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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Senate Advances On Obamacare Repeal, Healthcare Advocates Fight For Medicaid - 64 Arrests

Many health care advocates were arrested at a Senate building, including several disabled activists.

article by Kaeli Subberwal for HUFFPOST | July 25, 2017
Crowds of protesters flooded the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday to protest efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, making the halls echo with now-familiar chants: “I’d rather go to jail than die of no Medicaid!” and “No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!”

The protests came as the Senate voted on a motion to proceed with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The procedural measure, which passed 51-50, allows Congress to move ahead with its goal to repeal Obamacare. As the Senate voted on the motion to proceed, protesters in the Senate gallery chanted, “Kill the bill! Don’t kill us!”

While the Senate prepared to vote on the bill, the line along the wheelchair ramp leading into the Hart Building snaked onto the sidewalk. Once protesters, representing groups including ADAPT, an organization of disability rights activists, and the National Council on Independent Living, entered the building, they gathered into a group and began their chants calling for Republicans to end their fight to repeal Obamacare.

Many of the protesters were in Washington for the annual conference of the National Council on Independent Living, which held a rally on the West Front Lawn of the Capitol earlier Tuesday.

The rally’s speakers included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. Schumer emphasized the moral significance of the impending vote, saying, “You are reminding everybody how dismantling Medicaid is the wrong, inhumane way to go.”

Ashley Bridwell, a participant in the Hart Building protest, said that the benefits people with disabilities accrue from Medicaid are not luxuries.

“If the bill passes and Medicaid is cut by 30 percent, there are people in this room that will die as a result of the legislation and the cuts in the funding,” said Bridwell, who serves on the board of directors of a Phoenix-based center for independent livi

The consequences of a repeal are very real for protester Dina Garcia of Los Angeles. Garcia, her husband and their 11-year-old son would all be affected if Medicaid were cut. She vowed she would keep hounding Republicans to fight against the repeal.

“It’ll hurt so many people with disabilities,” Garcia said.

As the protesters continued chanting in the atrium of the Hart Building, a police officer raised a megaphone and warned them to desist or risk arrest. Slowly, protesters from the outskirts began to trickle away, and police officers formed a circle around the remaining crowd.

The police cordoned off the protesters with yellow police tape and began to arrest people one by one. Many of those arrested were in wheelchairs. As they progressed toward the door, each arrestee was heralded with applause; on their way out, many raised a hand in a victorious fist. 

Sixty-four people were arrested, according to a press release from the United States Capitol Police.
Although the atmosphere at the Hart Building was one of defiance and determination, the Affordable Care Act that the protesters were fighting to protect faces its biggest challenge yet in the aftermath of Tuesday’s vote.

“It’s crazy,” Bridwell said, “that for the first time we’re actually talking about it in terms of life and death.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act Signing Ceremony on July 26, 1990 : short video chronicles the historic event

The ADA stands as one of the most important civil rights documents in the history of the United States, as it guaranteed for the first time that all People with Disabilities have the right to participate fully as equal members in society.

Signing Ceremony for Americans with Disabilities Act - National Archives and Records Administration (1990-07-26 - ARC 1656530, LI 220-DISAB-1) 
South Lawn, White House

The short video chronicles the events of July 26, 1990, when four thousand people gathered on the South Lawn of the White House to witness then President George H.W. Bush sign the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law.

American History from the Presidential Libraries 
By Susan K. Donius, Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries, U.S. National Archives (posted July 26, 2012)

This year marks the 22nd (25th*) Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Act into law on the White House South Lawn in front of an audience of 3,000 people. On that day, America became the first country to adopt a comprehensive civil rights declaration for people with disabilities.

The ADA was a landmark moment in history, designed to provide universal accessibility in the areas of employment, public service, public accommodations and telecommunications. As President Barack Obama noted in 2009 at the signing of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Proclamation, the ADA “was a formal acknowledgment that Americans with disabilities are Americans first, and they are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as everybody else: a right to belong and participate fully in the American experience; a right to dignity and respect in the workplace and beyond; the freedom to make of our lives what we will.”

Among the holdings of the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives are many letters, meeting notes, photos and White House memos that document the collaborative process of creating the ADA. The Presidential Libraries have protected and shared the records of every Presidential administration since 1929, and the history of people with disabilities is woven throughout.

Sierra Gregg is a second year intern in the Office of Presidential Libraries, who recognizes the importance of sharing Presidential records related to disability history. She has been closely involved in a project to make a selection of these documents accessible to a wide audience. The following post is written by Sierra, about the Americans with Disabilities research page that is now available on the National Archives website.

I was born visually impaired one year after the signing of the ADA. I have grown up in a world where my visual impairment is not a hindrance to my success, only a characteristic of who I am. The ADA has made it possible for me to get the help I need to work toward my academic and professional goals.

However, the story of disability civil rights did not start with the ADA and it certainly did not end on that day 22 years ago. The efforts to ensure independence and equality for people with disabilities have a long and fascinating history. Throughout the course of two summer internships, I have worked on the Presidential Libraries team to collect a small sample of records related to Americans with disabilities. This collection will be added to the research topic section of the National Archives’ website and will contain at least one record from every Presidential administration since Herbert Hoover.

Although the collection contains records related to different disabilities, the records directly related to visual impairments are particularly meaningful to me. I believe my favorite record in the collection is a Braille letter written to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 by then-thirteen-year-old John Beaulieu. I first saw the letter on display in the Public Vaults exhibit of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. I still wish I could read the words with my fingers instead of just listening to the description. I was duly impressed that Beaulieu wrote the letter using a slate and stylus; I never quite mastered the art of using the slate. In order to write using the slate and stylus a thick piece of paper is placed face down in the slate, the stylus is used to punch out dots in the paper. The trick is every letter has to be written backwards so it can be read when the page is flipped.

The collection also contains two letters written to President Herbert Hoover by Helen Keller. She wrote letters to eight U.S. Presidents, starting in 1903 with Theodore Roosevelt. She also personally met 13 Presidents from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson. I must admit to feeling a twinge of envy when I learned that during a visit to the White House, she investigated her historic surroundings with touch. She even identified a bust of George Washington with her fingers.

The Americans with Disabilities research collection currently includes more than 50 different records. They range from Keller’s letters to President Hoover to photos of a White House dinner hosted by President Clinton, honoring the Special Olympics. It’s a resource that will continue to grow, and one that sheds light on an important part of disability, and American, history.

# Learn more by visiting the Americans with Disabilities research page from the Presidential Libraries at: https://www.archives.gov/research/americans-with-disabilities.

# Susan K. Donius is the Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives and Records Administration.
# Sierra Gregg is a senior at Truman State University in Missouri where she is studying computer science. This year, she was awarded a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind.

# post was originally posted July, 2011.

President.Trump Proclaims July 26, 2017, a Day in Celebration of the 27th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The White House
July 25, 2017

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On the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we celebrate the landmark legislation that marks our Nation's commitment to ending discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA's recognition of the inherent dignity of disabled persons solidified America's status as the world leader in protecting fundamental rights.  Today, we pay special respect to the contributions of the more than 56 million Americans living with disabilities, and we look forward to further advancing accessibility for all those who need it.
President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA on July 26, 1990, and for 27 years it has been instrumental in protecting the rights and liberties of people with disabilities and strengthening their access to everyday American life. Disabilities are an unavoidable part of the human experience veterans injured in service to their Nation, survivors of accidents and illnesses, children born with disabilities, and our elderly.  Since its inception, the ADA has helped empower people living with disabilities by ensuring they have fair and just access to employment, government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and public transportation.
Americans are justifiably proud of the ADA and its accomplishments, but more can be done to protect the rights and dignity of Americans living with disabilities.  Disabled Americans in the workforce already contribute substantially to our Nation's productivity and prosperity.  We must continue to empower them by breaking down obstacles that prevent their full participation in the public and economic affairs of our Nation.  In addition, my Administration will encourage American ingenuity and technological advancements in medicine and science, which will give millions of Americans with disabilities opportunities to work, engage in commerce, and connect with others in ways we could not have imagined 27 years ago.
On the anniversary of the ADA, we reaffirm our commitment to fostering an environment that provides all Americans with the opportunity to pursue their American dream.  Let us all take this time to refocus our efforts to support our fellow Americans and help them succeed, no matter the obstacles they may face.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim July 26, 2017, as a day in celebration of the 27th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities that celebrate the contributions of Americans with disabilities and to renew our commitment to achieving the promise of our freedom for all Americans.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.

Source: press release
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Wade Blank 1940-1993, Disability Rights Movement Advocate Remembered

The following history of ADAPT's founder Wade Blank, a non-disabled former nursing home recreational director who assisted several residents to move out and start their own community. The Atlantis Community. The below article from the Ragged Edge- July/August 1993 will offer a look into the history and achievement's of Wade Blank and fellow advocates. Also below is a remembrance by Justin Dart after the unexpected passing of his friend, and fellow advocate.
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Article published by the Ragged Edge- July/August 1993.

Wade Blank

The death of the Reverend Wade Blank on February 15, 1993, left a profound emptiness in the hearts of many people who loved and respected him. But any void in the disability rights movement is only momentary, for Blank left behind scores of human values, a keen analysis – and scores of skilled, committed leaders ready to carry the movement forward.

American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) and its mother, the Atlantis Community in Denver, both embody the spiritual, organizational and strategic lessons Blank carried over from the 1960s black civil rights movement. He had been a Presbyterian minister, a War on Poverty field organizer and a disciple of Dr. Martin Luther King, jr., before becoming an orderly, then an assistant administrator, in a Denver nursing home.

Liberated Community
Early in his career as a iconoclastic minister and civil rights worker, Blank developed the concept of a "liberated community" – a society where human beings could live in equality and develop the power to effect change. When, at the Heritage House nursing home, he found himself in the midst of a "community" of people with severe disabilities, whose only community structure was one of oppression – the confines of the institution – he took on the challenge of making the "liberated community" a reality.

It all started when Blank came to Denver seeking a change. "The nursing home industry in Denver recruited its nursing home administrators from the ranks of ex-ministers," he recalled recently… A nursing home executive called Blank. "They said, ‘You’re young. You’re hip. Could you start a youth wing for us?’ So, I started a youth wing."

Hired by Heritage House in December 1971, Blank went to visit the residents the evening before he began his new job. "I remember for dinner that night we had baked potatoes, applesauce and scrambled eggs, and that was near Christmas. The place was like a morgue. The food was cold." Blank chatted with severely disabled individuals, some of whom would later become ADAPT organizers. "Little did I know," Blank recalled, "that I was to enter the most important moment of my life.

"I had 60 young people I recruited. Every morning at 7:30, they’d get dressed and get on a school bus, and go to a workshop and count fish hooks. Called it (a) work activities program."

At council meetings of the young people, the residents made simple requests, and an idealistic Blank tried to implement them. "I let them evaluate the nurses," he said. "They wanted co-ed living. They wanted to have pets. They wanted to have rock ‘n’ roll bands. So three years into this experiment, the nursing home is just like a college dorm on a crazy weekend all the time.

"I was trying to change it from inside, and I didn’t understand the monster I worked for," he recalled.

Outside of the Home
In 1975, Blank proposed "that we move a few of them out into apartments, and we let the aides and orderlies punch in at the nursing home, then go to the apartment and give them service." That idea got Blank fired. "The nursing home saw where I was going, and they couldn't let me go in that direction."

Once Blank was fired, the nursing home erased all his reforms. "They came in and they took all the stereos and TVs out of everybody’s rooms, had the dog pound come by and get all the animals and in one day it went from everything I’d built for four years – to that."

But Blank wasn’t about to give up. Thinking to himself that he’d "recruited all these people to this hell," he decided simply to move them out "and do the care myself…

Atlantis Community
"Within the first six months, I’d moved 18 severely disabled people out. So now I was wed to the concept. You know, I couldn’t walk away from it."

That exodus laid the foundations for the Atlantis Community and its political-action offshoot, ADAPT. "We began t learn about power and what empowerment is, and how to use it," Blank said. While Atlantis was liberating people from nursing homes, ADAPT (which then stood for American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit) took on discrimination in Denver’s, and then the nation’s, bus systems. Using non-violent, direct-action tactics similar to King’s movement, ADAPTers made bold demands and achieved extraordinary results.

Blank had found himself at the center of another civil rights campaign, similar to the one he had seen African Americans wage. "All the issues are the same," Blank asserted. "The black movement wanted to ride the buses equally. The black movement wanted to eat at the Woolworth’s counters. The black movement wanted the right to vote. The black movement wanted the right to keep their families together. The black movement wanted the right to be integrated into the school system. That’s what the disability rights movement wants, exactly…

"My members are into confrontation. We’ll tell somebody what we want, and we’ll talk about it once or twice, but that’s it. Then we deal with you. Either we’ll shut you down or whatever."

Confrontation worked, Blank believed, because it took society’s fears – those fears we’re always trying to dispel in disability awareness workshops – and turned them to a new use…

"So I said," (Blank explained, recalling earlier successes in the black civil rights movement), "…‘Let’s take 25 wheelchairs and go out and surround a bus and hold it and see what happens." Bam! Just like magic. It worked. Total power. Police couldn’t move the wheelchairs because they were afraid. The mayor said, ‘Don’t arrest disabled people.’ We win…"

Focus on Fundamental Human Rights
Blank’s focus on fundamental human rights and on the most impoverished members of the disability community distanced him from more affluent groups. In this, too, he emulated Martin Luther King. "King involved the poorest in the community," Bank said, "and a movement cannot really change things unless they address the poorest, the least. When King was shot, he was beginning to attack the ghettos." For Blank, "Our ghettos are the nursing homes, and we need to address the ghetto."

Blank attacked not only the mainstream disability movement’s economic hierarchy but also its disability hierarchy. "You go around to independent living centers and you’ll see a lot of post-polios and a lot of spinal cord injuries," he said. "But you won’t see people that slobber and can’t speak clearly…" These are the people often excluded or left behind by more "respectable" advocacy organizations, he pointed out…

Blank found leadership qualities in people who had never before thought of being leaders: former nursing home residents, people with speech impairments, people labeled retarded and others typically disenfranchised both by society at large and by traditional disability organizations. Blank had little patience for people who put their own egos or their own careers above the movement.

But more people were and are being empowered every year to free Americans with disabilities from institutions. All are encouraged to help plan protests, identify issues and targets, hold press conferences, and become a part of the "liberated community."

# article originally published in the Ragged Edge- July/August 1993
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photo: Wade Blank with his son Lincoln and fellow Atlantis cofounder Michael Auberger celebrate the laying of the plaque, dedicated to the original protesters - The Gang of 19 - who blocked the intersection to protest the inaccessible buses in 1978.

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The Reverend Wade Blank, 1940-1993 is a tribute to Wade Blank written by Justin Dart in 1993.

Press Release in 1993:                                                                                                                            
The President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities 
Justin Dart, Chairman

The Reverend Wade Blank, 1940-1993

Disability rights leader Wade Blank died on February 15 in rough seas off of a beach at Todos Santos, Mexico. He was trying, unsuccessfully, to save his drowning eight year old son, Lincoln.

It is always a tragedy when great lives are cut short by apparently preventable events. But to dwell on the tragedy of Wades Blank’s death would be a very large disservice to the future. Wade’s life is the message. His existence was a towering triumph that demands to be shouted, to be heard, to be acted on.

Unlike others who participated in the sixties revolution for a rational society, Wade did not give up the struggle when it became unfashionable. In 1974 he founded [the first Center for Independent Living in Colorado,] the Atlantis Community in Denver – a radical program to enable people with severe disabilities to leave the isolation of nursing homes and live in the mainstream. Atlantis was a success. But it soon became apparent that the mainstream itself was polluted by devastating discrimination which prevented people with disabilities from fulfilling their humanity.

In the tradition of Martin Luther King, Wade made equal access to bus transport the symbol of full equality: “Rosa Parks protested the indignity of being forced to sit in the back of the bus. We can’t get on the bus at all.” On July 5th and 6th, 1978, he and nineteen people with disabilities illegally detained an inaccessible bus at the intersection of Broadway and Colfax in Denver. ADAPT was born – American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit. During the next twelve years hundreds of ADAPT activists blocked buses, streets, hotels and government buildings across North America. They filled the police records of the jails of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Little Rock, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Reno, Montreal and Washington, DC. Wade, Mike Auberger, Bob Kafka, Mark Johnson, George Roberts, Larry Ruiz, Rick James, Stephanie Thomas and Anita Cameron were arrested 15-30 times each. Molly Blank, Babs Auberger, Frank McComb, Lori Eastwood, Bobby Simpson, Melvin Conrady, Beverly Furnice, Joe Carle, Karen Tarnley, Ann Sawtel, Sue Davis, Diane Coleman and many others were co-heros in the long struggle.

In March of 1990, with the fate of the ADA hanging in the balance, Wade organized the historic march of disability rights leaders from the White House to the US Capitol to demand a law that would provide full equality, “with no weakening amendments.”

People with severe disabilities crawled up the Capitol steps and were arrested demonstrating in the rotunda. ADA passed in July – with no weakening amendments. Without the courage and inspiration of Wade Blank and his colleagues, the world would not have its first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities.

After the passage of ADA, knowing that the job of justice was far from completed, Wade and the members of ADAPT refocused their advocacy. They demanded that the federal government provide funds for personal assistance services that would enable persons with disabilities now trapped in nursing homes to live free in their communities. The demonstrations – and the arrests – continue. Progress is being made. President Clinton has promised to form a task force that will create a national program of personal assistance services.

Some – mostly those that didn’t know him – have said that Wade’s methods were “extreme.” They said that civil disobedience in the eighties and nineties is “passe,” “obsolete,” “inappropriate.” The same kinds of things were said about Washington, Jefferson, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. What is extreme, what is inappropriate is millions of human beings living with less dignity than we accord to our pet dogs and cats. What is inappropriate is American citizens imprisoned without due process of law in oppressive institutions and rat infested back rooms. What is inappropriate is people with disabilities living and begging in the streets. What is inappropriate, what is unspeakably immoral, is a society that cannot be bothered to make the simple changes necessary to give its own children the opportunity of full humanity.

It has been my privilege to work closely with Wade Blank during the last several years. He demonstrated against a meeting I chaired – when HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan spoke at the 1991 PCEPD annual conference in Dallas. We counseled together by telephone at all hours of the day and night. We served together on the ADA Congressional Task Force and in negotiating ADA with the President of Greyhound. We marched together for equality in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington. We were together in the freezing midnight outside the barricaded Department of Transportation in Washington. I never put myself in a position to be arrested. Wade said that was alright, because I could play a positive role within the system. I was never sure in my heart that I was on the right side of the bars. I knew he was.

Wade Blank was a sensitive philosopher of Democracy. He was a superb organizer. He was a mature, sophisticated politician. He had total honesty and total follow through. You could take his promises to the bank. These are rare and good qualities, but they alone would not have enabled him to use an unfashionable method to lead an unfashionable cause to an historic victory.

Wade had a magic sword. It was love. Unlike many with religious labels, he understood and lived the central commandment of his God, “that ye love one another as I have loved you.” He understood that love is not just smiling at nice people, but passionate, lifelong action to preserve and enlarge the joy, the dignity, the quality of every human life. He understood that love does not smother with criticism, care and control; it encourages, emancipates and empowers. He understood that love for all means justice for all.

Wade’s leadership of love made ADAPT the family for those who had no family, the family with justice, with hope, with transcending fulfillment. Wade’s love warmed and empowered us all. It breached the defenses and won the respect of Congresspersons, businesspersons, policepersons, jailers, judges and mayors. Again and again, it lifted my heart and my mind from selfcentered desperation of Washington politics to the dream.

Before he died, Wade planned a series of demonstrations for personal assistance services to be held in Washington, DC, on May 9th, 10th and 11th. These will go forward in his honor. There will be a tribute to him on Sunday, May 9th, at the Lincoln Memorial. Let us join together in memory of Wade – on May 9th, today, tomorrow, as long as life remains – to continue his struggle for a truly human society.

Let us pick up his sword of love and truth and courage, and use it – each in our own way – to cut the chains of all who are slaves to pity, prejudice and paternalism. Let us join in one voice to shout his shout – “free our people.” Let us embrace his golden heritage of responsible action for life, enlarge it in our own lives, and invest it in the lives of all who will come.

Wade, we love you. That’s easy. We will try our best to love each other as you loved us.

– Justin Dart
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"How Wade Blank Became a Disability Activist"
John Holland of Denver, Colorado speaks about working at the forefront of disability civil rights law as he protested and advocated alongside Wade Blank.
The is part of the "It's Our Story" project, there are many additional videos telling of the history and the people of the Disability Rights Movement.
YouTube published by It's Our Story

Addressing Accommodations Requests for Sit/Stand Workstations — JAN Consultants’ Corner

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has published a new issue of its “Consultants’ Corner” feature, focusing on sit/stand workstations as a workplace accommodation. The article addresses questions that employers might have about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) could apply to requests for this type of accommodation, including matters related to the need for medical documentation.

Addressing Requests for Sit/Stand Workstations

After research showed that prolonged sitting may be linked to multiple health problems, employers started looking for ways to reduce the amount of time their employees spend sitting at their desks. One option adopted by many employers is providing workstations that move up and down, enabling employees to quickly alternate between sitting and standing. For this option, employers can purchase complete desks that raise and lower electronically or manually or desktop height adjustable equipment that can be placed on existing office furniture. There are also height adjustable workstations for industrial settings.

Some employers provide sit/stand workstations to any employee who asks for one, while others only provide the workstations for employees who already have medical problems that might be improved by reducing sitting. Both approaches raise questions about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) might apply. The following are some of those questions:

Q - If we only give sit/stand workstations to employees who need them for medical reasons, can we require medical documentation?

A - Yes, a request for furniture that is not typically provided to employees is a request for an accommodation under the ADA. When an employee requests an accommodation and the disability and need for accommodation are not obvious, the employer can request a limited amount of medical documentation to substantiate that the employee has an ADA disability and needs the requested accommodation.

Q - What if the employee or medical provider indicates that a specific desk is needed?
A - An employer ultimately determines what accommodation will be provided and has the right to choose among effective options. As part of the interactive process the employer can suggest other types of adjustable height workstations or even other options besides workstations to find out what might be effective. If there are multiple options being considered, the employer may choose the less expensive option, again providing that the option is effective.

Q - What other options are there besides providing sit/stand workstations?

A - It depends. For some employees, having the ability to alternate between sitting and standing with an adjustable height workstation may be the only effective accommodation. Other employees might benefit from an ergonomic or adjustable office chair or additional support when sitting, which could be provided by adding a lumbar cushion or seat cushion. An ergonomic assessment could be performed to ensure that the chair being used is placing the employee in an ergonomically correct seating position. Other accommodations for sitting and standing could be explored, depending on the need of the employee, for example an employee might benefit from taking periodic breaks to get up and walk around.

Q - If we give sit/stand workstations to any employee who requests one, can we require employees who need the workstation for medical reasons to go through the interactive process to document it as an accommodation?

A -Generally the answer is no, you cannot make employees with disabilities jump through extra hoops to get a benefit of employment that you just give to employees without disabilities. See the next question for an exception.

Q - What if an employee with a disability needs a different type of workstation other than the sit/stand workstation we give to all employees upon request?

A - In this situation, the employer can probably have the employee go through the interactive process and treat the request as an accommodation request because the employee is asking for something outside what is given to other employees. The employer can ask questions or seek documentation to understand why the employer’s chosen workstation would not be effective in meeting the employee’s disability-related needs.

Q - What if we start out giving sit/stand workstations to any employee who asks, but later find out we cannot meet the demand for the workstations? Can we then opt to require medical documentation before providing the workstations?

A - Yes, it is okay to change your policy and decide to only give sit/stand workstations to employees with disabilities as accommodations under the ADA. When changing a policy, it might be beneficial to educate employees in general about the change and remind them how to request accommodations related to alternate workstations.
JAN provides free, confidential technical assistance about job accommodations and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

July 27th Twitter Chat on ADA and Employment Accommodations Hosted by CDE and JAN

Mark your calendar! In recognition of the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ODEP’s Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) and Job Accommodation Network (JAN) are hosting a Twitter chat on July 27, 2:00-3:00 PM ET. Titled “#ADA27CDE - Celebrating 27 Years of the ADA: The Role of Accommodations in Workplace Inclusion,” the chat will feature special guest Tracie DeFreitas, a Lead Consultant at JAN. Don’t miss this chance to engage with Tracie and others in an online discussion about the basics of accommodations and the critical role they play in maximizing employee productivity and creating a disability-inclusive workplace culture.
 To participate in the conversation, please use the hashtag #ADA27CDE.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Houston Physician Ronald F. Kahn Convicted of Conspiracy in $1.5 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

July 19, 2017 - A federal jury convicted a Houston physician today for his role in a scheme involving approximately $1.5 million in fraudulent Medicare claims for home health care services and various medical testing and services.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Porter of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Dallas Region and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) made the announcement.

After a four-day trial, Ronald F. Kahn, M.D., 62, of Harris County, Texas, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive illegal kickbacks. Sentencing has been scheduled for September 25, before U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt, who presided over the trial.

According to evidence presented at trial, from approximately 2006 until 2013, Kahn and others engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicare out of approximately $1.5 million in fraudulent claims for home heath care services in connection with Allied Covenant Home Health, Inc., a Houston home healthcare agency (Allied). Kahn fraudulently admitted patients for home health care with Allied when they did not qualify for such services, the evidence showed. To make it appear that these patients did qualify, Kahn falsified medical records and signed false documents purporting to show that patients admitted to Allied’s home health program satisfied Medicare’s requirements for admission, the evidence showed.

The evidence also showed that Kahn paid illegal kickbacks for patients from Harris Health Care Group, a Houston medical clinic (Harris). Kahn paid illegal kickbacks to the owner of Harris in order to bill Medicare for facet injections that were medically unnecessary, not provided or both, the evidence showed.

The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and Texas MFCU, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Ashlee McFarlane and Trial Attorney Scott Armstrong of the Fraud Section.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations nationwide. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 3,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.
source: Dept. of Justice press release

The Hershey Company Sued For Disability Discrimination of Employee by Federal Agency

Company Refused to Adjust Work Breaks for Three-Year Employee With Back Impairment, Federal Agency Charges
July 19, 2017 - Global candy manufacturer The Hershey Company violated federal law when it refused to accommodate an employee with a disability and chose instead to fire her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to EEOC's suit, Hershey was aware of Kristina Williams's herniated discs and her lifting restrictions at the time of her hire in 2011 as a part-time retail sales merchandiser. Williams was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and took a short medical leave of absence in early 2015. The EEOC's investigation found that when Williams requested flexibility to divide her daily break into smaller portions to help her stay within her lifting restrictions, Hershey refused to allow her to return to work, effectively suspending her for three months. Finally, in a letter dated Aug. 19, 2015, Hershey denied her request for accommodation and instead fired her.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees who have a disability. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. The Hershey Company, Civil Number 2:17-CV-01092) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The agency seeks monetary damages on behalf of Williams, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite, and other injunctive relief.

"Employers cannot ignore a request for a reasonable accommodation from an employee with a disability," said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC's Seattle Field Office. "The law requires an employer to explore possible solutions to ensure that a worker can perform the essential functions of her job."

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley said, "Employers cannot unilaterally decide to respond to an injury by refusing to allow an employer to return to work. According to the ADA, the exploration of possible accommodations must include the input of the employee."

According to company information, The Hershey Company is based in Hershey, Pa., employs over 20,000 people in 37 different states and had over $7.38 million in net sales in 2015, the year in which Williams last worked in the company's Seattle District.

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

Court Ruling Could Expand Special Education Services To More Iowa Students

Iowa - A legal judgment could force Iowa schools to change how they determine which students qualify for special education, potentially allowing thousands of more children to qualify for services, advocates say.

article Mackenzie Ryan for The Des Moines Register | July 21, 2017                                            
Administrative Law Judge Christie J. Scase issued a ruling that requires the Iowa Department of Education to reimburse an Urbandale family for private tutoring costs incurred after their child was denied access to special education programming at school.

The case could have broad implications for Iowa schools.

In her ruling, Scase wrote that the Department of Education should revisit its policies and procedures for determining who qualifies for special education. The state should not use criteria that essentially require a student to be severely behind his or her peers before a disability is recognized, she wrote in the 70-page document.

Potentially, several thousand Iowa students with learning disabilities could qualify for special education services if the department's approach to determining eligibility changes, said Randy Califf, vice president of Decoding Dyslexia Iowa, a parent advocacy group.

"We are hopeful (that any) new rules and procedures will allow for inclusion of children before they fall off the charts, so to speak," he said. "Ideally, processes would take into consideration a student’s capacity to learn as a factor."

The state education department is appealing the case in U.S. District Court and seeking a declaration that its current rules are compliant with federal law.

"Our approach to special education in Iowa has been to not solely focus on labels or diagnoses, but rather on what kids need to succeed in school," said department spokeswoman Staci Hupp.

One family's struggle
The Urbandale family, which is unnamed in court documents, filed a due process complaint against the Iowa Department of Education, the Urbandale school district and Heartland Area Education Agency under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The student, identified only as A.W., enrolled in Urbandale schools in fourth grade after her parents, who previously home-schooled her, grew concerned that she might need special education. A.W. will enter eighth grade in the fall.

The family fought for years to have A.W. qualify for special education services, having her tested multiple times, including an independent evaluation in 2014 that found she may have dyslexia.

But A.W. never qualified for special education, and she did not receive an individualized learning plan, or IEP, despite a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics evaluation that "strongly recommend(ed) that an IEP be put in place," according to Scase's March ruling.

IEPs are legal documents under federal disability law that spell out how a special education student will be accommodated, including measurable learning goals. It's created by a team of educators and experts and includes input from the student's parents. It must be reviewed and updated each year.

The judge ordered the department of education to reimburse the family the more than $1,000 spent on private tutoring over a two-year period, as well as legal fees.

The state is seeking a reversal of this award in district court, saying it is "not liable for the errors made by the district and AEA." Its appeal references the judge's finding that the school "district and the AEA violated (federal law) by determining that A.W. was not a child with a disability."

Leaders from Urbandale schools and Heartland AEA issued a joint statement saying they "have chosen not to appeal the decision of the administrative law judge."

"We believe an expeditious resolution would be beneficial for all parties and will continue to advocate our position," the statement said. 

Qualifying for special education
It's difficult for Iowa students who are not severely behind their peers — such as in the 10th or 12th percentile academically — to qualify for special education under Iowa's current education procedures, the family's attorney, Curt Sytsma, told the Register.

"Effectively, they've required and set a standard so low that many kids with disabilities would not qualify," he said.

While A.W. was never placed on an IEP, school staff did respond to her academic struggles by providing more intensive instruction, including a summer when a principal tutored her each week, according to court documents.

At one point A.W.'s more intensive school supports were cut back without her parents being notified, which would not have occurred if a disability were recognized and A.W. had an IEP, which affords families certain legal rights.

A.W. received academic services as part of a "multi-tiered system of supports" approach, in which schools identify students who need extra help. In 2013, the state education department rolled out the approach statewide; it encompasses both general and special education students, Hupp said.

To determine whether a student qualifies for special education, Hupp said that Iowa schools consider multiple factors, including how the student responds to education and how his or her performance compares to what is expected in the student's age group or grade.

"This information is considered with other unique characteristics of the individual student to determine whether or not the student has a disability and requires special education services," she said.

Califf said students with learning disabilities "are often doing well enough to not qualify for special education." Yet their learning struggles, without the proper recognition and educational approaches, can "result (in a) disastrous school experience."

His advocacy group, Decoding Dyslexia Iowa, has worked to have dyslexia added into Iowa’s educational laws and rules.

Each year, the Iowa Department of Education releases its Condition of Education report. Here are 7 facts about Iowa schools from its 2016 report. Des Moines Register

Chicago Public Schools Making ‘Major Changes’ to Special Ed Funding in 2017

Chicago - After teachers and principals spent the past year criticizing the way Chicago Public Schools handled special education funding, the school district now says it’s planning major changes in the new fiscal year.

article by Matt Masterson for WTTW Chicago Tonight | July 20, 2017                                         
Despite a projected decline of around 8,000 students this fall, CPS announced Thursday special education funding levels will remain flat in the coming school year and that those dollars will no longer be commingled with general education funds. CEO Forrest Claypool said the district will also eliminate an appeals process for frozen special education funding and plans to increase teaching and paraprofessional staffing inside its highest-need classrooms.

“We’ve spent the last year working to make sure that our special education instruction does a better job (to help) diverse learners improve academically,” he told media during a conference call Thursday morning. “We’re focusing on better training, focusing on accountability in the classroom to ensure that our diverse learners can participate in the same sort of gains we’ve seen from general education students.”

The district for the first time last school year opted to commingle special and general education funding dollars into a single pot.

District officials promised every individualized education program (IEP) would still be fully funded and said special education classes would have to be scheduled first before general education classes. But teachers and parents said this limited transparency, making funding more difficult to track, and felt it put the two programs at odds with each other in what some described as a “Hunger Games”-esque struggle for adequate resources.

Ninety-five percent of respondents in a Chicago Principals and Administrators Association survey taken earlier this year preferred separate budgets, and 88 percent said the commingling limited their flexibility when it came to resource decisions.

This school year, CPS will once again split those allocations and fund IEPs based on a school-by-school analysis.

“(The funds) are clearly separated out so each school can see exactly the dollars they have available,” Claypool said. “Those are translated into positions and we’ve also made the requirement that any of those funds that are designated for special ed can only be used for special ed.”

Special education funding remained flat entering last school year as well, but last fall CPS withheld 4 percent of that amount from schools, making those dollars available only through an appeals process to schools in need of additional services.

The district now says it’s doing away with that holdback this year, and will instead distribute those funds directly to schools up front. CPS also plans to fund 34 new teaching and 68 new paraprofessional positions for its cluster classrooms – specialized programs for students with more severe disabilities.
The district is shooting for a ratio of one teacher and three paraprofessionals for every 13 students with severe disabilities, and one teacher and two paraprofessionals for every 13 students with mild disabilities. That represents an increase of one paraprofessional per class over last year's average.
Hanson Park Elementary Principal David Belanger sees that as a positive change. His school includes eight cluster classrooms for about 90 students, and while those have been fully staffed at Hanson, Belanger is happy to see district administration taking a more active role in properly staffing those classes throughout the city.

“It’s a greater level than we’ve seen previously,” he said. “We were using more of our general ed moneys to pay for those positions previously, but now downtown is realizing it's their commitment and they need to support those classrooms.”

That 13-to-1 student/teacher ratio is the baseline set by the Illinois State Board of Education, but CPS plans to examine individual schools to find classrooms in need of additional staffing.

The announcement came as CPS released individual school budgets to principals on Thursday for the upcoming school year. Principals and local school councils now have until next Wednesday to approve and return those to the district.

For more from Chicago's Public Television WTTW, visit: http://www.wttw.com/

Ed Roberts an advocate for inclusion and equality for people with disabilities: "Free Wheeling" video (cc)

Ed Roberts was both an advocate and an activist. He was a leader in the disability civil rights movement and championed the rights of people with disabilities. He was the founder of the first Center for Independent Living and the World Institute on Disability. Ed advocated for his right to attend a university and was a activist in the 504 sit-in held in San Francisco. He was known for a lot of things by a lot of people, but most importantly he believed in empowering others to become advocates and activists.

The video is very informative, and helps to understand Ed Roberts philosophy.

YouTube Uploaded by yodisabledproud on Jan 20, 2012

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Social Security Inspector General Warns Public About SSA 'Employee' Phone Scam

July 23, 2017 - The Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, is warning citizens about a new Social Security Administration (SSA) employee impersonation scheme. SSA and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have recently alerted citizens about an OIG employee impersonation scheme and a scheme targeting former clients of Kentucky disability attorney Eric Conn; the agencies are now receiving reports from citizens across the country about other phone calls from an individual posing as an SSA employee. The caller attempts to acquire personally identifiable information from victims to then edit the victims’ direct deposit, address, and telephone information with SSA.

The reports indicate that the impersonator calls from a telephone number with a 323 area code. The caller claims to be an SSA employee, and in some instances, tells the victim that they are due a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase of their Social Security benefits. The impersonator goes on to ask the victim to verify all of their personal information including their name, date of birth, Social Security number (SSN), parents’ names, etc. to receive the increase. If the impersonator is successful in acquiring this information, they use it to contact SSA and request changes to the victim’s direct deposit, address, and telephone information.

SSA employees occasionally contact citizens by telephone for customer-service purposes. In only a few limited special situations, usually already known to the citizen, an SSA employee may request the citizen confirm personal information over the phone. If a person receives a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from SSA, citizens may report that information to the OIG at 1-800-269-0271 or online via https://oig.ssa.gov/report.
Acting Inspector General Stone continues to warn citizens to be cautious, and to avoid providing information such as your SSN or bank account numbers to unknown persons over the phone or internet unless you are certain of who is receiving it. “You must be very confident that the source is the correct business party, and your information will be secure after you release it,” Stone said.
If a person has questions about any communication—email, letter, text or phone call—that claims to be from SSA or the OIG, please contact your local Social Security office, or call Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to verify its legitimacy. (Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.)
source: Social Security Administration press release

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT - a Documentary about a renegade Jerry's Kid - and Jerry Lewis "MDA Telethon"

TRAILER - YouTube Uploaded by myartwork1 on Sep 15, 2008

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is a half-hour documentary about a renegade Jerry's Kid named Mike Ervin. Mike was a Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) poster child in the 1960s. Today he is a disability rights activist who challenges the MDA's use of pity to raise money in its annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT follows Mike as he organizes Jerry's Orphans, a group that protests against the telethon each year. 

The film offers a critique of the "pity approach" to fundraising by contrasting the telethon's outdated attitudes (personified by Jerry Lewis) with a view into the real life of a disability civil rights activist today.

For the Full Half Hour Documentary, and more go to 

# # #

"Adopt a Smart Ass Cripple" by Mike Ervin : Labor Day (MDA Telethon) 2011


A Test of Wills: Jerry Lewis, Jerry's Orphans, and the Telethon : article from "The Disability Rag" from 1992

"Jerry's Orphans" ; MDA Telethon : Jerry Lewis speaks about the disabled (video)
Mike Ervin publishes and writes the Smart Ass Cripple blog at:

# originally posted Sept. 2011


Wade Blank, a Presbyterian minister from Ohio, first found his passion for civil rights when he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, Alabama. But it wasn’t until 1971 when he began working as the Recreational Director of the youth wing for Heritage House, a nursing home for people with physical and mental disabilities, that he found his calling as an advocate for disability rights. Wade devoted his time and effort to improving the quality of life for the Heritage House youth and was resolute about liberating them from the less-than-ideal conditions of the nursing home. Heritage House refused to accept Blank’s insistence on helping the nursing home patients live independent lives, and he was fired for his progressive agenda. He refused to give up what he had started, so Blank founded Atlantis Community, Inc. in 1975 – an organization dedicated to providing free, individualized care to those in need including housing, meals, in-home care, and job training. Blank inspired a national movement for the differently-abled by advocating for equal opportunity rights ranging from humane, independent care to wheelchair-accessible public transit. In order for these people to live independently, they needed transportation, and so ADAPT was born.   

ADAPT members march in Los Angeles to protest the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) in October of 1985.

The overarching mission of the Atlantis Community was, and still is, to provide as many of life’s necessities—the necessities often taken for granted by those who do not live life with a physical or mental disability—as possible. Blank and those who resided at Atlantis decided to form an activist group to garner as much attention as possible for disability rights – ADAPT (American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today; once known as the American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit). The members of this militant-style activist group first focused their efforts on the Regional Transportation District (RTD), the origin of the initial rallies, which drew major attention to the cause. ADAPT members traveled across the nation protesting the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and various bus companies, like Greyhound, to get wheelchair lifts installed on buses. Many ADAPT members were arrested during these protests, calling further attention to the lack of preparedness of local police departments’ inaccessible squad cars and facilities. Police officers erected makeshift barriers to detain the ADAPT members in wheelchairs because they had no other way of arresting and transporting the protestors. The second major wave of ADAPT protests targeted Social Security, health care policies, and Medicaid. Their ultimate goal was to obtain government support for attendant care and independent living funds. Eventually, ADAPT began protesting restaurants, schools, parking lots, post offices, housing communities, casinos, churches, and more. Wherever wheelchairs could not go, ADAPT was there to take action and demand access. 

ADAPT members block a bus with their wheelchairs to demonstrate RTD's inaccessible buses on February 15, 1985.

It took Blank and members of ADAPT decades to encourage legislation that demanded equal access to public transit, in addition to accessible public restrooms, airlines, and courthouses, for patrons using wheelchairs. Even after Blank’s tragic death in 1993, his family and the members of both the Atlantis Community and ADAPT continued his legacy by fighting against the discrimination that differently-abled people still face to this day. 

Denver Public Library Article by KATIE RUDOLPH for  | May 18, 2015
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