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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Covenant Transport To Pay $30,000 To Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Trucking Company Refused To Hire Applicant Because of Inability to Provide a Urine Sample Due to Medical Condition, Federal Agency Charged
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Covenant Transport, Inc., a trucking company based in Chattanooga, Tenn., will pay $30,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC's suit had charged that Covenant discriminated against an applicant for a commercial truck driver position on the basis of his disability. Covenant conditionally approved the applicant's application, pending a license check and a drug screening. The applicant told Covenant's representative he was unable to provide a urine sample due to a medical condition, bladder exstrophy, but could provide blood for the drug screening. Covenant initially agreed to the blood screening, but later decided not to hire the applicant because of his medical condition and the fact that he could not provide a valid urine specimen.
Failing to make a reasonable accommodation for an applicant's disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 1:16-cv-00142 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Covenant denied that it discriminated against the applicant.
According to the settlement terms written in a consent decree signed by Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan, Covenant will pay $30,000 in compensatory damages to the affected applicant. Addition¬ally, Covenant must develop a written drug testing policy and provide 90 minutes of annual training on that policy to its recruiters and head of safety for the next two years.
"The EEOC appreciates Covenant's willingness to resolve this case without protracted litigation," said Faye Williams, regional attorney for the Memphis District Office. "The agency remains committed to enforcing the ADA to remove barriers to employment for persons with disabilities."
According to its website, Covenant Transport, founded in 1986, operates as a premium transportation service provider specializing in critical, hazmat, government, Canadian and Mexican shipments. The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employ-ment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
SOURCE: Press Release EEOC Feb. 24, 2017

Miss Australia 2017 Pageant Has A First, Contestant In A Wheelchair Justine Clark

(CNN) Pageants are known for wanting complete perfection from their contestants. This year, the Miss Australia pageant has a contestant in a wheelchair, showing just how perfect women of all kinds can be.

Justine Clark, 26, became the first contestant to compete in the Miss World Australia pageant in a wheelchair.

Although she didn't win, she could still progress to the nationwide final through the Beauty with a Purpose campaign, which raises money for local charities. If Clark raises the most money, she can wheel across the national stage.

Clark is just happy she got to compete and show young girls that even though she's in a wheelchair, she can do anything.
"For somebody in a wheelchair to be able to compete is a big thing," Clark said to The Advertiser, a local Australian newspaper. "I really hope it sends a message that no matter what your race, size or disability — whatever makes you different — you are beautiful."
Clarke has been in a wheelchair for two years but won't reveal what happened to render her disabled, according to The Advertiser. "I don't really want to go in to what happened, but I want to be a role model and empower young women," she said.

A post shared by Miss World Australia (@missworldaustralia) on

article by Alexandra Larkin, for CNN | Feb. 23, 2017

Assault of Disabled Black Teenager with coat-hanger, White Classmate Avoids Jail

Three white high school football players at Dietrich High School in Idaho have been charged in the October 2015 assault of their black disabled teammate. The victim's family filed a $10 million lawsuit against the school. Here's what you need to know. 
informative article by Avi Selk for the Washington Post | February 26, 2017
A man who pleaded guilty to assaulting a black mentally disabled high school student with a coat hanger in an Idaho locker room walked out of court Friday with his sentence: no jail time.

The victim’s parents called the deal unfair and stormed out before the hearing ended, according to the Times-News — visibly shaken after John R.K. Howard’s attorneys claimed that their son had fabricated stories of chronic abuse and harassment.

“My thoughts continue to be with the victim and his family,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said in a statement about Howard’s punishment: community service and three years of probation after pleading guilty to felony injury to a child.

“My hope is that today’s sentencing will help them put this matter behind them,” Wasden said.

There seemed to be little hope of that in the desert town of Dietrich, Idaho — where about 300 residents have been torn apart by the case’s explicit accusations and national coverage.

The victim’s parents still have a $10 million lawsuit open against the school over the October 2015 attack and events leading up to it. Even the town’s mayor told the Guardian newspaper that Howard “got a slap on the wrist and that isn’t enough.”

The victim, who was raised in Dietrich since his adoption at age 4, and his siblings comprise almost all of Dietrich’s black population.

By age 17, he played football at Dietrich High School, where his father was a science teacher.

In a lawsuit, Tim and Shelly McDaniel would later call Howard the ringleader of their son’s tormentors — who they say photographed him naked at school, hurled racial slurs at him and made him recite song lyrics that celebrate black lynchings.

“It liks [sic] to pound you to the ground, and lock the door for your opportunities, and leave you helpless, without a sound,” the teen later wrote in a poem about his high school experience, according to the Guardian.

And yet he considered his teammates his friends, he would testify. Even after, as a criminal complaint alleges, one student offered him a hug in the locker room, a second shoved a wire hanger into his rectum, and Howard kicked it in.

Shelly and Tim McDaniel, back row, right, with some of their children in Dietrich, Idaho. (Rob Kuznia photo)

Howard, 18 at the time of the attack, faced a sentence of up to life in prison when he and his co-accused were charged with sexual assault in the spring.

Because the two others were younger than 18 at the time, their cases are sealed. But by December, Howard and the state struck a deal: The sex charges were dropped. He pleaded guilty to injury to a child, with the possibility that his conviction might one day be erased after he served probation.

Prosecutors could have proved that Howard kicked the hanger into the victim, a deputy attorney general said at the time — but doing so wasn’t a sex crime.

The deal outraged the victim’s family, their attorney, R. Keith Roark, told The Washington Post at the time.

“It’s absolutely preposterous that this kid should walk away with apparently no punishment whatsoever,” Roark said.

A petition to remove Randy Stoker, the district judge presiding over Howard’s case, garnered more than 150,000 signatures.

But in Stoker’s courtroom on Friday, Howard’s attorneys argued that the disabled teenager was a liar, coached by his parents.

Howard had kicked at the victim in the locker room, his defense argued, according to the Times-News. But only after the teenager walked up to him with the hanger already inserted in his backside.

The defense played an audio recording of the teenager made by two coaches in May — shortly after his parents filed their lawsuit against the school district.

“I was fed lies and I said it and I signed it because I was pressured,” the student told his coaches in the records, according to the paper. “It’s always been about the $10 million.”

But the teenager later recanted his confession in a deposition, the Times-News reported. “I just started telling a bunch of lies because I wanted my friends back,” he said.

And he went on to detail other accounts of abuse: His schoolmates ripped his pants off on a team bus, he alleged, and his coaches called him “grape soda.”

At Friday’s hearing, the judge dismissed a complaint that the victim was nicknamed “fried chicken” at school, citing a witness who said it was the teenager’s favorite food.

Stoker railed against “people from the east coast [who] have no idea what this case is about,” according to the Guardian.

“This is not a rape case,” he said.

“If I thought you have committed this offense for racial purposes, you would go straight to the Idaho penitentiary,” the judge told Howard, and sentenced him to probation.

The victim’s parents and family have left the Idaho town since the 2015 attack, the Guardian reported. The victim now lives in an assisted-living facility after trying to commit suicide multiple times, according to the paper.

Joe Heim, Rob Kuznia and Michael E. Miller contributed to this report.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Graceworks Lutheran Services to Pay $30,660 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Company Refused to Hire Applicant Because of Her Deafness, Federal Agency Charged
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Graceworks Lutheran Services, a housing and care service provider located in Dayton, Ohio - with over 1,000 employees in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky - will pay $30,660 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's suit, Graceworks Lutheran Services refused to hire Michelle Anthony because she is deaf and cannot speak. Anthony applied for the site manager position at one of the Graceworks' housing communities. Despite its being an apartment complex that gives preference to deaf residents, Graceworks required the successful job candidate to be a hearing individual.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-00261) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Dayton Division, after first attempting to reach pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit provides Anthony with compensatory damages and injunctive relief, including anti-discrimination training, reporting of discrimination claims, and a prohibition against any discrimination or retaliation.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

SOURCE: EEOC Press Release

Fort Worth Cellphone Repair Facility Refused to Hire Two Hearing-Impaired Applicants Because of Disability, Federal Agency Charged

S&B Industry to Pay $110,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

DALLAS - A Fort Worth cellphone repair facility has agreed to pay $110,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged in its suit that S&B Industry violated federal law by denying employment to two hearing-impaired applicants because of their disability. The EEOC's suit also alleged that S&B Industry violated the law by denying the two applicants a reasonable accommodation during the application process.

According to the EEOC's suit, Katelynn Baker and Tia Rice applied for jobs with S&B Industry (also doing business as Fox Conn S&B) in the company's cellphone repair facility. During a group interview, the two women used American Sign Language to communicate with one another, and the company became aware that they were hearing-impaired. In a meeting with one of the supervisors, Baker and Rice requested that the supervisor provide written information about the positions for which they were applying. The supervisor initially complied, but then refused to continue writing information for Baker and Rice, according to the suit. Baker and Rice were then told that S&B Industry would not hire them.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' and applicants' disabilities as long as it does not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-00641) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the terms of the three-year consent decree settling the case, S&B Industry will pay $110,000 in total monetary relief. The company also agreed to post a notice about the settlement and provide training for employees on the ADA to include instruction on the reasonable accommodation process. The employer will also keep a written log of all complaints of disability discrimination and report to the EEOC on a semi-annual basis. Managers, supervisors, and human resource professionals will attend a training by the Deaf Action Center, a Dallas organization that provides advocacy services for individuals with hearing impairments. The training provided by the Deaf Action Center will cover topics such as the use of sign language interpreters in employment and interview settings.

"Here were two excellent candidates for hire who demonstrated a great deal of courage by coming forward to report what happened to them," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Joel Clark. "We hope the settlement in this case will play a part in encouraging employers to eliminate barriers that keep deaf applicants from bringing their skills and talents to the workplace."

Dallas District Office Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino said, "We feel the employer here is committed to doing positive things going forward. These experiences can lead us all to be more attuned to what we can do collectively to contribute to the evolution of an ever more inclusive workplace."

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

SOURCE: EEOC Press Release

Pennsylvania Teens Charged with Stabbing 2 Men with Disabilities to Death

Joshua Michael Proper /  Juan Cristo-Munoz Jr

LANCASTER, Pa. - February 21, 2017
AP - Two teenagers have been charged in the stabbing deaths of two disabled men, one of whom was stabbed with a large sword, authorities said.

Lancaster officers found the bodies of Leroy Kinsey, who had a physical disability, and Richard Walton, who used a wheelchair, after responding to a Sunday morning burglary call at their home, police said.

The two assailants got into the home by forcing open a first-floor window and demanded money before repeatedly stabbing the victims, who were in their early 60s, police said. The assailants were found in the basement, where they had fled when they heard officers, and had bloody clothing and items belonging to the victims, police said.

Juan Cristo-Munoz Jr., 19, and Joshua Michael Proper, 18, face charges of criminal homicide, conspiracy, burglary and robbery.

Authorities allege in a criminal complaint that Proper told them the two broke in to try to steal money from the residents, found Kinsey in the living room and demanded money and then both of them stabbed him multiple times in the chest, shoulder and neck.

Going to the second floor, they encountered Walton in the front bedroom, and Proper told investigators that Cristo-Munoz then used "a large sword" to stab him in the torso and leg, authorities alleged in the affidavit.

When the assailants were found in the basement, Cristo-Munoz had blood all over his clothing and shoes and a knife in his pocket, and officers saw two other knives, authorities alleged in the criminal complaint. Proper had blood on the back of his leather coat and on his jeans, and he had Kinsey's wallet in his pocket, they alleged.

Another resident, a caretaker, had escaped and called 911 after hearing suspicious noises inside the home, police said.

Cristo-Munoz's mother, Iris Almeestica, told WGAL-TV he's a good boy.

"I don't know what happened," she said. "I'm stressed and sad. I keep crying. The pain is hard."

Court documents don't list attorneys for the defendants, and listed phone numbers for them couldn't be found Monday.
(Copyright ©2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Special Olympics 2017 World Games in Austria March 14-25

 In less than a month, 2,700 Special Olympics athletes from 107 countries will gather in Austria to show the world their talent, bravery, determination, and spirit.  Please join us in celebrating the Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria 2017 (14-25 March).  We'll send you short, regular updates as we prepare for Games, and provide you with the best stories once the Games are underway.

Sports Means Breaking Free from Stigma

Li Xiang, Special Olympics China
In China, people with intellectual disabilities can face stigma from the start of life. For decades, even the words for people with disabilities included a slur: ascanfei ren, literally “disabled garbage people.”
But the parents of Li Xiang found a ray of hope when Li was old enough to join Special Olympics. For the first time, his family began to see ways that Li could succeed. Sports helped him physically and motivated him to improve. At age 11, Li was one of the youngest competitors at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games. He won a gold medal, two silver and two bronze medals in artistic gymnastics. Now, at age 13, he will still be among the youngest competitors at World Games in Austria – taking on a completely new challenge: speedskating. Read his full story and watch video of Li Xiang here.

For Officers, the Torch Run Is an Affirmation of the Human Spirit

Officer Darren Derby -- Law Enforcement Torch Run
When Darren Derby, a police officer from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, grabs the Special Olympics torch, it's more than just a charity run.  It is a transformative experience that keeps him grounded and reminds him of why he was called to protect and serve.
"The job brings a tremendous amount of stress. Our days are pretty much filled with everybody else's bad days," he said. "If it wasn't for Special Olympics and the athletes and the joy they bring us, I probably wouldn't still be in this profession." 

Derby is one of 126 law enforcement professionals who will carry the torch through Austria next month, as it works it way to Opening Ceremonies in Schladming. Read his full story.

World Games Opening, Closing Ceremonies Tickets Now Available

Know someone who will be in Austria for the Special Olympics World Games 2017? Need tickets for Opening or Closing Ceremonies? Both are on sale now. Order online here

SOURCE: Press Release Special Olympics World Games

Protect Our Care Illinois Coalition, protecting access to quality affordable health care for Illinois Residents

Protect Our Care – Illinois is a statewide coalition of health care advocates, providers, consumers, and workers, working to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), prevent disastrous changes to Medicaid, and protect and expand access to quality affordable health care.

Download the fact sheet

1.2 Million Illinois Residents Would Lose Coverage in 2019 Under ACA Repeal

For MUCH more information and resources, visit the Protect Our Care Illinois Coalition

SOURCE: Protect Our Care Illinois Coalition website, and all that shared the information.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court Ruled in Favor of Ehlena Fry and Wonder the Service Dog's, Upholding The Rights of Students with Disabilities

Ehlena Fry and her service dog, Wonder, visit the Supreme Court. photo: An-Li Herring/NPR

Feb. 22, 2017 - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a very important case for students with disabilities, Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools (see summary at this link).
 The case involved a girl with cerebral palsy named Ehlena Fry and her service dog Wonder. Ehlena's school would not allow Wonder to accompany her to classes. Ehlena's family filed suit based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to allow Wonder to go with Ehlena to school, and for monetary damages. Many well known disability rights advocates filed amicus ("friend of the court") briefs in support of Ehlena, and it was argued by disability rights attorney Sam Bagenstos, who is also known for his leadership on Olmstead rights. The Supreme Court decided in favor of Ehlena and Wonder; this is important in upholding the rights of students with disabilities under the ADA and the Rehab Act, not just the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Ehlena Fry and her goldendoodle, Wonder, photographed in 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether Fry's family can seek damages from a school district that balked at the service dog's presence in the classroom. (Michigan ACLU)

# # #
article FEB 22, 2017
article by Richard Wolf

WASHINGTON — The proverb "every dog has its day" came true at the Supreme Court on Wednesday for the family of a 13-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and her goldendoodle, Wonder.

In a case that was closely watched by the disability community, the high court ruled unanimously that Ehlena Fry's family can pursue a lawsuit against her former public school district for denying access to her service dog.

Lower courts had ruled that the family first had to exhaust all administrative remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act before seeking damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the justices ruled that if the family did not pursue a solution under IDEA, it can sidestep that process in search of its real goal: providing Ehlena with greater physical and emotional independence.

The 8-0 ruling was delivered by Justice Elena Kagan. While it leans in the Fry family's direction, it leaves open the possibility that a lower federal court still could require exhaustion of the IDEA administrative process, depending on further fact-finding.

As often happens as court proceedings drag on, Ehlena was moved to a different Michigan elementary school that welcomed Wonder — now 10 and retired as a service dog — and even put the pooch's mug shot in the yearbook. Over the years, the lawsuit against the Napoleon Community Schools became more about principle than keeping the girl and her goldendoodle together.

A number of justices had seemed sympathetic to the Frys' argument during oral arguments in October. Forcing them to negotiate with school officials over Ehlena's educational program seemed unfair, they said, when her education wasn't the problem. Rather, the Frys wanted Wonder — not a human aide — to perform such tasks as helping Ehlena in the bathroom.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Stephen Breyer expressed concern that a decision in the Frys' favor could allow families of children with disabilities to gain an advantage over school districts by threatening ADA lawsuits while negotiating their educational programs. But Roberts acknowledged that requiring the Frys to go through the IDEA process when their concerns were not about education was "a kind of charade."

The case was the first of two heard this term that could influence how schools handle children with disabilities. In January, the justices also appeared to side with the family of a Colorado student with autism seeking a more substantial education under the IDEA law. That case, likely to be decided this spring, could have a broader impact on thousands of students with disabilities.

# # #

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

U.S. Dept of Education Website On Disabilities Act, Re-Appears

The U.S. Department of Education website explaining the rights of students under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that vanished. has been restored, officials say,

The website, about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, vanished last week right around the time that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was confirmed. 

On the main page of the U.S. Department of Education website has posted:
Thank you for visiting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) resource website – IDEA.ed.gov! After a technical outage of this page, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) has restored the functionality and resources that were available prior to February 8, 2017. Please be aware that some of the materials herein are outdated, and that you may find the most current regulations, statute, and additional IDEA-related resources on the OSERS/OSEP IDEA webpage.

Take Action NOW to save the ACA and Medicaid, Result Could Be Two Major Blows To Individuals with Disabilities

The National Disability Rights Network has reached asking for help THIS WEEK in the fight to protect, and insure NO CUTS to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) !
# # #

Once again, we need your help.
The House of Representatives is expected to introduce a bill to cut Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on February 27The result would be two major blows to individuals with disabilities.
Could you help us protect the ACA and Medicaid by reaching out to your Federal and state legislators, and your Governor? We need as many people as possible to tell them that repealing the ACA and CUTTING Medicaid is unacceptable. Click here to send a message to your lawmaker.
People’s health, services, and lives are at stake! We need you to reach out to your lawmakers to let them know why the ACA and Medicaid are essential to people with disabilities and their families and to vote against legislation that removes important protections.

Cuts in funding and other negative impacts to Medicaid recipients could result in:
  • Losing home and community-based services and supports. Waiting lists would quickly grow.
  • Losing other critical services such as personal care, mental health, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative services. If funds become more scarce, states may decide to stop providing these services altogether.
  • Being forced into unnecessary institutionalization. States could return to the days of “warehousing” people with disabilities in institutions.
  • Shifting the costs to individuals or family members to make up for the federal cuts. The costs of providing health care and long term services and supports will not go away, but will be shifted to individuals, parents, states, and providers,
The ACA is the most significant law for people with disabilities since the Americans with Disabilities Act:
  • Because of the ACA, health insurers can't deny health insurance if you have a disability or chronic condition.
  • Because of the ACA, there aren't arbitrary financial limits to how much health care you can get in a year or in your lifetime.
  • Because of the ACA, more people with disabilities receive supports and live in the community, not institutions.
Write your lawmakers now!

The ACA has unquestionably improved access to care for people with disabilities and chronic conditions to help them live healthy, independent, and fulfilling lives. In fact, in those states that have taken up the Medicaid expansion provided under the ACA, more people with disabilities are able to work and pay taxes and get off other financial benefits than states that have not taken up this valuable expansion of Medicaid.

So why is Congress trying to dismantle the ACA? It makes no sense! We must resist!

We cannot return to a time when people with disabilities and chronic conditions could not get health insurance and were relegated to poverty and having to choose between rent, food, or seeing a doctor or getting their prescriptions.

Temple Grandin Named To 2017 Women’s Hall Of Fame

Temple Grandin, a world-renowned professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University for the last 26 years and outspoken advocate and role model for people with autism, will be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in September. Temple Grandin barged through many barriers in the science world both as a woman and as somebody diagnosed with autism. She is a pioneer in the field of animal welfare, the author of several books and articles, and was portrayed by Claire Danes in the 2010 HBO film, “Temple Grandin.”

YouTube published by Blank on Blank

Pleas visit the Temple Grandin website : http://www.templegrandin.com/

Understand The Reality When Kids with Mental Illness Can’t Live At Home

Many of Christine Walker’s friends are just starting to help their teenage children plan to leave home, whether for a job, college or a gap year. But Walker’s 16-year-old son Schuyler has already lived away from his family for seven years, spending nearly half his life in residential treatment programs and schools for children with severe mental illness.

thoughtful article by Kelly Burch for The Washington Post | January 31, 2017
“When Schuyler was 7, that was when I had tried absolutely everything — every pill, every doctor, every diet, every therapy, everything — and we were still at a point when home was unsafe,” says Walker, who lives in Winnetka, Ill. “I realized then that everything we had been trying to do wasn’t enough.”

Walker and her husband knew that the only way to meet Schuyler’s needs and protect their two younger kids was to have their oldest child live elsewhere. However, it took two years to finally act on that decision.

“It’s a last resort, but we had to check into that resort, because we’d done everything else,” Walker recalls.

Although it is rarely talked about, the Walkers’ experience is not uncommon. In 2015, 271,000 children ages 12 to 17 received care for mental illness at a residential treatment facility. Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14, and 13 percent of American children ages 8 to 15 will experience a severe mental disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. More children in this country have a psychiatric disorder than have cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined, and for the most severely affected, residential treatment is the best way to ensure their safety and help them stay out of the juvenile justice system.

However, families that send their child to residential treatment programs often face judgment and misunderstanding. Mental illness, which is often treated as a taboo topic, is even more stigmatized in its youngest victims.

“If Schuyler had cancer, I would never think of myself as a failure if I didn’t do chemo in my living room,” Walker says. “I would never think of myself as giving up. This is a brain disorder.”

Doctors are sometimes hesitant to diagnose psychiatric disorders in children, and school systems and law enforcement are ill-equipped to handle the needs of children who can be violent and unpredictable. Too often, these systems look to the parents to explain children’s behaviors.

“There is a theme that we hear often, that parents are to blame: they need parenting classes or need to learn how to handle their kids,” says Jennifer Zielinski, program coordinator for Idaho Parents Unlimited, an organization that assists parents of children with disabilities and mental illness. Zielinski has four children, and her third, who is 11, has been in residential treatment for two years. “Ultimately, my child needed to be the focus. She needed comprehensive, daily treatment.”

When Randi Silverman, of Westchester County, N.Y., became concerned about her son’s extreme anxiety, she sought the help of his school psychiatrist. However, she was told that her son was fine and that she was the one in need of treatment.

“That was my first experience thinking maybe they’re right,” Silverman says. “I didn’t know kids could have any type of mental health condition. Clearly I am doing something wrong here.”

That doubt distracted from her son’s illness (ultimately diagnosed as bipolar disorder) and led to delays in treatment, says Silverman, who later made her family’s story into a film and founded the Youth Mental Health Project.

Silverman isn’t the only parent who was told that she was the problem. Zielinski dealt with accusations of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, where a caregiver creates or exaggerates a patient’s symptoms, and Walker was investigated by Child Protective Services.

“I was really afraid I was going to lose my family,” Walker says. “To have to prove your innocence to someone who has never met you is horrifying and terrifying. Families like ours are lumped in with the truly horrific things that are done to children.”

For many families, involvement from CPS and concern for the safety of their other children is a huge factor in deciding to place their ill child in a residential school. But placement can also be an important step for the mental and emotional well-being of the parent.

When her daughter left the family home, she “was able to heal,” Zielinski says. In turn, that allowed her to shed the roles of nurse, medication manager and parole officer that she had carried for so long, and reclaim the relationship that was most important: as her daughter’s mom.

“My husband and I both feel like we’re able to be her parent more today than we were before because we take on the role of just spending the day with her,” she says. “Before, there was no way for us to be her parents.”

Most importantly, residential treatment provides the structure and resources that children with mental illness need to thrive.

“Part of it is sad, but the gift that we gave Schuyler is being surrounded by adults who get him and think he’s an amazing kid and know [how to] offer empathy and de-escalate,” Walker says.

Yet even when parents realize they are doing what is best for their child, the process is painful. Christianna Hale, of Texas, says that she felt guilty sending her then-12-year-old son to live outside the home, despite years of experience working in the mental health field.

“Even within the profession there is a judgment that if your child is in residential treatment you must have failed, that you can’t be a good parent if he’s in residential treatment,” she says.

To maintain her connection to her son, Hale makes a six-hour round trip drive each Friday and Sunday so he can spend weekends at home. Research has shown that family involvement like this is essential to the child’s long-term success.

“You can see that groups that have a higher level of [family] involvement have better outcomes,” says Gary M. Blau, of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Blau is also the director of Building Bridges, a national initiative aiming to increase family and community support in the treatment of children with mental illness. He says that while residential treatment is sometimes necessary, facilities must move past unproven practices that limit communication between children and parents, and toward community-based services that allow the child to remain at home or at least have regular, meaningful contact with their family.

“We need to show these family members that they are not alone, and that help and hope are out there for each and every one of them,” Blau says.

Hale’s son is currently transitioning to living at home, and she is hopeful that he will be able to stay under her roof. However, she avoids putting too much emphasis on returning home as the ultimate goal. For some children with mental illness, this is simply not possible, and Hale believes that those children need to feel that they are succeeding, as well. She says that she would accept her son returning to the residential school in the future if that were best for him.

“It’s about finding the place where he can be successful,” she says. “Him being successful and feeling successful is the most important thing.”

Kelly Burch is a freelance journalist sharing stories about mental health, addiction and family. She is based in New Hampshire. Find her on Twitter @writingburch.

Dept of Education Website On Disabilities Act That Tripped Up Betsy DeVos Disappears

A Department of Education website explaining the rights of students under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has vanished. That’s the same law that confounded new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during her confirmation hearings

article by Mary Papenfuss for The Huffington Post | Feb 13, 2017

DeVos dodged questioning about the law last month, insisting it was up to individual states on whether to grant disabled students their educational rights, even though it’s a federal law that applies across the nation.

New U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also blasted the act for its “special treatment of certain children,” blaming it for the “acceleration in the decline of civility and discipline in classrooms across America.”

The website appeared to stop working shortly before DeVos took office, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported.

The Department of Education site now attributes the broken link to “technical difficulties” and instead sends people to the 159-page text of the very technical, complicated statute. The department site also lists available special education programs.

The disabilities act information site that has now vanished was established under George W. Bush’s administration as an aide for parents, students, teachers and school administrations to help them understand the rights of disabled students to an appropriate free public education under the law. The site was updated as modifications were passed and courts continued to interpret the law.

Washington Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, who both voted against DeVos’ confirmation, issued a statement Friday demanding to know why the information had been scrubbed.

“The Department’s failure to keep this critical resource operational makes it harder for parents, educators, and administrators to find the resources they need to implement this federal law and protect the rights of children with disabilities,” they said.

The Washington senators demanded a “detailed timeline” of when the information was taken down and when it will be restored.

They also criticized President Donald Trump for being someone who is not an “advocate for disability rights [and who] famously mocked the physical disability of a New York Times reporter who asked him a question at a news conference” during his presidential campaign.

During DeVos’ confirmation hearings last month, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) quizzed the nominee on the law. DeVos responded that it was a “matter best left to the states.” Kaine then asked: “So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good and, what then, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how kids are being treated?” DeVos again repeated that it’s an issue “best left to the states,” seemingly unaware of how federal law works.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who has a son with special needs, clarified that the act is a federal civil rights law, adding: “So do you stand by your statement a few minutes ago that it should be up to the state whether to follow it?”

DeVos responded: “I may have confused it.”

Sessions spoke out against the law in 2000 from the Senate floor when he was representing Alabama.

“We have created a complex system of federal regulations and laws that have created lawsuit after lawsuit, special treatment for certain children, and that are a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America. I say that very sincerely,” Sessions said.

DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor, was confirmed last Tuesday on a 50-50 Senate vote that required a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. She has no formal experience working in public schools and has spent years supporting school vouchers and charter schools. During her first visit as education secretary to a public school in Washington, D.C., last week, protesters blocked her from entering through the main doors.

There has been no response to the website changes from DeVos.

Michigan's "Muskegon Family Care" to Pay $21,500 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Company Fired Employee Because of Medical Hold Due to Medication, Federal Agency Charged
DETROIT - Feb, 17, 2017 - A medical services provider serving the Muskegon region will pay $21,500 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that Muskegon Family Care violated federal law by firing an employee on the basis of her medical condition.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Avis Lane worked for Muskegon Family Care as an outreach-enrollment coordinator. Before she began work, the company required that she submit to a post-offer, pre-employment physical. The medical specialist who conducted that physical recommended that Lane be put on a medical hold due to medications she was taking. Notwithstanding the recommended medical hold, the company allowed Lane to work for over a month. Eventually, Muskegon Family Care fired her based on the recom­mended medical hold, the EEOC said.
Firing an employee on the basis of disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). And an employer is liable for the actions of its agent, such as a medical specialist who conducts pre-employment physicals. EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan (EEOC v. M.G.H. Family Health Center d/b/a Muskegon Family Care, Civil Case No.: 15-952) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In granting the EEOC's motion for partial summary judgment, the court found that "this case presents a peculiar fact pattern that represents a textbook case for unlawful discrimination under the regarded-as-disabled prong of the ADA."
In addition to providing monetary relief to Lane, the company entered into a three-year consent decree requiring it to develop and implement policies that comply with the ADA. The decree further requires the company to conduct annual training for employees and managers, to post an employee notice regarding federal anti-discrimination laws, and to provide periodic reports to the EEOC.
"The court's decision highlights an employer's responsibilities to comply with federal anti-discrimin­ation laws," said Miles Shultz, trial attorney for the EEOC. "The ruling makes clear that an employer cannot hide behind a third party's recommendation without determining for itself whether the employee can actually do the job."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employ­ment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
SOURCE: Press Relese

Friday, February 17, 2017


CHICAGO - The Neo-Futurists troupe has done it again. In an accessible 8-week introductory class, students will explore core Neo-Futurist tenets of honesty, brevity, chance and audience interaction in order to create and perform short plays in our unique, non-fiction aesthetic. The class will culminate in a public performance at Victory Gardens Theatre on May 1st, 2017 as part of ‘Crip Slam’ in the Richard Christensen Theater.

Artists with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply, and will be given preference in acceptance into the workshop. (The class is open to everyone; however we will strive to maintain a majority of artists with disabilities in the class.)

MONDAYS, 6:00PM - 9:00PM
MARCH 13TH - MAY 1ST, 2017

YouTube published by The Neo-Futurists channel

Since the troupe’s inception in 1988, The Neo-Futurists have grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in America. To view a gallery of the ensembles past and present, go here.

Webinar March 9th:"Communications Approaches During and After An Emergency" for People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

March 9th, 2017

It is well known that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can experience communication issues during emergency announcements. It is also well-known that meetings need communications accommodations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In the emergency world, there are crucial meetings that people in the community need to be involved in after an emergency.

The webinar highlights two efforts to bridge those gaps. First, the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH), along with the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA), Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management (MCDEM), Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM), and the American Red Cross-Arizona/New Mexico/El Paso Chapter collaborated to create the "Emergency Response Interpreters Credentialing Program" (ERIC) for ASL Interpreters and CART providers wishing to provide services during emergency and disaster response situations. As a result of this program, trained and qualified interpreters and captioners are available to work in a variety of high-pressure settings, such as evacuation shelters, press conferences, active wildfire camps, and community meetings. The inaugural training for the ERIC program was hosted in November of 2016 and organizers have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. This webinar will discuss the role of each agency in the training and implementation phases of the program, as well as training content and participant requirements.

In the second presentation, the North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (DSDHH) will share its experience in organizing events for Hurricane Matthew survivors who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing with assistance from FEMA and NC Emergency Management Recovery. They will review the obstacles survivors who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing face when they attend local community meetings or events that were provided to public even when communication access (ASL interpreters, CART) are being provided? DSDHH will describe how the event for survivors was set up with FEMA's and NC Emergency Management's participation.

Learning objectives:
  • Identify potential gaps in accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing community members during emergency/disaster response.
  • Understand the importance of multiple agency partnerships in addressing identified gaps
  • Understand the participation and training requirements necessary for professionals providing accessibility during emergency/disaster response
  • Strengthen awareness on the importance of having a separate event for disaster survivors who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing in order to meet their needs for more depth access to information that will impact how much they receive during the recovery process.
  • Develop tools in organizing an event for disaster survivors who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing.
  • Recognize the importance of working collaboratively with FEMA and local emergency responders in the event of a federal disaster declaration.
  • Vicki Bond is the Interpreter Outreach and Development Coordinator at the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, where she provides outreach and education to interpreters and providers working with interpreters throughout the state of Arizona. She helped to create and pilot the ERIC program, ensuring that the training content and support systems created by the team would be sufficient to sustain the professionals providing access during emergency response events in Arizona. Vicki has been an ASL/English interpreter for 13 years, having earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Arizona in Educational Interpreting, and a Master of Arts degree in Interpretation from Gallaudet University. She holds the NIC Advanced certification, and the State of Arizona Legal A Interpreting License.
  • Judy Kioski is the Administrator for the Arizona Emergency Information Network (www.azein.gov), the State's source for real-time emergency bulletins, preparedness information and related resources. This website is a nationwide model for emergency response agency partnerships and social media interaction. Judy has been working in emergency public information and crisis communication since 2003. Over the past 13 years, she has been responsible for coordinating a "single governmental voice" when responding to an emergency that requires state assistance and coordinates the state Joint Information System. She works with state agencies, tribes, counties and volunteer organizations in coordinating public awareness campaigns, emergency messaging and preparedness issues.
  • Donna Platt is Emergency Preparedness Coordinator with North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. She has over 17-year experience providing support, training, and consultation to 9-1-1 telecommunicators and emergency responders on effective communication access to Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing individuals in Washington State and North Carolina as well as education and resources on 9-1-1, emergency notification and preparedness to those consumers. Donna was one of four co-organizers in coordinating Disaster Preparedness Skills Building Training for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing in Seattle for two years. She was one of subject expert matters for the development of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc.'s Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN) training manual for both emergency responders and community members who were Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing. She is currently NENA Accessibility Committee Co-Chair to ensure that 9-1-1 technologies and services are communication accessible for individuals with disabilities when calling 911 directly. Donna has served on three national committees; National Association for the Deaf's Emergency Communication Subcommittee, FCC Emergency Access Advisory Committee, and Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center National Advisory Committee-University of California-Berkeley.
These 90 minute webinars are delivered using the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform. Collaborate downloads files to your device in order to run. We recommend that you prepare your technology prior to the start of the session. You may need the assistance of your IT Staff if firewalls prevent you from downloading files.

To view upcoming sessions, go to http://www.adapresentations.org/schedule.php

To see previous sessions, go to http://www.adapresentations.org/archive.php

The information presented in this webinar is intended solely as informal guidance, and is neither a determination of legal rights or responsibilities by NIDILRR or FEMA.
SOURCE: Press Release

Save our Schools! Students with Disabilities Will Suffer As Congress Is Trying To Weaken ESSA

The National Disability Rights Network has shared the following info:
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a critical component in our fight to ensure students with disabilities are held to high standards and have access to a high quality education. ESSA was a successful bi-partisan effort passed last year to improve education for all students and built upon the framework of accountability. 

Now, Congress is trying to weaken ESSA by rescinding important regulations that are critical for meaningful implementation of ESSA. If they succeed, students with disabilities will suffer.

Click here to tell your Senators to preserve these critical protections for students with disabilities.

The regulations clarify the statutory language in ESSA, build upon ESSA’s flexibility for school improvement and provide a clarified role for families, educators and stakeholders to share in the implementation process. 

Perhaps, most importantly, the final regulations maintain the civil rights legacy of the law by meaningfully including all students, including students with disabilities.

Thank you for all you do in the fight to protect and advocate for people with disabilities.
National Disability Rights Network

SOURCE: Press Release National Disability Rights Network

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium

2016 Annual Report

The 2016 Disability Statistics Annual Report is a companion volume to the 2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium & Supplement. The Compendium presents many tables of data, including state and national values and trends over time. The Annual Report presents statistics from the 2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium tables to address the following types of questions:
  • How many people with disabilities live in the United States?
  • What is the percentage of people with disabilities in different age groups?
  • What is the percentage of people with disabilities for different types of disability?
  • To what extent are people with disabilities employed?
  • What are the earnings for people with and without disabilities?
  • What is the poverty percentage for people with and without disabilities?
  • Is disability status associated with percentages of smoking, obesity, and binge drinking?
The Annual Report highlights state and trend data, and complements the detailed tables available in the Compendium Supplement. There is a great deal of variability in disability rates by state and the Annual Report includes maps to highlight this information; each map is related to a specific table from the Compendium.

Download the 2016 Annual Report

Download the 2015 Annual Report