Disabled workers to receive back wages from Providence, R.I company

Associated Press | Nov 26, 2014
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - An employment program agreed to give $300,000 in back wages to around 100 disabled workers for allegedly failing to pay overtime and the minimum wage, as part of a settlement announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The agreement between North Providence-based Training Thru Placement, Inc., and the Department of Labor, which was signed Nov. 10, follows previous federal investigations and agreements with the state and the city of Providence for allegedly violating the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by segregating them in so-called sheltered workshops, often for little or no pay.
Federal authorities said last year that the average wage for disabled workers at Training Thru Placement was $1.57 an hour, although one employee got 14 cents an hour. At the time, the company had authorization from the Department of Labor to pay disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for work that included light assembling, sorting and packaging.
The Department of Labor said Wednesday its investigation found that between June 2010 and January 2013, Training Thru Placement falsified documents, failed to pay employees for all the hours they worked and other violations. As a result, the department revoked the company's authorization to pay less than the minimum wage during that time.
"TTP failed to meet its responsibilities under the law to some of the most vulnerable workers we see," Mark Watson, the department's northeast regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division, said in a written statement.
Training Thru Placement has replaced its board, as well as management and staff responsible for the problems, the Department of Labor said. The company did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
A New York Company, Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, has taken over Training Thru Placement. Christine McMahon, Fedcap president and chief executive officer, said in a written statement that the company's staff and board are committed to ensuring that all elements of the corrective action outlined in the agreements are precisely carried out.
Earlier this year, the state of Rhode Island and the U.S. Department of Justice entered into a court-ordered consent decree that will overhaul employment services to the disabled. Among the steps the state agreed to take was providing job opportunities to people with disabilities that pay at least the minimum wage.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Illinois Dr. Brian Murray fined $10,000, and 2 years probation over medical marijuana

CHICAGO (Associated Press) --Illinois regulators have disciplined a doctor they say misled potential patients by offering pre-approval for medical marijuana through a business that will have a float in Chicago's Thanksgiving parade.

Authorities put Dr. Brian Murray on probation for two years and fined him $10,000. A phone message left for Murray's attorney Wednesday wasn't immediately returned.

Tammy Jacobi is CEO of Good Intentions Medical Marijuana Services, where Murray once worked. She said Wednesday the business is referring patients to other doctors now.

Illinois law requires a doctor's certification before a patient can use marijuana. The law requires a bona fide doctor-patient relationship, including an exam. Doctors can't accept payments for the certification itself.

Jacobi says the Good Intentions company will have a float in Chicago's parade on Thursday.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Being in Jail for being Autistic and being a “suspicious black male”: Neli Latson journey

as posted/shared by The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Reginald “Neli” Latson 
UPDATES: Dec 2014 - Autistic self advocacy groups are calling for a Twitter day of action using the hashtag #FreeNeli

The Arc Calls on Governor McAuliffe to Grant a Conditional Pardon for Neli Latson Immediately (Jan 8, 2015) (post below)

Mental health advocates seek relief for autistic Va. inmate (Jan 4, 2015) (post below)

ASAN Calls for Neli Latson’s Release

November 24, 2014 | Lydia Brown

In early 2010, police responded to calls about a “suspicious black male” and found a young black man waiting outside a local school library. An officer approached Reginald “Neli” Latson, then-18 and also autistic. He did not give his name when asked, and he attempted to walk away. The initial contact led to an altercation. Afterward, Neli was charged with assaulting a police officer and later sentenced to two years of prison and eight years of probation. Police profiled Neli as suspicious and then attempted to arrest him after he failed to state his name. This incident was avoidable, but the consequences afterward were even more devastating for Neli, who has been repeatedly subjected to inappropriate and ineffective punishment.

While on probation after serving two years in prison, Neli had another unfortunate encounter with police during which he threatened suicide. Since September 2013, he has been back in prison. Neli has languished for over a year in 24-hour lockdown solitary confinement. In theory, this was for his own protection after he attempted suicide inside his prison cell. Because of his developmental and intellectual disabilities, Neli was deemed too vulnerable to place in the prison’s general population. The already inappropriate prison environment has in turn led to increased behavior difficulties. Isolating vulnerable prisoners in solitary confinement is a violation of human rights. Solitary confinement is particularly pernicious and potentially counterproductive for those with disability-related behavioral difficulties. Neli has lost coping skills while in isolation, and remains at continued threat of further adverse psychological impact. Yet instead of providing him with appropriate supports and a meaningful transition plan, the system continues to fail him.
In 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections settled a lawsuit filed by the Disability Law Center over routinely housing inmates with psychiatric disabilities in solitary confinement for the convenience of prison staff. Psychological and neuroscience research have repeatedly demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement has a profoundly negative impact on prisoners’ emotional and mental wellbeing. For those like Neli who are wrongfully imprisoned, the effects are no doubt exacerbated by the complete injustice of the situation.
Neli Latson should not be in prison, let alone in solitary confinement. His placement in prison is entirely inappropriate and not conducive to positive learning or behavior supports. Governor McAuliffe still has an opportunity to remedy this injustice immediately by pardoning Neli or commuting his sentence. There is no public safety or rehabilitation justification for his continued imprisonment either in general population or in solitary confinement. Neli could be significantly better served in a community-based setting with appropriate re-entry services and behavior supports, including someone to accompany him in the community. For these reasons, we call for Neli’s immediate release.
This statement compiled by Samantha Crane, ASAN’s Director of Public Policy, and Lydia Brown, ASAN Policy Analyst.

shared by The Arc

The Arc Calls on Governor McAuliffe to Grant a Conditional Pardon for Neli Latson Immediately

Stafford, VA – Today was another day in court for Neli Latson, a young man with autism who has spent a significant amount of time in solitary confinement. His case has become the symbol for dysfunction in our national justice system for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).  As Latson entered a guilty plea today to charges of assault, The Arc is calling on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who now has the legal authority to take action, to promptly grant a conditional pardon so that Latson can be transferred from the criminal justice system to the developmental disability system, where he will receive the services he needs.
“Mr. Latson is caught in a recurring cycle of prosecution and punishment due to factors related to his disabilities. He is not a criminal. He is a person with autism and intellectual disability whose behaviors can be aggressive, often in an attempt to communicate. Prison is not where Mr. Latson belongs,” wrote Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, to Governor McAuliffe in early December requesting a conditional pardon.
Latson, who is 22, has been incarcerated since August 2013 as a result of behavior connected to his disability.  He has been held in solitary confinement for most of that time and is presently at a Virginia state prison.  His tragic situation is the result of events surrounding his initial detention which occurred while waiting for the public library to open, and from subsequent mental health crises resulting from his confinement.  A conditional pardon would allow Latson to be moved immediately to a facility in Florida that will provide the support necessary to help him move on from these events.
Advocates from The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD) and The Arc of Virginia have been involved in this case for months, advocating alongside Latson’s legal team.  NCCJD is operated by The Arc and is the first national effort of its kind to bring together both victim and suspect/offender issues involving people with I/DD under one roof.  NCCJD is a national clearinghouse for research, information, evaluation, training and technical assistance for criminal justice and disability professionals and other advocates that will build their capacity to better identify and meet the needs of people with I/DD, whose disability often goes unrecognized, and who are overrepresented in the nation’s criminal justice system.  Currently, NCCJD is developing training for law enforcement, victim service providers and legal professionals that will support police departments, prosecutor’s offices, and other professionals in the criminal justice system to effectively and fairly administer justice for people with disabilities.


Mental health advocates seek relief for autistic Va. inmate

By LARRY O'DELL | Associated Press | Jan 4, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. Mental health and civil liberties advocates are urging Gov. Terry McAuliffe to intervene in the case of a Virginia inmate with autism who faces trial Wednesday for allegedly assaulting a correctional officer.
Reginald "Neli" Latson's supporters and lawyers say he needs treatment, not punishment, for intellectual disabilities that they say have caused his three clashes with law enforcement since 2010. They have asked McAuliffe to grant conditional clemency so Latson can be moved to a secure treatment facility in Florida that has agreed to accept him.
McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said the governor is concerned but can't do anything until the pending charge is resolved in Stafford County Circuit Court. Latson faces six months to five years behind bars if convicted.
Latson, 23, already has twice been jailed for assaulting police officers. His supporters say those incidents stem from a "fight or flight" reflex associated with his autism spectrum disorder.
"He is in prison because law enforcement, prosecutors, and correctional officers failed to understand or accommodate his disabilities, a problem that more and more people with autism and other developmental disabilities are experiencing when they interact with the criminal justice system," American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia executive director Claire Guthrie Gastanaga wrote in a Dec. 23 letter to McAuliffe.
Stafford County Commonwealth's Attorney Eric Olsen, who is prosecuting the latest charge against Latson, did not return telephone messages about the case.
The Arc of the United States, a mental health advocacy organization, and its Virginia chapter also have asked the governor to intervene.
"Mr. Latson is caught in a recurring cycle of prosecution and punishment due to factors related to his disabilities. He is not a criminal," ARC of the United States CEO Peter V. Berns wrote last month.
According to his lawyers and supporters, Latson's legal troubles began in 2010 when he was approached by a police officer responding to a report of a suspicious person outside the Stafford County library. Latson, a young black man wearing a hoodie, refused to identify himself. When the officer grasped Latson's arm to take him into custody, Latson hit him.
"This is the sort of situation that an autistic young man simply cannot comprehend — he had done nothing wrong and yet the officer was restraining him — and the actions of the officer seemed threatening to Neli because he does not understand social roles the way others do," Latson's attorney, Julie M. Carpenter, wrote in the first letter to McAuliffe last May. Carpenter declined through an associate to comment further.
After a few months in jail, Latson was moved into a residential treatment program in Grafton in February 2012. Carpenter said in her letter that Latson did well there and in 2013 was moved into a group home, where he became agitated during a phone call with his mother and stormed out. Police were called, and Latson tried to take the officer's gun to kill himself, according to Carpenter. The officer was uninjured.
That incident landed Latson back in jail and led to the latest confrontation. Latson was being transferred to a sparsely equipped "crisis cell" when he allegedly punched a guard. Had he not been charged in that incident, Carpenter said in her letter, Latson would have been released in February and immediately taken to the Florida treatment center.
Latson's supporters say he has spent much of his time behind bars in solitary confinement, worsening his condition. He has been allowed more time out of his cell in recent weeks.
Alison Barkoff, director of advocacy for the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, said Latson's case is emblematic of a systemic problem that prompted a federal investigation of Virginia's mental health system. Barkoff previously was a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer who helped negotiate a 2012 settlement that requires the state to improve training and expand community services over the next 10 years.
While much of the focus in Latson's case has been on law enforcement, Barkoff said the group home staff also erred in calling police instead of mental health crisis personnel. One of the goals of the settlement, she said, is to minimize interactions between police and people with developmental disabilities.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2015/01/04/5424190/mental-health-advocates-seek-relief.html#.VLbug1Ua7gI#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

U.S Senate Unlikely To Reconsider UN Disability Rights Treaty; Inaction on Disability Rights dismays Senator Harkin

Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier | article By James Lynch | Nov 20, 2014

U.S Sen. Tom Harkin is dismayed that his effort to extend the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the international community appears unlikely to gain the Republican support it needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate.
Harkin, who along with former Republican Sen. Bob Dole sponsored the ADA, which was signed into law by a Republican president in 1990, had hoped to win over another half dozen Republicans to reach the 67 votes necessary to ratify the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).
However, a GOP ally did a vote count and said there has been no movement among the Republican holdouts despite encouragement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, veterans groups and disabilities groups.
“I’m telling you, I’m really dismayed,” Harkin said Thursday. “I think it is just unforgivable that we don’t join the rest of the world when we are the leader, when the convention itself was based on the ADA, that we don’t join with the rest of the world in helping other countries change their polices, their programs, their structures to be more inclusive of people with disabilities.”
Harkin has made the expansion of opportunities and rights for people with disabilities a major emphasis of his 30 years in the Senate. He had hoped to win ratification of the CRPD before retiring in January.
He’s been working with Republican senators including John McCain of Arizona, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire as well as Dole to persuade another five or six votes GOP senators to join eight or nine Republicans who either have voted for the treaty in the past or pledged their support this year.
Harkin thought he might win that support when earlier this month, the National Association of Evangelicals wrote Harkin to say it had dropped its opposition. It changed its position based on modifications of language on abortion and family issues in what are known as RUDs – rules, understandings and declarations – that would guide U.S. implementation of the treaty.
“This is what gave me hope that we might change some hearts and minds on this,” Harkin said. “But it didn’t do any good.”
Based on the vote count, Harkin said, “There no way we can bring it up.”
“So I’m sad to say our veterans who are struggling with disabilities, other Americans with disabilities who want to travel overseas with their families or who might want to go to school overseas or work in a job overseas, well, if you've got a disability, you might forget about it,” Harkin said.
A committee of representatives from the 140-plus nations that have ratified the CRPD will oversee implementation of the treaty.
“But our voices will not be a part of it,” he said.
If the U.S. had ratified the CRPD, the international committee would not have enforcement authority in the U.S. and interpretation of the treaty would be left to the Supreme Court, according to Harkin.
“I’m really dismayed,” Harkin said. “It’s just not right to have this go down like this.”
Copyright 2014 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Faces and Facts of Social Security Disability

thanks to Marty J. for sharing this info...

By Phylis Dills

Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Little Rock

November is Family Stories Month. Every family has stories — stories are a great way to carry on family legacies, pass lessons on to future generations and share what is important to your family with the rest of the world. Your family stories may include ones about the birth of a child, serving in war, helping people in need or the deaths of loved ones.

We’d like to share some stories about what it means to receive disability benefits from Social Security. And we have a website that does just that: The Faces and Facts of Disability, ready for you to explore at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Learning the facts and hearing people’s stories about disability allows for a fuller understanding of what is perhaps the most misunderstood Social Security program.

The Social Security Act sets a very strict definition of disability. To receive disability benefits, a person must have an impairment expected to last at least a year or result in death. The impairment must be so severe that it renders the person unable to perform not only his or her previous work, but also any other substantial work in the national job market. Social Security does not provide temporary or partial disability benefits. Because the eligibility requirements are so strict, Social Security disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired people in the country and tend to have high death rates.

In addition, Social Security conducts a periodic review of people who receive disability benefits to ensure they remain eligible for disability. Social Security aggressively works to prevent, detect, and prosecute fraud. Social Security often investigates suspicious disability claims before making a decision to award benefits — proactively stopping fraud before it happens. These steps help ensure only those eligible have access to disability benefits.

If you want to learn more about what happens behind the scenes when someone applies for disability benefits, watch our seven-part video series on the process at www.socialsecurity.gov/socialmedia/webinars.

Please read and watch some of the stories about real cases of people who have benefited from Social Security by visiting the Faces and Facts of Disability website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Family and personal stories are great ways to discover important truths.

Man With Down Syndrome Received 30,000 Cards For His Birthday! Thanks To His Father’s Facebook Post

“People say the world is selfish. I can now say this isn’t true.”

article by Marie Telling | BuzzFeed | Nov 24, 2014

At the beginning of November, Lucien Parisseaux of Calais, France, posted a picture of his son, Manuel, on Facebook. Manuel was about to turn 30, so Lucien asked his friends to send his son some birthday cards.

62100 CALAIS
Lucien Parisseaux Bonjour has all I an application has all my Facebook friends: my son Manuel will have 30 years on 22/11/14 he loves receiving postcards my son is trisomic! I have come to you to ask you to take a few minutes of your time and send him a small card and pass this info to all your friends do not stop my chain I thank you all for your gesture that will make my happy super Manu here is the manual PARISSEAUX 36 RUE PABLO NERUDA 62100 CALAIS FRANCE address(Translated by Bing)

“I have a favor to ask from all my Facebook friends: my son Manuel is about to turn 30 on November, 22, and he loves to receive postcards,” wrote Manuel’s father.

He explained that Manuel has Down syndrome and asked for his friends to take a few minutes to write a card and to share the request with their own friends.

He explained that Manuel has Down syndrome and asked for his friends to take a few minutes to write a card and to share the request with their own friends.

Lucien has only 22 friends on Facebook, but his message quickly spread and has now been shared by more than 120,000 people.

Lucien has only 22 friends on Facebook, but his message quickly spread and has now been shared by more than 120,000 people.

It wasn’t long before the family started receiving thousands of cards every day.

It wasn't long before the family started receiving thousands of cards every day.

By November 22, Manuel’s birthday, they had received almost 30,000 cards from all around the world.

“We are a bit overwhelmed,” his mother Jacqueline told the local press. “We couldn’t imagine that my husband’s Facebook message would trigger such a phenomenon. It’s beautiful, it’s wonderful!”

"We are a bit overwhelmed," his mother Jacqueline told the local press. "We couldn't imagine that my husband's Facebook message would trigger such a phenomenon. It's beautiful, it's wonderful!"

The local post office even had to assign two employees to exclusively take care of Manuel’s mail.

“People say that our world is selfish,” said Cathy,Manuel’s sister. “I can now say that this isn’t true. Everywhere, parents asked their kids to draw something for Manuel and taught them about the right to be different.”

"People say that our world is selfish," said Cathy, Manuel's sister. "I can now say that this isn't true. Everywhere, parents asked their kids to draw something for Manuel and taught them about the right to be different."

“People took the time to go to the post office for my brother. It is a beautiful lesson in humanity.”