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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Red Wine and Chocolate" Fundraiser Chicago November 18th - support for Access Living’s programs and services

Dear Access Living friends and allies,
We’d like to announce an upcoming fundraiser that will take place on November 18th. Called Red Wine and Chocolate, this event will celebrate the launch of Take Charge! – a health guide for women with disabilities, and the opening of our new national collection featuring works by professional artists with disabilities, on loan from the Kennedy Center. Tickets are $50 and all proceeds will go towards operating support for Access Living’s programs and services.  
This event will be especially great for those interested in supporting women with disabilities, those interested in healthcare advocacy, and those interested in visual arts. A trifecta!
The details:
Wednesday, November 18th from 5:30-7:30 at Access Living’s Chandler Gallery on the 4th floor. The address is 115 W. Chicago.  Please be aware that parking is via meter on the street, or in paid lots nearby, so public transit is a good option.  To purchase tickets you may click on this link. Please contact Vatonna Dunn 312-640-2117 or vdunn@accessliving.org with any questions.
Thank you to our Host Committee:
Paula Brown
Jenny Choi
Sunny Fischer
Kevin Fritz
Jerry Kendall
Kristi Kirschner
Iris Krieg
Ben Lumicao
Eileen Murphy
Kate O’Malley
Amy Osler
Nancy Picard
Hedy Ratner
Kathy Ryg
Michelle Saddler
Carole Segal
Kristin Weaver

# post as shared by our colleagues at Access Living, Center for Independence (CIL) in Chicago


ADA 25 Chicago and Access Living will host a panel discussion on what it means for young people with disabilities to look for work. Participants will share their experiences and expertise in a conversation about navigating employment barriers and opportunities as a young person with a disability.
Panelist Include:
Jaime Cornejo, Youth Advocate
Khadeeja Glass, Youth Advocate
Kennedy Healy, MC, Access Living
Kim Mercer, Chicago Public Schools
Melissa Picciola, Equip for Equality
November 04, 2015
Access Living
115 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60654
4th floor event space
For more information, please click here
For accommodation requests and more information contact Candace Coleman at 312-640-2128 or ccoleman@accessliving.org.

Friday, October 30, 2015

My Disability is One Part of Who I Am - article by Celeste Carrasco

very nice article published from ATT | Oct 28, 2015
by Celeste Carrasco

Every October during National Disability Employment Awareness Month businesses around the country reflect on and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. For 70 years, the Department of Labor used this time of year to showcase the talents of workers with disabilities and encourage diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the workplace. This year, the Department of Labor is focusing on the theme, “My Disability is One Part of Who I Am.” I am incredibly proud of AT&T’s commitment to the disabled community and to its employees with disabilities, and that commitment is especially meaningful to me because of my own disability.
As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I am proud to be at a company that strongly recognizes the value of employees with diverse backgrounds, creating an inclusive environment that empowers and enables them to do great things in and out of the workplace.
When I was five years old, I lost vision in my right eye. My family always encouraged me to overcome challenges and to never let setbacks stand in the way of my success. I am privileged to have worked with disability groups in Washington, D.C. that have inspired me to view my vision loss in a new way. While I have encountered challenges that have made me stronger, I am constantly impressed by the ways in which our world has become more accessible. These experiences give me a view of the world that is unique and propels me forward.

AT&T fosters an inclusive and accessible environment, where I am comfortable identifying myself as a person with a disability. AT&T encourages the use of technology as avenues for accessibility in the workplace and also maintains a focus on Universal Design skills in hiring, which will help us remain focused on creating and developing technology that is accessible to everyone. But our commitment to people with disabilities does not end there. AT&T continues to lead the way, developing and supporting the next generation of connected devices, including Real-Time Text, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, which offer numerous benefits to many people, but particularly to people with disabilities and seniors.

AT&T’s commitment doesn’t just include its products and services, it brings those same values to its organization. My colleagues who, like me, have unique experiences because of disabilities bring different perspectives to the workplace. These perspectives allow AT&T to think critically and in a more dynamic way about the products and services they bring to the market, providing more connectivity and accessibility.

These devices and connected technologies offer new options and tools that people with disabilities can use to navigate daily life, to work, and to participate fully in our economy and our society. Connected Home and mHealth (mobile health) technologies offer improved quality of life, better health outcomes and management of chronic conditions, and even increased personal security and independence.

AT&T is proud to support individuals with disabilities by developing technological solutions to everyday challenges faced by many people. As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I am proud to be at a company that strongly recognizes the value of employees with diverse backgrounds, creating an inclusive environment that empowers and enables them to do great things in and out of the workplace.

About the Author
Celeste Carrasco
Director of Federal Public Affairs for AT&T
Celeste Carrasco, a Director of Federal Public Affairs for AT&T, is responsible for executing national strategies that achieve corporate legislative and regulatory objectives, presenting company positions to external stakeholders in key issue areas and managing community partnerships with non-profit organizations in the Latino, corporate social responsibility and consumer advocacy communities.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Man with Disability, accommodation ignored by airline, crawled off his flight. But the humiliation was far from over.

D'Arcee Neal dutifully waited for a wheelchair.

He had just flown five hours from San Francisco to his hometown of Washington without a bathroom break because his cerebral palsy prevented him from using the United Airlines toilets. Then he had waited the usual fifteen minutes for the plane to empty before someone could help him exit in a special narrowly built wheelchair. But the wheelchair never came.

So D'Arcee waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Until finally, he could wait no longer. As stunned flight attendants looked on, 29-year-old Neal fell to the floor and proceeded to drag himself roughly 50 feet to the airplane's door, where his own wheelchair was waiting for him.

"The craziest thing was that while that was happening, the attendants just stared. They just couldn't believe I was doing that. It just seemed so unfathomable to them," Neal told The Washington Post. "By the time they came to their senses I was already out of the plane."

D'Arcee Neal's horrific Oct. 20 flight made international news. "Outrage as man with cerebral palsy was forced to crawl off plane," ran one headline in the U.K. "Severely disabled man on plane crawls down aisle," read another. And when United Airlines promptly issued an apology and a check, Neal appeared to be on his way to joining the long list of people who have been abused and then paid by the airline industry.

What you probably haven't heard, however, is what happened afterwards: the ignorance, the Internet comments, the wild accusations and the humiliation of crawling on one's hands in public - relived over and over online.

"There is a contingent of the Internet thinks that I'm faking or I'm opportunistic and I just want to get paid," Neal said. "Somebody even said that I was doing it to raise the profile of Black Lives Matter, which I was really offended by."

The first thing you should know about D'Arcee Neal is that his life has been pretty darn tough. The D.C. native is African American, openly gay and disabled - a triple minority - after all.

"I was born with cerebral palsy," he told The Post in a telephone interview Tuesday night, recounting how he wasn't allowed to pursue acting in college because the university theater wasn't wheelchair accessible, and how his expensive wheelchair was stolen last year while he watched after a friend's apartment. "I deal with all kinds of craziness that able-bodied people just have no clue about."

But the second thing you should know about him is that he definitely doesn't want to be pitied.

"I'm an activist, a storyteller, I perform with The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington [D.C.]. I perform," he said. "I just got done doing a production of 'Little Shop of Horrors' at The Arlington Players as the plant. We had a five star review.

"I do things professionally in my life. And yes I have a cerebral palsy. And yes I use a wheelchair. But it doesn't make me any less of a person. It doesn't make me any less of a citizen. People around the city are just like 'oh,' when they see you. The bar is lowered a little bit. And that is infuriating. I'm almost 30 years old. I pay my taxes. And they look at you like, 'I'm just really sorry. I'm sorry that that is your life.' Well, I'm sorry you feel like that."

His attitude has propelled him to London for graduate school and into a career advocating for better treatment of the disabled.

In fact, last week's incident occurred as Neal was returning from a work trip to San Francisco where, as an employee of United Cerebral Palsy, he met with Uber executives to discuss improving the "ride-sharing" service for people with disabilities.

But it was another company that needed his advice, it seems.

Neal's return trip to D.C. began badly. Instead of asking him to board first, as is airline policy, a United gate agent in San Francisco forgot and seated the rest of the plane, he said. As a result, it was nearly impossible for Neal to take his seat, even with the help of the special, narrow aisle wheelchair. (His own chair is too wide for the aisles and was stored during the flight.)

It was disembarkation, however, that would prove disastrous.

His plane touched down at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at around 10 p.m. First, Neal waited as his fellow passengers streamed off the aircraft. Then he waited for a United employee or contractor to come and help him exit the plane as he had entered: on the narrow aisle wheelchair.

But as the delay dragged on, and Neal sat on the plane with only a few flight attendants, his patience began to wear thin.

"When the staff didn't show up, I asked the flight attendant what was going," he said. "They were just doing their job, and they told me, 'Just stay here. Just wait. I'm sure he'll be here in a few minutes.'"

After about 35 minutes, Neal asked again if someone was on the way with a wheelchair, repeating that he really needed to use the restroom in the airport. "He asked me why I couldn't use the bathroom on the plane," Neal told The Post. "But I can't even get up to the toilet bowl" in the tiny airplane lavatories.

After about 45 minutes, Neal had had enough. When the flight attendant told him his own wheelchair was waiting for him just off the plane, Neal decided it was time to go it alone.

"Honestly, I expected the flight attendants [to help me] once they saw that I have a disability, once they knew that I had to use the bathroom," he said. "The next words out of their mouths should have been: 'How can we assist you? What can we do to make that possible?'

"I'm not going to use the airplane bathroom when a perfectly acceptable [wheelchair accessible] bathroom was 10 feet from the door to the terminal. If you could just let me off this plane, then I could go to the bathroom the regular way instead of you trying to cram me into this closet.

"So at that point I got out of my chair and onto the floor and started crawling up the aisle," he recalled. "One of the flight attendants turned around and was like, 'Oh, you can't be serious.'"

He was.

Neal crawled roughly 50 feet on his elbows from his seat in 11 F to the door of the plane and then onto the jet bridge, where his wheelchair had been left for him. Some of the flight attendants were stunned. One, however, had the presence of mind to bring Neal's bag and help him up the steep jet bridge to the terminal.

Neal was angry, but he was also used to it.

"This is the third or fourth time this has happened" with United, he claimed. Neal said he had missed several connecting flights because of similar delays in receiving wheelchair assistance, but he had never resorted to crawling off the plane - until now.

"I mean, it's humiliating," he told NBC Washington. "No one should have to do what I did."

Still, he didn't want to make an issue out of it.

"I went to the bathroom and went home," he said. "I didn't say anything to anybody. I wasn't being rude or anything. I was just tired and frustrated and it was annoying."

Neal arrived home just before midnight, fell asleep and then headed to work the next morning as if nothing happened. When he came home that evening, however, he got a call from United.

Someone had complained about the incident - but it wasn't Neal. It was one of the flight attendants who felt Neal had been neglected.

Now a United representative was telling him that the airline had "dropped the ball," the situation was "completely unacceptable" and that the employee responsible had been suspended, according to Neal.

Those claims generally match a statement United sent to CNN on Tuesday.

"As customers began to exit the aircraft, we made a mistake and told the agent with the aisle chair that it was no longer needed, and it was removed from the area," the airline said. "When we realized our error - that Mr. Neal was onboard and needed the aisle chair - we arranged to have it brought back, but it arrived too late."

"We've apologized to him for that delay," United told the Los Angeles Times. "We hope that all of our customers understand that this situation doesn't reflect the level of service we provide to customers with disabilities each day."

Neal accepted the airline's apology, along with $300 in compensation.

But when his story hit the media, Neal was baffled to see commenters blaming him for the episode. Some said he was engaged in a publicity stunt. Many suggested he was out for money.

"This person may wanted to get attention for his agenda!" wrote one person, who also insinuated that Neal lied about what happened.

"How much money are you looking for," wrote another. "How funny you need to go to the bathroom when plane lands and everyone is looking to run off the plane." (Note that Neal insists he waited until the plane was empty.)

Others tried to twist Neal's disability into some modern-day, narcissistic ploy for attention or - most bizarrely of all - into a sense of entitlement, even privilege.

"How long did he have to wait? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? Half an hour?" one commenter wrote. "We all have to wait for things it's what makes us equal. So he just happened to be returning from a speaking engagement about accessible transportation. Isn't that just ironic. I'm willing to bet he has the Me-first attitude! I'm more valuable than you! Can't you see that I'm special!"

"Why is the airline responsible for helping him to and from the plane or bathroom? He knew he was disabled BEFORE he got on the plane. Why did he not have a nursing assistant with him to help him in such matters or a family member?" another wrote. "In today's world, we must plan ahead and accordingly to our needs. We should not expect others to provide for our needs."

Most people supported Neal. But for him, the accusations, however absurd, still hurt.

"How could you make this story into a negative?" he said. "I didn't do anything wrong, especially when United openly admitted that this was all them. They have already issued an apology and a statement and the whole nine [yards]."

Many of the negative comments displayed a profound ignorance not only of American law - such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA - but also of what it's like to be disabled. One woman accused Neal of faking his disability because she mistakenly thought that people with cerebral palsy are completely paralyzed, at which point Neal took to the comments to explain the disability that had already been laid bare for the public.

But the most absurd allegation was that Neal was somehow trying to drum up support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

"The fact that I just happen to be black and disabled is enough for people to believe that I'm trying to raise the profiles of Black Lives Matter?" he said in disbelief. "Don't get me wrong, black lives do matter. . . but that doesn't have anything to do with what was going on [on the airplane]. For them to jump to that conclusion, it just felt like, what? The internet is just wildly out of control with their theories."

Neal said he hasn't sought out media attention or money, although he is still weighing his legal options. He also pointed out that he wasn't the one to complain.

He does hope some good can come from the humiliating episode, however.

"I understand that the airline made an apology and I am grateful for that," he said. "I am also grateful that this [United contractor] was suspended, because he should have been.

"But this takes place at the heart of a much larger issue about the airline industry and how they treat people and the lack of respect they give to disabled American citizens, who they charge full price."

The Washington Post | Oct 28, 2015 | from a wire report

People With Disabilities Still Push for Economic Equality, 25 years after ADA

The U.S economy received welcome news recently with a dip in the unemployment rate to the lowest level in several years. But while employer hiring is robust, it is sorely lacking for at least one demographic of Americans.
by Randy Rutta, President and Chief Executive Officer of Easter Seals
published by Huffington Post | Oct. 19, 2015
Far too many work-aged people with disabilities are struggling to find employment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment in June among adults with disabilities was 9.3 percent, significantly higher than the national average of 5.3 percent. The labor participation rate hovered at 20 percent for people with disabilities, compared to 69.1 percent for those without.

The unacceptable unemployment situation for adults with disabilities is a troubling irony as the nation prepares to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The landmark civil rights legislation, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, outlawed discrimination on the basis of disability. 

The text of the law laid bare the hurdles that people with disabilities faced at the time. "Discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting, and access to public services," the law said.
The ADA established the nation's goals for individuals with disabilities "to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals."
The law affirmed that discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete. But it also recognized the huge societal downside of keeping people with disabilities on the margins -- workplace discrimination costs the country billions of dollars resulting from dependency and nonproductivity.

While major progress has been made over the last quarter century as is evidenced by lifts on public buses, trained drivers who call out stops, talking crosswalks and more, much work remains -- and most certainly in the area of employment.

"Employment is one of the most important pathways to economic self-sufficiency and independence for Americans," says the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency. "Yet people with disabilities experience higher unemployment and lower pay rates than those without disabilities."
Bureau of Labor Statistics data tell the story. In a report covering 2014, the government found the following:
• Across all age groups, persons with a disability were more likely to be out of the labor force than those with no disability.
• At all levels of education, persons with a disability were much less likely to be employed than were their counterparts with no disability.

• For those with disabilities, the unemployment rates were higher among blacks (21.6 percent) and Hispanics (16.1 percent) than among whites (11.2 percent) and Asians (8.6 percent). 

While the economic climate has improved since the Great Recession of 2008, people with disabilities have experienced stagnated levels of employment, especially full-time employment, compared to people without disabilities.

Contributing to the hiring hurdles faced by this community is the belief among some employers that hiring those with disabilities will cost a company more in terms of providing accommodations. But as the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy found, hiring adults with disabilities reduces recruitment expenses, avoids the losses of unfilled positions, and reduces turnover with employees who tend to stay longer. Once recruited, people with disabilities require little or no cost to accommodate. 

In fairness to U.S. employers, many may not know how to go about recruiting potential workers with disabilities. For that reason, organizations like mine, which was on the front lines helping to get the ADA approved by Congress and signed into law, believe that the next phase of civil rights for people with disabilities will be matching employers to employees and providing support on recruiting, accommodating, retaining and advancing employees once they are hired.

"The most significant barrier keeping people with disabilities from the workplace is attitudinal," the Government Accountability Office concluded in a 2011 report that is as current today. "There is a fundamental need to change the attitudes of hiring managers, supervisors, coworkers, and prospective employees."

Attitudes of employers have improved since 1990 when the ADA became the law of the land. But as the employment data underscore, extending economic opportunity to Americans with disabilities will require a recommitment to the principles of fairness and equality that carried the day 25 years ago.

Rutta is president and CEO of Easter Seals.

Accessible Travel Guide for people with physical disabilities

A step-by-step guide to air travel created by people with physical disabilities, for people with physical disabilities.

# repost from May 2014

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


shared from the U.S Department of Justice blog | October 14, 2015
Courtesy of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eve Hill of the Civil Rights Division
In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Civil Rights Division is highlighting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a gateway to equal opportunity in the workplace.  Work is a fundamental part of adult life for people with and without disabilities.  It provides a sense of purpose, shaping who we are and how we fit into our community.  Meaningful work – being a contributing part of society – is essential to people’s economic self-sufficiency, as well as self-esteem and well-being.  This year, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, the Department of Justice is breaking down barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities through its enforcement efforts.
Enforcing Title I of the ADA against State and Local Government Employers
State and local governments play a significant role in our workforce and can be leaders in employing the skills and talents of American workers with disabilities.  This year, the department has reached agreements with a number of state and local government employers to remove discriminatory attitudes and barriers in the job application process.
Just this month, the department settled an employment lawsuit against Riverside County, California.  The county had refused to hire an applicant as a youth probation officer because he had controlled epilepsy, even though the applicant could perform all of the essential job duties.  The county’s decision, which was based on outdated and stereotypical attitudes about epilepsy, was illegal.  Under the consent decree, the county has agreed to pay the job applicant $50,000, offer the probation officer position, train its hiring personnel on the ADA and report on compliance.
Earlier this year, the department reached settlements with six different municipalities to remove illegal disability-related questions on employment applications.  Under the ADA, employers may not ask disability-related questions on an employment application because those questions may deter people with disabilities from applying for jobs, and employers may use that information to discriminate against such applicants.  An employer may, however, ask applicants if they are able to perform specific job tasks.  The following six different municipalities and one state university from across the country have now removed the disability-related questions from their online employment applications:Parowan, UtahRuidoso, New MexicoFallon, NevadaIsle of Palms, South CarolinaVero Beach, FloridaDeKalb, Illinois; and Florida State University
As a result of these and other Title I enforcement actions by the department, individuals with disabilities now have a fairer chance to succeed at work, and both justice and economic advancement are served.
Enforcing Title II of the ADA regarding Integrated and Supported Employment Services by States
The department has in recent years been engaged in aggressive efforts to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C., a ruling that requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities.  Through this work, the department has advanced the civil rights of thousands of individuals with disabilities who have been unnecessarily segregated in employment settings called sheltered workshops.  Sheltered workshops are institutional settings where participants are segregated from the community and paid well below the minimum wage.  Just last month, the department and private plaintiffs reached a groundbreaking agreement with the state of Oregon to resolve the federal lawsuit Lane v. Brown.  Under the settlement agreement, over 6,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will receive supported employment services to give them opportunities to work in real jobs at competitive wages. 
These and other efforts are leading to reform of state systems; a number of states are moving away from using sheltered workshops in favor of expanding supported employment for people with disabilities, to better provide integrated employment opportunities. 
Through its vigorous enforcement, the department is helping to fulfill the ADA’s promise of equal employment opportunity and full inclusion.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

University of Illinois Student Senate to Fund 3-D Printer for Disability Resources

nice article by Lilly Mashayek  for The Daily Illini | Oct 26, 2015
The Illinois Student Senate, ISS, passed a resolution to allocate funds for a new 3-D printer for the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services, DRES.

The printer will initially be used to print gloves for University wheelchair athletes to help reduce injuries and improve the efficiency of the athletes. In the future, the printer may be used for modifications to wheelchairs too.

Rausin, senior in Business, drafted the original proposal. She said she hopes the 3-D printer will help students with athletics as well as in their everyday lives.

Rausin said she thinks more interest will be generated once the printer is fully in-use.

“Arielle did a lot of research on it, and she saw a need for a 3-D printer,” said Rahul Kalluri, junior in LAS and ISS treasurer. “(Applied Health Science) doesn’t get a lot of funding and DRES gets even less funding.”
The cost of the $1,200 printer will be paid for by ISS, as well as three spools of plastic that cost $96 Kalluri said.
The printer model, FlashForge Creator, is the unbranded version of the same printer currently being used in the College of Business, which makes the cost of the printer much lower, Kalluri said.
Adam Bleakney, head coach of wheelchair track and road racing, said he is excited for all of the opportunities the printer may provide.
“Arielle has been the driving force behind looking at new technology to enhance the athletic team and active daily living for wheelchair users,” Bleaney said.
The gloves the athletes previously used were made of a moldable plastic that was difficult to use and cracked over time.
While the old gloves took as long as two days to make, the new 3-D printer will be able to print them in as little as five hours. The new gloves will be half the weight of the old gloves and will be able to be customized more precisely, based on the needs of the athlete.
“The glove technology that we use has been ground breaking,” Bleakney said. “This is a huge step for us to be able to duplicate and have multiple pairs of gloves disposable at one time.”
While DRES is currently planning to use the printer for racing gloves, they are also looking at ways to use the technology in students’ everyday lives.
“There are a lot of other areas in which we can utilize this for sports performance gains, but also other opportunities that are not sports related, such as certain design changes made to everyday wheelchairs,” Bleakney said.
He said Rausin will be responsible for managing the printer because she is the one with the most experience using the technology.
Matt Hill, senior in LAS and student body vice president external, said being able to provide services like the printer is part of what makes the University one of the national leaders in disability services.
“How thankful I am that the student senate approved the resolution.” Rausin said. It’s going to help the 1,750 kids who use DRES.”

Electric Wheelchair Seller Orbit Medical Agree To $7.5 Million Settlement, Forged Medical Records In Scheme To Defraud Medicare

Due to many concerns about Orbit Medical we have continued to follow the federal lawsuit:
WASHINGTONMay, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has entered into a settlement with Orbit Medical Inc. and Rehab Medical Inc. to resolve a lawsuit that began more than five years ago with the filing of a whistleblower lawsuit by two former employees of Orbit.  The whistleblowers alleged that Orbit sales representatives, under the direction of one of Orbit's top executives,Jake Kilgore, forged medical records so that Orbit could obtain payment from Medicare for electric wheelchairs.  The lawsuit was brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.  Under that law, a private citizen with knowledge of fraud being committed on a government agency or government program may blow the whistle by bringing a lawsuit on behalf of the government.  Successful qui tam whistleblowers can receive substantial awards.  In this case, the government awarded the two whistleblowers, Dustin Clyde and Tyler Jackson, 20% of the settlement amount, which is $1.5 million.  The whistleblowers were represented by the Washington, D.C. law firm Tycko & Zavareei LLP and the Provo, Utah law firm Fillmore Spencer LLC.
The Whistleblowers' Allegations
Orbit was a seller of durable medical equipment (DME) including electric motorized wheelchairs, sometimes called power wheelchairs.  The complaint filed by the whistleblowers alleged that Orbit ran a "boiler room" style sales operation intended to lure Medicare beneficiaries into purchasing electric wheelchairs that Orbit would then bill to Medicare, which is one of the major government-funded healthcare programs. 
Under Medicare regulations, a DME supplier must comply with certain documentation requirements to receive payment for electric wheelchairs or other power mobility devices.  Because electric wheelchairs are very expensive, the Medicare regulations require that a DME supplier have both a physician's prescription and also a physician's note explaining why less expensive options (such as manual wheelchairs or walkers) are not medically sufficient.  In other words, a DME supplier may only bill Medicare for an electric wheelchair if it is medically necessary for the patient to whom the wheelchair is sold.
According to the complaint, Orbit sought to unlawfully increase its profits by selling electric wheelchairs, and then billing Medicare for those wheelchairs, even when medical necessity was not indicated by the medical records.  To cover up this unlawful activity, Orbit executive Jake Kilgore allegedly instructed Orbit's sales representatives to alter or forge medical records to justify billing Medicare for the electric wheelchairs, a process known within Orbit as "chiseling" the records.  The complaint alleged that, in some cases, the "chiseling" included whiting-out existing portions of medical records, and replacing those whited-out portions with new language written by the sale representatives, and also included forging doctors' signatures.  The whistleblowers filed a 28-page complaint explaining Orbit's scheme in great detail.
The False Claims Act
The False Claims Act, sometimes referred to as "Lincoln's Law," was originally enacted during the Civil War in response to "profiteering" by companies that sold defective or useless goods to the Union Army.  The Act has been amended several times since then.  The modern version of the False Claims Act makes it unlawful for a company to submit false claims for payment to the government, or to create false documents or other records for the purpose of obtaining such payment.  The False Claims Act also has a so-called "qui tam" provision that permits private whistleblowers to bring a lawsuit in the name of the government against companies or individuals who violate the Act.  Under that qui tam provision, a whistleblower is typically entitled to an award of between 15% and 30% of whatever amount is recovered by or for the government as a result of the lawsuit.
Qui tam complaints are filed "under seal" and are then investigated by the Department of Justice, which can then intervene in the lawsuit on the side of the whistleblower.  When a qui tam complaint alleges fraud on Medicare or other government-funded healthcare programs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) is often also involved in the investigation. 
Here, the whistleblowers filed their qui tam complaint in April, 2010, in the United States District Court for the District of Utah.  The case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the District of Utah, HHS-OIG, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  As a result of that investigation, Mr. Kilgore was criminally indicted; the criminal charges currently remain pending.  In April, 2014, the government intervened in the qui tam lawsuit, and entered into settlement discussion with Orbit and Rehab.  Those discussions culminated with the $7.5 million settlement, which the Department of Justice publicly announced yesterday.
"This settlement is an excellent result for the American taxpayers, and for our clients, who bravely came forward to inform the government about what they witnessed at Orbit," said Jonathan Tycko, one of the whistleblowers' lawyers.  "We are proud and humbled to have represented Mr. Clyde and Mr. Jackson."
"We are grateful for how seriously the U.S. Attorney's Office, and all the government lawyers and investigators who have worked on this matter, took our clients' allegations, and for the hard work they did to reach this settlement," added attorney Matthew Howell, who also represented the whistleblowers.
The lawsuit is titled United States ex rel. Clyde and Jackson v. Orbit Medical and Jake Kilgore, No. 2:10-CV-00297, and is pending in the United States District Court for the District of Utah.
SOURCE Tycko & Zavareei LLP

U.S. Access Board Meeting - Nov. 10 - Webcast

laptop with Board meeting on screenThe U.S. Access Board will hold its next meeting November 10 from 1:30 – 3:00 (ET) at the Board's conference space in downtown Washington, D.C. The public is welcome to attend in person or through a live webcast of the meeting.
The meeting agenda includes reports from Board committees and the Executive Director, as well as updates on agency rulemaking and other activities. In addition, guest speaker Karen Peltz-Strauss of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will give a presentation on an FCC initiative to provide sign language-based consumer support through direct video communication. A public comment period will be held during the final 15 minutes of the meeting.
Further information is posted on the Board's website.
Meeting of the U.S. Access Board       Add to Calendar
November 10, 1:30 – 3:00 (ET)
Webcast link: www.access-board.gov/webcast
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.
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.

Webinar Nov. 19th "Are Smart Devices the Smart Choice for Accessibility? Perspectives on Digital Interpretive Media"

The Great Lakes ADA Center in collaboration with the National Center on Accessibility and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts LEAD Program is pleased to announce the next session in the Arts and Recreation Webinar Series (www.adaconferences.org/ArtsnRec).

Date:   November 19, 2015

Time:  2:30-4:00pm ET

Title:  Are Smart Devices the Smart Choice for Accessibility? Perspectives on Digital Interpretive Media

Smartphones and tables have become an essential piece of everyday life for some many of us from waking up in the morning, sending emails and text messages, browsing the web, listening to music and much more. Today’s technology has built-in accessibility features that enable people with disabilities to also utilize these devices. Smartphone and tablet technology is increasingly being used to deliver digital interpretive program in parks, museums, zoos and other similar venues. Join us in exploring the implementation of digital media from the user’s point of view. Topics will include an introduction to the built-in accessibility features of smartphones and tablets, user perspectives on the use of smart devices in interpretive programming in recreation and cultural venues, and advice to content developers and interpretive media specialists for utilizing smart devices in programming.

Cost:   Free

The session will be captioned.

Registration:  Available on-line at:  www.adaconferences.org/ArtsnRec

Questions:   webinars@adaconferences.org or by calling 877-232-1990 V/TTY

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chicago Disability Rights Activists Protest Princeton philosopher Peter Singer at of Northwestern University

photo: A woman protests outside a talk by Princeton Prof. Peter Singer, who in the past has advocated for euthanizing disabled babies. Singer arrived at NU on Saturday as a speaker for the Chicago Humanities Festival and was met by a group of protesters outside Norris University Center. Joseph Lamps/The Daily Northwestern

Demonstrators lined up outside Norris University Center on Saturday to protest Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, who spoke on effective altruism and animal equality for the 26th annual Chicago Humanities Festival.
David Fishman, Reporter for
The Daily Northwestern | October 25, 2015
Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton University, is a utilitarian philosopher who approaches issues from a secular viewpoint. But it wasn’t Singer’s stance on animal rights or charitable giving that prompted the protests; it was the contention made in his books that severely disabled babies should be euthanized, a topic not covered in his speech.
“Everybody is entitled to human life,” said Michael Grice, a quadriplegic and longtime disability rights activist. “Even if I was 5 months old, just a newborn, why would you say that I should be killed?”
Grice was joined by more than 10 other people — many of whom were disabled — boycotting the event. The protest was led by Access Living, a Chicago-based disability rights and services organization.
Speaking to a sold-out audience of more than 350 people on Saturday, Singer laid out the framework for his arguments.
“We ought to be living so that at least a significant part of what we do is concerned with making the world a better place,” he said. “Why do less good than we could?”
Most of the lecture was dedicated to “effective altruism,” an evidence-based method of charity popularized by a TED talk Singer gave in 2013. At one point, Singer proposed working on Wall Street rather than at a charity, because, he said, making more money means making a bigger difference.
In his speech, Singer also criticized a number of philanthropists and organizations for supporting the arts, including the very group that brought him to Northwestern.
“It’s great that there are cultural festivals and events,” he said. “But I do feel that if there are over 6 million kids dying from preventable poverty-related diseases that seems to be more critical. If somebody asked me to donate to this festival, I would say: ‘I’m sorry, that’s not where my priorities lie.’”
Singer concluded the session by encouraging people to become effective altruists to “increase our own feeling good about ourselves.”
Amber Smock, director of advocacy for Access Living, said she doesn’t think Singer should be allowed to publish his ideas about euthanizing disabled babies anywhere.
“You run the risk of NU and Chicago Humanities Festival appearing to endorse Dr. Singer’s positions by allowing him to perform here,” she said.
Dubbed the “most influential” philosopher alive by The New Yorker, Singer’s impact on the world of bioethics has been transformative. His 1979 book, “Practical Ethics,” tackled contentious issues like race, abortion and euthanasia and served as the foundation for applied ethics. Since then, Singer has written more than 10 books, including his latest, “The Most Good You Can Do.”
Among philosophers there is sharp disagreement over Singer’s ideologies, which take a staunchly utilitarian outlook on life.
“His view is that (friends and family) should receive no direct priority,” said philosophy Prof. Richard Kraut, who attended the talk. “I side with common sense here. I think that I should do more for my children than somebody else’s children.”
But, Kraut said, he is less certain about some of Singer’s other ideas. For Kraut, the decision to terminate a child’s life should be primarily circumstantial.
After the event ended and Singer had finished signing books, an activist and her 26-year-old daughter walked up to him and initiated a conversation.
“I’m a mom, and I quit my profession to make sure Sarah had a good life,” said Deb Hamilton, a 53-year-old former teacher from Batavia, Illinois, whose daughter has multiple disabilities. “The concept of sweeping her away, or anyone like her, is personal for me.”
Singer later told The Daily that though protesters don’t confront him often, it has happened before.
“Parents ought to have choices if they give birth to a child with a very severe disability about whether that child lives or not,” he said to Hamilton.
The exchange was similar to one he had in 2001 with former disability rights activist Harriet McBryde Johnson at the College of Charleston, chronicled in a 2003 article in The New York Times magazine. When asked about Johnson, Singer said she helped expand his horizons.
“I accepted that maybe the lives of people with disabilities can be better than I had thought,” he told The Daily. “And certainly I think that Harriet was leading a rich and full life. But it is going to vary a lot with circumstances.”
Singer, who said he stands by his former work, is ready to move on.
“I want to find new and interesting things to say,” he told The Daily. “I wrote about the disability movement in the ’80s. It is a very specific problem that affects a very small number of people. The effective altruism movement has a lot more potential to do good.”

DArcee Neal Crawls Off Plane After United Airlines Fails to Provide An Aisle Wheelchair

(update posted below the original post)
A man with disabilities crawled off a plane at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, Tuesday night after the airline failed to provide an aisle chair and someone to help him get off the plane.

report By Chris Gordon for NBC4 Washington | Oct 22, 2015
When no one from United Airlines came, and needing to use the restroom, DArcee Neal crawled up the aisle from the middle of the plane to the doorway.

"I mean, it's humiliating," he said. "No one should have to do what I did."

Ironically, Neal was returning from San Francisco where he had a speaking engagement about accessible transportation.

"Half the time, I feel like airlines treat people with disabilities as a secondary concern," Neal said.

United Airlines said it regrets the delay in providing an aisle chair to assist Neal.

This type of problem is happening too often on various airlines, The National Disability Rights Network said. The Air Carrier Access Act guarantees consistent service to passengers with disabilities, but complaints are up 9 percent in the past year.
"In 2014 here were over 27,500 complaints in reference to things like this, so it is not uncommon," said Dara Baldwin of the National Disability Rights Network. "I hate to say that."
Lawyer Amy Scherer said she also has been left waiting on an aircraft, and one time her travel companions had to lift her and carry her off the plane.

"We got tired of waiting that long," she said.

Advocates for people with disabilities who travel are collecting stories to determine what progress has been made under the Air Carrier Access Act and what still needs to be done.


United Airlines apologizes after disabled man crawls off flight

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