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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

'Keep the Change' Autism Romance Movie is top winner at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

A scene from "Keep the Change.

The Tribeca Film Festival has given its top U.S. narrative jury prize to Rachel Israel's "Keep the Change," a love story about and starring people with autism.
It also handed best international narrative feature to Elina Psykou’s “Son of Sofia” and best documentary feature to “Bobbi Jene” from Elvira Lind.
Israel's film is an offbeat romantic comedy that uses ‎nonactors, many on the autism spectrum, to tell its tale; the film is partly set in a New York support group, where an unlikely relationship blossoms. In awarding the prize, the jury issued a statement citing a “world full of vibrant characters often under-represented in cinema” and a “unique yet universal love story told in a way we’ve never seen.”
“Sofia” deals with a young boy who comes from Russia to Greece at the time of the 2004 Athens Olympics. And “Jene” centers on an American dancer who returns home after many years with an Israeli company.
report by Steven Zeitchik for the LA Times | April 27,02017                                                                  

Friday, April 28, 2017

North Korea Agreed To Visit By U.N. Disability Expert

REUTERS - North Korea has agreed to a visit by the U.N. expert on the human rights of people with disabilities, the United Nations said on Thursday, a minor concession after years of criticism of Pyongyang's record from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The visit by Catalina Devandas-Aguilar from May 3-8 will be the first ever to North Korea by an independent expert designated by the Council, a 47-state body that is pushing for justice for crimes against humanity it says have been committed.

North Korea has consistently denounced the Council's resolutions as a conspiracy by the United States and other "hostile forces", while its ally China has tried to shield it from scrutiny. It has not allowed any of a string of U.N. human rights investigators specifically focusing on North Korea itself to visit.

Last month North Korean diplomats boycotted a Council session on abuses in North Korea amid rising tension on the divided peninsula following its latest missile tests and two nuclear tests last year.

Devandas-Aguilar's visit will take her to Pyongyang and the South Hwanghae Province and will focus particularly on children with disabilities in North Korea, the statement said.

North Korea, also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), ratified the 'Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities' in December 2016.

"My upcoming visit to DPRK represents a key opportunity to learn firsthand about national realities, laws, policies and programmes concerning people with disabilities, as well as the challenges and opportunities the Government faces in implementing the Convention," she said in a statement.

Devandas-Aguilar plans to hold a press conference in Pyongyang at the end of her visit and to submit her findings next year.

(REUTERS Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay | April 27, 2017)

For more information on the U.N. "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities", please visit:

Best Buddies and Tom Brady's Charity Relationship In Question

Tom Brady gives much to Best Buddies, but has taken millions for his own charitable trust
Tom Brady  / Best Buddy promo

Tom Brady’s relationship with Best Buddies has changed in recent years. The organization has become a major source of funding for Brady’s own charitable goals.

article by Bob Hohler for The Boston Globe | April 22, 2017 
The legend of Tom Brady has grown thanks to charming images of his celebrated appearances for Best Buddies International, a nonprofit dedicated to helping intellectually and developmentally disabled people.

Smiling children, adoring spectators, and a beaming Brady embracing those with disabilities: No other undertaking in his 17 years in Boston has more vividly portrayed the New England Patriots star as a fabulously wealthy sports figure committed to charity.

Yet Brady’s relationship with Best Buddies has changed in recent years. The organization has become a major source of funding for Brady’s own charitable goals.

Since 2011, while Brady has served as the face of its signature Massachusetts fund-raiser and helped it raise nearly $20 million, Best Buddies has paid $2.75 million to Brady’s own charitable trust and has pledged to grant the organization an additional $500,000 in 2017 — a total of $3.25 million.

The payments, made at Brady’s request, support his Boston-based Change the World Foundation Trust, whose giving has focused almost entirely on causes tied to Brady’s personal interests, including his high school alma mater, his children’s private schools, and charities operated by his football friends. Aiding those with disabilities, the focus of Best Buddies, has been a lower priority.

Independent charity monitors said there appears to be nothing illegal about the arrangement — charities can and do donate to other charities. But they questioned why someone of Brady’s wealth has taken large sums for his foundation from another charity that has its own priorities and needs. The donations from Best Buddies have been by far the Brady organization’s largest source of funds.

Brady “really can’t take credit for being a great philanthropist when he is using other people’s money to help his own organizations,’’ said Daniel Borochoff, president of Charity Watch, a Chicago-based nonprofit that evaluates philanthropies and advocates for consumers. “It’s certainly not pure altruism.’’

Charitable giving experts also expressed concern that Best Buddies and Brady have given the public and other Best Buddies donors and participants only limited information about the financial arrangement, and they wondered if Best Buddies should properly report the annual payments as fund-raising expenses rather than charitable gifts.

The arrangement was forged by Brady and his friend, Anthony K. Shriver, the founder and chairman of Best Buddies, a public charity that solicits money nationwide.

Shriver said in an interview that Brady had volunteered his time and image to Best Buddies for many years before he told Shriver he was becoming very busy and wanted to focus on his own charitable foundation.

Shriver quoted Brady as saying, some time before the payments began in 2011: “When I come to Best Buddies events, it’s all about Best Buddies, which is the way I want to keep it while I develop my interests. Would you support helping me pursue my things while I continue to put a lot of energy into your thing?’’

Shriver said they agreed Best Buddies would grant Brady’s charitable trust $250,000 in 2011. Every year since, they have decided the figure would be $500,000, and Shriver said he expects Best Buddies to continue giving $500,000 annually to Brady’s trust. They have no contract.

“I think it has been a smart move, because we have been able to provide services to tens of thousands of people because of Tom, while keeping him engaged and helping him pursue some of his own interests,’’ Shriver said. “It has been super beneficial to us and him.’’

Shriver said Brady was not available to comment. Shortly after inquiries from the Globe earlier this month, Best Buddies issued a news release crediting Brady with helping to raise $46.5 million since he began supporting the organization as a volunteer in 2001.

The release quoted Brady as describing his affiliation with Best Buddies as “one of my greatest honors.’’

“This organization has become a part of my life,’’ Brady said in the release. “I love meeting the inspiring buddies at events, seeing their smiles, and hearing them talk about how Best Buddies has changed their lives for the better by helping them make friends at school and find meaningful jobs in their local communities. Best Buddies’ mission is a simple one, but the impact is incredibly powerful. I am so grateful to be a part of this global movement.”

Shriver, a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, founded Best Buddies in 1989 to advance a cause that his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the slain president’s sister, began to champion in the 1960s.

Many luminaries have supported Best Buddies through the years, among them current “celebrity ambassadors’’ who include Brady, Sugar Ray Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Carl Lewis, Ron Howard, Rob Lowe, Emmitt Smith, and Cindy Crawford.

Yet only one celebrity other than Brady has received compensation for his charitable foundation from Best Buddies, Shriver said. The other was Kevin Spacey, whose personal charity received a one-time grant of $200,000 in 2015.

Charity watchdogs said it is not unusual for nonprofits to pay celebrities to help raise money, and they did not dispute that Best Buddies has realized an enviable return on its relationship with Brady. Shriver credited Brady with raising a sizable portion of the $19.7 million that Best Buddies has garnered from its annual Hyannis Port Challenge since the payments to Brady’s trust began in 2011.

But nonprofit watchdogs said the arrangement could diminish Brady’s charitable image.

“It’s not all bad, because he is helping an important cause,’’ Borochoff said. “But he could help Best Buddies to a much greater extent if he didn’t take their money’’ for his own charitable trust.

Brady launched Change the World in 2005, after he signed his first big deal with the Patriots: a six-year, $60 million contract. He has since amassed personal wealth estimated at $180 million, while the net worth of his wife, Gisele Bundchen, is about $360 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, a website that tracks such things.

Brady, the sole trustee of his private charity, initially funded the nonprofit with a donation of $490,000 in 2005. Since then he has not made a significant financial contribution, according to tax reports through 2015, the most recently available.

Instead, Best Buddies has almost entirely funded Brady’s foundation. Through 2015, nearly 98 percent of Change the World’s total contributions of $2.3 million since Brady’s initial donation were $2.25 million in grants from Best Buddies. Including Brady’s donation, the percentage is about 80%.

And where did the money go? From 2011 through to 2015, Change the World gave grants of $55,000 to Best Buddies, after donating a total of $80,000 over the previous three years.

Otherwise, from 2011 through 2015, Change the World distributed nearly $1 million to more than 30 nonprofits. The largest beneficiary was Brady’s alma mater, Junipero Serra High School, in San Mateo, Calif., at $250,000.

The next largest grants, $100,000 each, went to Santa Monica Catholic Community, where Brady and Gisele Bundchen were married in 2009, and the TB12 Foundation, a charity Brady formed in 2015 to support clients of his Foxborough-based TB12 fitness and nutrition company.

Ohio State University received a $50,000 donation in honor of Ed Razek, a former Victoria’s Secret executive who is said to have helped launch Brady’s romance with Bundchen by setting them up in 2006.

Others getting $50,000 were Brady’s college alma mater, the University of Michigan, for cancer research; as well as Dana-Farber Cancer Center, Mission of Hope Haiti, and the Navy SEAL Foundation.

A charity honoring Tom Martinez, Brady’s longtime personal coach who died in 2012, received $37,800. And $30,000 went to a nursing facility in Minnesota that cared for Brady’s grandfather before he died in 2016.

In addition, Change the World donated $10,000 to Saint David’s School in New York City and $20,000 to the Apple Orchard School in Brookline, both of which Brady’s children have attended.

Nonprofits created by Brady’s former teammates also benefited, with grants of $25,000 going to Vince Wilfork’s charity, $10,000 to Deion Branch’s, and $5,000 to Wes Welker’s.

The entire arrangement has stirred concerns among some nonprofit watchdogs. Marc Pollick, who for 20 years has advised charity-minded celebrities through his Giving Back Fund, began consulting last year for the NFL Players Association. Because Brady is an NFLPA member, Pollick would not comment directly on the quarterback or Best Buddies.

But he said he would counsel any celebrity against participating in such an arrangement.

“I would say, ‘Absolutely not,’ ” Pollick said. “It’s not good use of charitable money, and it’s bad for your reputation.’’

Best Buddies has spent more than $200 million developing a volunteer network aimed at ending the social, physical, and economic isolation often experienced by those living with disabilities. Volunteers help them form friendships with peers, find jobs, and live independently.

Shriver said he was not concerned that Brady’s trust has dedicated relatively little of its Best Buddies money to Shriver’s cause. Change the World ended 2015 with net assets of $1.7 million.

“I’m comfortable supporting things that Tom has developed an interest in,’’ Shriver said. “He has done a lot for us, and I think we get more out of it than Change the World gets from us.’’

Nonprofit watchdogs said the public would be better served if their financial relationship were clearly disclosed. There is no mention of the arrangement in Best Buddies promotional material.

Best Buddies did recently describe the payment arrangment with Brady in a press release. Before that, a prospective donor, short of directly asking Best Buddies about the connection, would have needed to visit the charity’s website, download its tax return, and scroll through dozens of pages to find listed a $500,000 grant to the Change the World Foundation.

Even then, there is no mention of Brady. And Googling “Change the World Foundation’’ does not readily reveal a connection to Brady. By further searching Change the World’s state or federal filings, a prospective donor could discover that the nonprofit’s trustee is Thomas E. Brady Jr.

Borochoff said charities are not required to publicize their compensation to celebrities, although failing to do so may not reflect the highest standards of philanthropy.

“Sometimes the compensation is hard to find, and a celebrity gets credit for caring about something when the reason he actually cares about it is because he or his foundation is getting paid,’’ Borochoff said.

Shriver said he and Brady agreed that fully disclosing the arrangement might prove distracting, especially during the Hyannis Port Challenge. This year’s sold-out event, whose highlight is a 100-mile fund-raising bike ride from Boston to Hyannis Port, is scheduled for the first weekend in June.

“We decided it was really best to make the weekend all about Best Buddies and not confuse the message,’’ Shriver said.

The Hyannis Port event typically kicks off on Friday with Brady hosting a celebrity football game at Harvard Stadium. On Saturday, Brady and Shriver host a VIP lunch for donors at the home of President Kennedy’s parents at the family’s Hyannis Port compound.

Brady then takes short tandem rides with participating cyclists, helps distribute awards during a lobster and clam bake, and attends a VIP reception at Shriver’s home in the Kennedy compound.

Supporters who commit to raising $50,000 receive a spot on Brady’s team at Harvard Stadium, two photos with him, five VIP tickets to the weekend events, and an official football and jersey, each autographed by the five-time Super Bowl champion.

Best Buddies gets generally high marks from consumer groups, including three of four stars from Charity Navigator, an organization that says it provides prospective donors with unbiased evaluations of nonprofits they may wish to support.

But several nonprofit monitors said Best Buddies appears to be falling short by not reporting the payments to Brady’s foundation on its state and federal tax documents as fund-raising expenses.

“It looks sloppy,’’ said Art Taylor, president of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. “The charity might want to clean it up a little bit and say Brady is providing this fund-raising service to us, thus we are compensating him in this way.’’

Shriver disagreed, asserting that the Change the World grants are appropriate honorariums because Brady provides Best Buddies much more than fund-raising services.

“He’s a global ambassador for the movement,’’ Shriver said.

Shriver said Brady appears at Best Buddies events across the country. Next year, his duties will include attending the Masters golf tournament for a venture involving Best Buddies and one of its sponsors, Chevron.

Shriver asserted that wealthy public figures such as Brady are sometimes unfairly criticized for the charitable and fund-raising practices.

He cited members of the Kennedy family who have been chided for raising election funds despite their personal fortunes.

“When you collaborate, good can come of it,’’ Shriver said. “At the end of the day, Best Buddies and Tom are helping more people, and it has nothing to do with how much money Tom or I have personally.’’

http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2017/04/22/tom-brady-gives-much-best-buddies-but-takes-millions-for-his-personal-trust/fX6A4ZqPaYAehmHllm9iLI/story.htmlBob Hohler can be reached at robert.hohler@globe.com

States May Demand Work for Medicaid, Under Pres. Trump

The federal Health and Human Services department is telling governors it stands ready to grant waivers so their Medicaid programs can steer beneficiaries into the job market.

Article by RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press | April 20, 2017                               
(AP) - Work requirements for Medicaid could lead to major changes in the social safety net under President Donald Trump.

It sounds like a simple question: Should adults who are able to work be required to do so to get taxpayer provided health insurance?

The federal-state Medicaid program for low-income and disabled people covers more than 70 million U.S. residents — about 1 in 5 — including an increasing number of working-age adults. In a break from past federal policy, the Health and Human Services department under Secretary Tom Price has already notified governors it stands ready to approve state waivers for "meritorious" programs that encourage work.

Separately, an amendment to the still-stuck House GOP health care bill would allow individual states to require work or training for adults, with such exceptions such as pregnant women, or parents of a disabled child.

Yet a surprising number of working-age adults with Medicaid are already employed. Nearly 60 percent work either full- or part-time, mainly for employers that don't offer health insurance, says the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Most who are not working report reasons such as illness, caring for a family member, or going to school.

Geraldine Stewart, a Medicaid beneficiary from Charlotte, N.C., questioned the impact of a work requirement on older adults. Stewart was incapacitated by painful problems with her feet, now relieved by surgery covered under the program. In her early 60s, she was able to return to part-time work as a home health aide after treatment.

"To do work anywhere, I have to have my feet," said Stewart. "I really hope that they do not force anyone who has a medical condition to work to have to pay for those services. I don't think it's been researched properly."

The debate over work requirements for safety net programs isn't new. With Medicaid, it doesn't break neatly along liberal-conservative lines.

On the political right, some say the idea is flawed because a person who refuses to work will still be able to get free treatment by going to a hospital emergency room. Others say Medicaid was established by law as a health program, and work requirements would compromise that original mission.

"It's a policy that comes out of a misunderstanding of the situation facing low-income families," Jason Helgerson, head of New York's Medicaid program, said of work requirements. "People need health care to function in the work force. Threatening that, in my view, does not help in any meaningful way."

In a recent letter to governors, HHS Secretary Price and Seema Verma, the new head of Medicare and Medicaid, suggested that work itself can be good for health. "The best way to improve the long-term health of low-income Americans is to empower them with skills and employment," they wrote.

Liberals are relishing the contrast if Trump pursues tax cuts for the wealthy while putting the poor to work. "The Republican focus is backwards," said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Work requirements are under discussion in a number of states, and the first test for the Trump administration could come on a pending waiver application by Kentucky. The proposal from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin would allow the state to suspend coverage for able-bodied adults who don't comply. Job training and caring for a disabled relative would count toward fulfilling the obligation. "Medically frail" people dealing with certain conditions, from substance abuse to cancer, would be exempt.

For Bevin, getting federal approval is key to continuing a Medicaid expansion launched by his Democratic predecessor to take advantage of then-President Barack Obama's health care law. Nationwide, the future of the expansion is uncertain with Republicans committed to rolling back Obama's law. Work requirements could entice GOP-led states to expand their programs and cover more low-income adults.

That may be more symbolism than real change, said Robert Rector, a social policy expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation.

"I consider it misleading to suggest you are going have a meaningful work requirement in a medical program, because that's the most difficult area to do it in," said Rector. "If an individual doesn't perform, and then they get sick, it's just not going to be enforced."

Advocacy groups representing the poor may go to court. "Medicaid is a medical assistance program," said Jane Perkins, legal director the National Health Law Program. "We do have a problem" with making work a condition of eligibility.

Others are worried that work requirements could become barriers for people down on their luck.

In small-town Paris, Tenn., Medicaid beneficiary Mayela Stephenson said, "I wasn't afraid of work."

Now in her mid 50s, she worked factory jobs most of her life before becoming disabled due to nerve and bone problems. Even with her disability, Stephenson said she had to get legal help to force the state to grant her Medicaid.

Although she agrees that able-bodied people should work, Stephenson said she has concerns that those with health problems will get hurt.

"How would one measure someone's disability as to what degree that person would be able to work?" she asked. "It would have to be based on each individual's circumstance. You would have to go case-by-case, and how on earth will they do that?"
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NYC Public Transit System Violates Local and Federal Laws, Disability Rights Advocates File Lawsuits

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority discriminates against people with disabilities because of its widespread lack of elevators and electric lifts in the subway system, rendering it significantly more inaccessible than other cities with large public transportation systems, according to two lawsuits filed on Tuesday.

Article by ELI ROSENBERG  for The New York Times | April 25, 2017                 
The plaintiffs, a group of disability organizations and disabled residents who brought the lawsuits as a class action in state and federal court, say that the city’s subway system is one of the least accessible public transportation systems in the United States, with the lowest accessibility rate — 24 percent — among the country’s 10 largest transit systems.

More than 75 percent of the city’s 472 subway stations do not have elevators, lifts or other methods that make them accessible for people who use wheelchairs, mobility devices or are otherwise unable to use stairs. Of the approximately 112 stations that are designated as wheelchair-accessible, only 100 currently offer working elevator service for passengers traveling in different directions, the lawsuits charge. (The MTA said that 117 of its stations are accessible to people with disabilities.)

YouTube published by The New York Times
{Ride along as a New Yorker in a wheelchair explains why more people with disabilities don’t take the train.
 By EMMA COTT and KAITLYN MULLIN on Publish DateMarch 29, 2017. Photo by Emma Cott/The New York Times. Technology by Samsung.}

The lack of elevator service in the city’s subway system has been a longstanding problem. Michelle A. Caiola, the litigation director for Disability Rights Advocates, which is representing the plaintiffs, said the legal challenge comes after many futile attempts to achieve a resolution with the transit agency.

“We’ve talked to the M.T.A. on multiple occasions,” she said. “There is not any interest in any long-term plan to address the inaccessibility.”

The state lawsuit, which focuses on a lack of elevators in the system, argues that the transit agency violates the city’s human rights law, whose aim is to “eliminate and prevent discrimination from playing any role in actions relating to employment, public accommodations and housing and other real estate, and to take other actions against prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, discrimination and bias-related violence or harassment.”

The federal lawsuit says that the transit agency’s failure to maintain operable elevators violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discriminating against people with disabilities in public facilities.

While relatively newer transit systems in Washington and San Francisco are completely accessible, even older subway systems have significantly higher rates of accessibility: Boston’s rate is 74 percent, Philadelphia’s 68 percent and Chicago’s 67 percent, according to the court complaint.

An elevated subway station in Brooklyn. More than 75 percent of New York’s subway stations are not accessible to disabled people, a lawsuit says. CreditOzier Muhammad/The New York Times

New York City’s sprawling subway system never closes, and it has the highest number of stations of any city in the world. Beth DeFalco, an agency spokeswoman, said that the agency could not comment on litigation but that it was “committed to serving the needs of disabled customers.”

She said the agency was spending more than $1 billion to bring 25 more stations into compliance with the federal disabilities act and an additional $334 million to replace existing elevators and escalators in the coming years. The authority believes it would cost about $10 billion to bring the remainder of the system in line with the federal law.

Christopher A. Pangilinan, 34, a program director at a transportation foundation in Manhattan’s financial district who uses a wheelchair and is one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuits, commutes every day on the subway from his home in Downtown Brooklyn.

A lack of lifts affects both his work and personal life. He takes a different subway line uptown after work in order to catch another line back to Brooklyn to reach a station with an elevator for southbound commuters. He said he regularly cancels social engagements if he finds there is no viable way to travel to a station with a working elevator. And he has counted more than 200 elevator failures in the last two and a half years — about one for every eight trips he takes, he said.

“This is a city that truly I do feel disabled in,” Mr. Pangilinan said. “If everything was working 100 percent, and had elevators, my disability would be transparent. It wouldn’t limit me. But because of the lack of elevators, my disability really comes to the forefront in terms of what activities I can engage in, in the city. It’s tough psychologically to be reminded of that.”

The authority said that its elevators and escalators are not available 100 percent of the time because they have to be shut down periodically for maintenance.

The state lawsuit lists many local landmarks that require longer trips for people needing elevator access, including Columbia University’s main campus, Hunter College, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Brooklyn Hospital Center, Citi Field, the New York Stock Exchange, the Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The lawsuits do not demand financial remedies, but instead seek better procedures to deal with elevator maintenance and a long-term plan to increase accessibility, Ms. Caiola said.

Disability Rights Advocates recently filed another lawsuit against New York State and the conservancy that runs the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, charging that some of the park’s features exclude disabled people. In 2013, it was one of a handful of groups that reached a settlement with the city to ensure that half of the city’s yellow cab fleet would eventually become wheelchair accessible.

Peoria, IL. Green Chevrolet to Pay $65,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Employee with Disability Involuntarily Transferred and Fired for Opposing It, Federal Agency Charged
CHICAGO - A Peoria, Ill., Chevrolet dealership will pay $65,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Green Chevrolet violated federal law by forcing an employee to transfer to a position that had never previously existed when the company learned that the employee was experiencing kidney failure and would require regular dialysis treatment. The EEOC also alleged that when the black employee resisted his transfer by explaining that he was healthy enough to continue working his sales advisor job and by asking why the company did not "get a white guy" to do the new job, the company fired him in retaliation for this opposition.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit on Sept. 29, 2015 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Peoria (Civil Action No. 15 C 1412) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Under the consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge Michael M. Mihm, Green Chevrolet will pay the former employee $65,000. In addition, the decree prohibits Green Chevrolet from engaging in disability discrimination or retaliation in the future. The decree also requires the company to train its managers about the requirements of the ADA and Title VII and to report complaints of disability or race discrimination to the EEOC.
"The EEOC is pleased that this employer has agreed to train its managers on the requirements of the ADA and Title VII," said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago. "We always prefer to prevent discrimination from occurring in the first place, rather than trying to seek a fix after the fact."
EEOC Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour noted that the settlement was negotiated before the parties engaged in extended litigation or pretrial discovery.
Gochanour said, "We are gratified by Green's determination to work with the EEOC to quickly resolve the case by providing compensation to its former employee and undertaking measures to assure future compliance with the ADA and Title VII. Early resolution of cases benefits everyone - the discrimination victims, the employers, the EEOC and the courts."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
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 release 04/25/2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

EEOC and Flying Star Transport Settle ADA Claims for $65,000

Federal Agency Steers Hiring Case of Driver With Amputation to Early Resolution
AMARILLO, Texas - An Amarillo, Texas-based fuel transport company has agreed to pay $65,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Oppor­tunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Flying Star Transport violated federal law by denying hire to truck driver Robert Kallgren because he had had his arm amputated during his teenage years. Kallgren had more than 20 years of experience driving trucks when he applied to work for Flying Star. The company made an assess­ment, without evidence or proof, that there was no accommodation that would allow Kallgren to do the job safely, and failed to engage in an interactive process of exploring that with him.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Flying Star has denied the allegations in the EEOC's suit. By agreement between the parties to resolve the matter without resort to lengthy litigation, the EEOC filed its lawsuit on April 24, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Amarillo (Civil Action No.2:17-cv-00070-J). Concurrent with that filing, the parties also jointly filed a settlement by consent decree with the court.
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Joel Clark noted that the settlement was negotiated before the parties engaged in extended litigation or pretrial discovery.
"We greatly appreciate Flying Star's determination to work with the EEOC to quickly resolve the case by providing compensation to Mr. Kallgren and undertaking measures to assure future compliance with the ADA," Clark said.
Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office, said, "We have been impressed with Mr. Kallgren's determination and success in pursuing active employment, and successfully performing whatever duties have been asked of him. Even today he is employed as an over-the-road truck driver, which I think speaks to his abilities in such a position. Flying Star is taking the high road with a commitment to providing opportunities to applicants and employees who may require accommodation."
Under the consent decree settling the suit, Flying Star will pay Kallgren $65,000. In addition, the decree enjoins Flying Star Transport from engaging in disability discrimination in the future. Further, the decree re­quires the company to train its managers with respect to the ADA's requirements and to report complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC.
According to company information, Flying Star Transport has terminals in Texas and New Mexico. The company drivers transport gasoline, diesel, propane, butane and other fuels.
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 release 04/26/2017

Illinois-Based IDEX Corporation to Pay $380,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Illinois-Based Global Company Fired Regional Manager in Florida Because of His Cancer, Federal Agency Charged
IDEX Corporation, a Lake Forest, Ill.- based manufacturer and supplier of fluidics systems with locations nationwide, will pay $380,000 and furnish significant relief to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, an IDEX regional manager based in Miami who had successfully performed his job was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. The manager continued to perform his job well, even while undergoing treatment, the EEOC said. During the period of his treatment, however, supervisors repeatedly asked the manager invasive questions about his illness and questioned his ability to perform job tasks. On Dec. 8, 2011, IDEX fired the regional manager because of his disability, the EEOC said.
Disability discrimination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit against IDEX in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division (EEOC v. IDEX Corporation, Case No. 1:15-cv-22777-DPG/TURNOFF (S.D. Fla.)) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement though its conciliation process.
In addition to the $380,000 in monetary relief to the terminated employee, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit also requires IDEX to create a disability discrimination policy to be used with IDEX's U.S.-based employees. The company is also required to train all U.S.-based human resources managers on the ADA's prohibition against disability discrimination and the rights and responsibilities of managers and employees under the ADA, as well as IDEX's new policy. The HR managers will, in turn, train all U.S.-based managers on these matters. IDEX also will address questions managers may have about the company's new policy and review hypothetical accommodation request scenarios with managers. IDEX must post and distribute notices concerning the decree through email, its company website, and at locations nationwide.
Also, IDEX must make periodic reports to the EEOC, including reports on employees who are involuntarily separated from IDEX during the decree's duration, and who requested and/or received a medical or health-related accommodation, including ADA accommodations, within the six months prior to that employee's involuntarily separation from IDEX.
"The conduct in this case is a shocking reminder of why the Americans With Disabilities Act is such a critical law," said EEOC Miami District Director Michael Farrell. "Situations like this demonstrate why the EEOC's law enforcement responsibilities are so important in today's workplace."
EEOC Miami District Office Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg added, "The ADA was intended to eradicate the mistreatment of employees with disabilities based on misconceptions about their ability to perform their jobs."
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 release 04/19/2017


Take Action! Join Today's National Call-In Day

Tell your members of Congress to pass final spending bills for FY 2017 before the Friday, April 28 deadline and to protect affordable housing investments. 

NLIHC and the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding are holding a national call-in day TODAY to urge members of Congress to pass final spending bills for fiscal year 2017 before the Friday, April 28 deadline and to protect affordable housing investments. Unless Congress extends the deadline or passes full spending bills, the federal government will shut down and vital investments in affordable housing and community development will be put at risk.
Call the congressional switchboard toll free at 202-224-3121 or click below.

 Call Congress! 

Sample Script:

Please work with your colleagues to pass a final spending bill for fiscal year 2017 that protects affordable housing investments at HUD and USDA. These resources keep roofs over the heads of low income families, seniors, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable people. Funding affordable housing is a smart investment because such housing leads to better health and education outcomes and boosts economic mobility and the local economy. Our communities are stronger because of HUD and USDA. Please do not put these resources at risk by failing to pass full-year spending bills by the April 28 deadline.

 Call Congress! 

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes. Learn more »

Ability Chicago Info is a proud member & supporter of the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Webinar May 1st: Risk of major ADA Amendments Soon “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017”

H.R. 620 and similar ADA notification bills are gaining more steam in Congress than ever before. If any passes, it will have a devastating impact on the ADA by denying people with disabilities the power to enforce some of its requirements. 

DREDF and other disability rights advocates are working—and need others to join them!—to counter the business lobby, which wants to make it much more difficult to attain accessibility when businesses such as stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. disregard their ADA responsibilities. 

What would H.R. 620 (ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017) do?
  • Remove any incentive for voluntary compliance.
  • Require a person with a disability who encounters an access barrier to send a letter detailing the exact ADA provisions that are being violated.
  • Reward non-compliance by allowing businesses generous additional timelines, even though the ADA's reasonable requirements are already over 25 years old!
  • Perpetuate the myth that the ADA benefits unscrupulous lawyers rather than the truth: that the ADA is the most important civil rights law for people with disabilities.
  • Ignores the extensive, free educational resources already available today to any business on how to comply with the law.
Join us for this webinar to learn more about what is happening with this quickly-moving bill, and how you and others can get involved.
WHEN: Monday, May 1, 2017

TIME: 2:00 PM Eastern Time Zone


IRS Imposter Scams: How to File a Complaint

You get a call from someone who says she’s from the IRS. She says that you owe back taxes. She threatens to sue you, arrest or deport you, or revoke your license if you don’t pay right away. She tells you to put money on a prepaid debit card and give her the card numbers. The caller may know part of your Social Security number. And your caller ID might show a Washington, DC area code. But is it really the IRS calling?
No. The real IRS won’t ask you to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers. They also won’t ask for a credit card over the phone. And when the IRS first contacts you about unpaid taxes, they do it by mail, not by phone. And caller IDs can be faked.
Here’s what you can do:
  1. Stop. Don’t wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card. Once you send it, the money is gone. If you have tax questions, go to irs.gov or call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
  2. Pass this information on to a friend. You may not have gotten one of these calls, but the chances are you know someone who has.
Please Report Scams
If you spot a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Report a scam online or call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or TTY 1-866-653-4261. Your complaint can help protect other people. By filing a complaint, you can help the FTC’s investigators identify the imposters and stop them before they can get someone’s hard-earned money. It really makes a difference.

Webinar for People with Disabilities, May 11th: Clear & Effective Emergency Communications over Wireless Devices

During an emergency, alert and warning officials need to provide the public with life-saving emergency messages that inform those in the impacted area and compel them to take protective actions. Emergency information is not always presented in formats accessible to people with different levels of sensory, cognitive and physical disabilities. Likewise, the devices on which they receive emergency information are not always optimized for use with emergency information tools such as wireless emergency alerts (WEA), subscription-based alerting systems, or local and state apps (e.g. Ready Georgia). This webinar will address composing message content and delivery format features that can enhance the accessibility of the information to people with disabilities. We will also cover smartphone features that can improve the accessibility of emergency messages. The webinar will close with a description and demonstration of an accessible system, Deaf Link's Accessible Hazard Alert System (AHAS).

The next webinar will occur on May 11th, 2017.
Webinars begin at 2.30pm ET/1.30pm CT/12.30 pm MT/11.30am PT/8.30am Hawaii.

Registration: Free on-line at http://www.adapresentations.org/registration.php
Registration closes at midnightMay 10th, 2017

Learning objectives:
  • Learn about the use of wireless emergency communications tools by people with disabilities, as well as their expressed needs and preferences.
  • Understand the emergency message content tips that improve accessibility, trust, and reliability of emergency information.
  • Understand the "How-to's" for subscribing and enabling accessible emergency alerts on Android and iOS devices for people with disabilities.
  • Understand the recommendations for trustworthy apps, internet resources, and social media feeds related to accessible emergency alerts
  • Expanded understanding of how to effectively alert members of the Deaf community.
Kay Chiodo is a certified ASL interpreter and subject matter expert in accessible communications. She has testified before the FCC and Congress regarding the need for accessible emergency information. She is the CEO of Deaf Link, Inc. a company that leads the nation in the development and implementation of services to support inclusion for people with sensory disabilities in emergency preparedness before, during and after a disaster. In 2005, Deaf Link's Accessible Hazard Alert System (AHAS) sent the nation's first accessible alert (ASL, Voice, Text, Braille accessible) to residents in Houston for Hurricane Rita. Ms. Chiodo has received national recognition and awards for Deaf Link's services including the 2008 COMPUTERWORLD - 21st Century Achievement Award and the 2009 Cleve Allen Award for outstanding support of Emergency Management in the delivery of accessible emergency information and alerts.
Salimah LaForce is a research analyst at the Center for Advanced Communications Policy, the home of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Inclusive Technologies (Wireless RERC). She conducts consumer, policy and industry research and serves as project director for the Wireless RERC policy and outreach initiatives. Salimah is editor of the monthly policy newsletter, Technology and Disability Policy Highlights, for more than ten years; and has co-authored more than 65 conference papers, presentations, reports, and federal regulatory filings.
Ben Lippincott is task leader for the Wireless RERC's outreach to consumers with disabilities. Ben has been leading user outreach and working closely to promote industry relations for over 12 years. He is co-editor of the Wireless RERC consumer website and editor of the Re: Wireless electronic newsletter. Ben has been the lead for a nationwide roll-out of a series of consumer education workshops that highlight the accessibility features of smartphones. The workshops are called Wireless Independence Now (WIN) and are produced in collaboration with AT&T.

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: Pacific ADA Center

Former Police Officer Charged With Raping Woman with Mental Disability

Thomas K. Jackson | LaPorte County Sheriff's Dept.

A 51-year-old former police officer has been charged with raping a woman whose mental capacities were too diminished for her to consent to sexual activity, according to police in northwest Indiana.

Chicago Sun-Times article by Jeff Mayes | April 25, 2017    
Thomas K. Jackson of Trail Creek has been charged with four counts of rape, according to the LaPorte County sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices.

In March, the Michigan City police chief asked the sheriff’s office to investigate Jackson, a Michigan City police officer.

The request followed accusations of “inappropriate sexual contact between Jackson and the adult daughter of a LaPorte County woman who was reported to have such diminished mental capabilities that she could not consent to such activity,” a statement from the sheriff’s office said.

Jackson resigned from the police department on March 14. On Monday, the sheriff’s office and prosecutors presented evidence to a judge, who issued a criminal arrest warrant for Jackson, police said.

At about 7:35 a.m. Tuesday, Jackson was spotted at a convenience store near Trail Creek (just east of Michigan City) and was taken into custody without incident by sheriff’s detective and the Michigan City Fugitive Apprehension Street Team, according to police.

He was taken to the LaPorte County Jail on the $25,000 cash only bond specified in the warrant.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Albany International Airport Introduces a New Scheme To Smooth the Process of Travelling With Children With Autism

Quiet rooms for autistic children popping up at airports 

Article from Gemma Cairns for Ability Chicago Info | April 24, 2017
Following the news earlier this month that Shannon airport, in Ireland, has unveiled a quiet room within their main terminal for children on the autistic spectrum, in order make their travelling experience more comfortable Albany International Airport, in New York State, have unveiled their own scheme to ease the experience as much as possible.  

At the launch of the scheme, 12 children on the autistic spectrum visited the airport where their were issued with dummy tickets, proceeded through the security checking area, reported to a gate where they discussed the boarding and de-boarding process with experienced members of staff, and then returned to the terminal so that they could experience the baggage claim process and explore the various ground transportation options available at the airport. The idea of the scheme is that children with autism, and their families, can familiarize themselves with the processes involved in air travel and determine whether it is an experience that would be right for them without having to purchase an expensive airline ticket only to find that their child experiences a sensory overload and does not feel able to board the plane. When discussing the program, Albany County Sherif Craig Apple said that:  "Many families aren't sure if air travel is a possibility for them if they have a child with Autism. By participating in this event, they can safely simulate everything just as if they were traveling.The program was introduced as part of National Autism Awareness Month, and is the first time that a program of this kind has been offered in a New York State airport.  

Easing the Challenges of Travel  
At the time of year when many people will traditionally begin to plan and book their summer vacation, it is a positive move forwards that the needs of individuals with often invisible disabilities are being considered. Travelling when you have autism, or when you are travelling with a child who has autism, can be a very challenging experience. Airports are incredibly stimulating environments that could well lead to sensory overload, and some children will struggle to be confined in a new environment for the extended amount of time required. Added to this, parents also need to consider the expense involved in travelling with children who have additional needs: increased medical and travel insurance costs, for example, as well as the additional expense of paying for private quiet lounges at the airport (so that the children have a calm and safe place to rest) and potential upgrade costs of both travel and accomodation, in order to ensure it is as relaxing an environment as possible. Prior preparation, such as the scheme being introduced by Albany International Airport, can certainly be beneficial to some children, but there is also additional airline specific support to look out for that can make the process a little easier. Some airlines, for example United and JetBlue to name just two, allow passengers with additional needs, including those on the autistic spectrum, to board the plane first which is a great support as those children can be guided to their seats and settled whilst the plane is at its quietest. Many airlines also provide information about travelling with children with autism on their websites, and will try to accommodate any additional requests to make your journey run as smoothly as possible, provided you make those requests in advance of arriving at the airport. 

Every child is different (regardless of whether they are on the autistic spectrum or not) and whilst some children may love air travel, some may find it palatable, and many more will not be able to tolerate the experience at all. This is why schemes such as the one introduced at Albany International Airport at so valuable: they enable the experience of travel to be something that can be tested and explored in as relaxing an environment as possible. Repetition often makes tasks much easier to understand and complete, and could be the difference between an enjoyable far flung family vacation and not being able to get on the plane at all. Travel in enriching for everyone, and there are so many benefits to be reaped from broadening your horizons and heading out the see the world. Life on the autistic spectrum should certainly not stop anyone from experiencing air travel if this is something they want to experience. 

North Carolina Universities Lacking Opportunities for Athletes with Disabilities

Logan Gin, a wheelchair basketball player, checks out the court at the Smith Center at UNC. A wheelchair basketball tournament is taking place on Sunday at Woollen Gym in Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of Backbone NC

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article146198749.html#storylink=cpy

Logan Gin ran for Mr. UNC back in November with one thing in mind. A sentiment so plain it almost sounds too obvious: We all can play.

Article by BLAKE DODGE for the News & Observer | April 22, 2017              
It’s the kind of thing you don’t realize if you’re “able-bodied.” When you took to the field as a 7-year-old, uniform half-tucked in and laces already undone; when you cleared the hurdle, made the crucial tackle, set the record straight – that glorious scene, wherever it was, probably didn’t include students with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, remaining physically active leads to better emotional and physical health for individuals with physical disabilities, including better self-perception and lower levels of pain and depression. If you’ve done sports, you already know this.

Wheelchair basketball, a sort of staple of adapted athletics, is already a scholarship sport at several universities including Alabama, Illinois, the University of Texas-Arlington, Missouri and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In fact, the Alabama Board of Trustees recently approved $10 million in funding to build a world-class facility specifically for athletes competing in adapted sports.

But North Carolina universities offer a pretty dismal alternative: nothing. Duke, UNC, and N.C. State lack both competitive and recreational adapted athletics programs. Sure, many schools, including UNC and ECU, have held wheelchair basketball exhibitions, but before now, there’s been no push for ongoing, institutionalized athletic opportunities for students with disabilities. As a result, North Carolina misses out on talented student-athletes.

Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets promo photo

The Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets programs sends more than a half-dozen players to Alabama and Texas on scholarship every year, many of whom would undoubtedly love to stay home and compete for a North Carolina university.

Locally, we have the Triangle Thunder, which recently competed in the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament and ranks consistently in the top 10 in Division 3 rankings. Durham is home to Bridge II sports, which offers a full range of sports to accommodate multiple disabilities. North Carolina is even home to Stephanie Wheeler, coach of the Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball team, and two-time gold medalist herself in the Rio 2016 Paralympic games.

North Carolina universities need to get on board. UNC-Chapel Hill in particular markets itself as a university riff with icons: the buildings themselves, some of them hundreds of years old, the Old Well, framed carefully by white oaks, azaleas and the hand of God, and – of course – sports, to the tune of 43 team national championships. Each is “characteristically Chapel Hill.” Each is engrained into the aesthetic, if not the entire student experience.

Well, these icons exclude a sizable proportion of the student body. Certain buildings at UNC-CH, including Smith on North Campus, aren’t accessible at all.

For lack of a ramp, Logan once had to leave his scooter at a bike rack in order to meet a professor in the attic of the building. The Old Well, ironically, is less accessible than the eighth floor of Davis Library. And adapted sports simply doesn’t exist – not through campus recreation, not through club sports, not at all.

Logan, in partnership with Joe Nail, whose older sister has a developmental disability, has thrown a much needed wrench into the equation.

Carolina Adapted Athletics provides consistent, competitive athletic opportunities for students with physical and developmental disabilities. It provides a space where “We all can play” is actually true – where at least one of UNC’s “icons” is accessible to every student and the rest, Logan suggests, may fall under appropriate scrutiny.

Carolina Adapted Athletics hosts its first wheelchair basketball showcase, on Sunday in Woollen Gym from 2 to 5 p.m.

UNC students can sign up using this link, and everyone is welcome to attend or follow the event @CarolinaAdapted.

BackBone NC recently conducted a photo series on Logan Gin and issues related to accessibility.

Blake Dodge of Beaufort is a philosophy and English major at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article146198749.html#storylink=cpy