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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Ten-Year-Old Girl with Cerebral Palsy Facing Deportation after Seeking Medical Care in USA

Rosa Maria was taken by border patrol after seeking medical care. Call the Office of Refugee Resettlement today and demand they release her back to her family immediately.

 (Photo: Contributed)
On Tuesday, October 24 2017, 10-year-old Rosa Maria Hernandez was en route to an emergency gallbladder surgery when the ambulance carrying her was stopped at an immigration checkpoint.

Rather than simply allowing the ambulance to proceed, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol sent vehicles to follow Rosa Maria to the hospital, 80 miles away, and camped outside of her room until she was discharged. Border Patrol took Rosa Maria into custody and referred her to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, separating her from her parents and family members. Currently, Rosa Maria is jailed in a federal facility for kids, alone, and could be detained for weeks without being able to see her parents.

Border Patrol needs to immediately address and change their policies regarding checkpoints for people seeking medical attention. Hospitals are considered a sensitive location under the Department of Homeland Security’s own policy, and Border Patrol agents should not be arresting people there, especially at a children’s hospital.

Border Patrol’s decision to target a young girl at a children’s hospital is unconscionable and threatens to keep parents and sick children from seeking the health care they need if such practices are allowed.

PLEASE Contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement today and demand they release Rosa Maria Hernandez immediately. 

The ACLU has information on how to contact the Refugee Resettlement: CLICK HERE

Shared from ACLU 

Developing Chicago’s Next Generation of Leaders with Disabilities

Chad Turner, back row at far right, and the ADA 25 Advancing Leadership 2017 Fellowship class.
On October 13, 2017 Chad Turner was a featured speaker at the CBLN Disability Inclusion Opportunity Summit. Turner—vice-president, finance & business manager at JPMorgan Chase, and a member of the ADA 25 Advancing Leadership 2017 Fellowship class—shared how this program for emerging leaders with disabilities has positively impacted his civic engagement and leadership, excerpted here.

Article from The Chicago Community Trust blog with the author being Chad Turner            

The 2017 Leadership Institute consisted of 16 individuals, with a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, working together with one common goal: strengthen our skills to serve civic leadership roles in the Chicago region.

We trained on several topics including public speaking and identifying communication styles, the history of the disability movement and assessing our individual leadership traits. What I personally took away from the experience was the several friendships with individuals who can share a unique view into who I am.

I have worn hearing aids since I was in the second grade. But I don’t consider them my disability—I have found them to be a source of great strength. It taught me the value of hard work at a very young age, and more importantly how to listen.

As a result of Advancing Leadership, I have had the opportunity to take on public service roles at three well-known public entities in the Chicago area:

First, earlier this year I was named a governing member ambassador for the Chicago Zoological Society. The ambassadors serve as advocates for the Brookfield Zoo and advisors on the Zoo’s efforts to promote inclusion of the community through efforts to open exhibits to all citizens of Chicago. The Zoo received the 2016 Angela Peterson Excellence in Diversity Award Top Honors from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for its “A Zoo For All” suite of diversity and inclusion initiatives.

As the saying goes, one good opportunity leads to another. In May I attended an On The Table event at Microsoft where I shared the great work at the Zoo. This resulted in an invitation to join the Museum of Science and Industry’s Mission Accessible Task Force, that advises the Museum on its content and design to enhance accessibility and equity. Like the Zoo, MSI is taking a leadership role in its industry to promote greater inclusion, and I am proud to be a part of both of their efforts.

My third opportunity: I was recently invited to join the finance committee for Access Living starting in 2018.

I know these opportunities would not have been possible without the support of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership. And it all started because I applied to be part of the Leadership Institute last year.

I would like to challenge you to identify emerging leaders with disabilities that you know, to apply before the October 31 deadline. I can’t wait to be in your seats next year, watching someone you identified this year be next year’s speaker.

For more information on ADA 25 CHICAGO, visit: http://www.ada25chicago.org/

Call to Action for The Chronic Pain Community

For the Chronic Pain, these are very, very trying times. The pressure on opioid prescribing combined with the lack of any public policy progress in developing a chronic pain policy have created a malaise that is palpable. One very intelligent and somewhat iconoclastic chronic pain advocate is retired pharmacist Steve Ariens. He […]

U.S. Access Board Meeting and Webcast (November 15, 2017)

Laptop with Board meeting on screenThe U.S. Access Board will hold its next meeting on November 15 from 1:30 – 3:00 (ET) at the Board's conference space in downtown Washington, D.C. The public is welcome to attend in person or through a live webcast of the meeting. A public comment period will be held during the final 15 minutes of the meeting. Those interested in making comments in person or by phone should send an email to Rose Bunales at bunales@access-board.gov by November 8 with "Access Board meeting - Public Comment" in the subject line. Please include your name, organization, state, and topic of your comment in the body of the message.
Meeting of the U.S. Access Board     
November 15, 1:30 – 3:00 (ET)
Webcast link: www.access-board.gov/webcast
Access Board Conference Center 
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.
source: United States Access Board

Illinois Parents Accused of Leaving Disabled Teen Locked in Filthy Room for 2 Years

Prosecutors say Charles Hopkins III, 59, and his longtime girlfriend, Marinda Y. Hicks, 38,  locked their mentally impaired daughter inside a squalid, waste-covered bedroom for at least two years.

Chicago, IL - The south suburban parents of nine children locked their adult daughter, who has severe cognitive disabilities, inside a squalid, waste-covered bedroom for at least two years, prosecutors said Saturday.

article by William Lee | Chicago Tribune | Oct. 28, 2017                                                           
Cook County Judge Sophia Atcherson on Saturday ordered Charles Hopkins III, 59, and his longtime girlfriend, Marinda Y. Hicks, 38, released without posting bail and both with electronic monitoring on several neglect-related charges, including endangerment of a child, criminal neglect of a person with a disability and abuse or neglect of a physically disabled person by a caregiver.

Both were scheduled to appear before another judge at the Markham Courthouse next week.

Hopkins and Hicks have nine children together, ranging in age from 1 to 20, prosecutors said at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. Since at least 2015, both parents used a locking gate to kept their 18-year-old daughter confined to a bedroom in the home they shared with their other children in the 1800 block of West Vermont Street in Blue Island.

The young woman, who has the mental capacity of a small child, was not allowed to leave the room, authorities said. Her family installed a portable toilet inside her room, but only emptied it every four or five days, said Assistant State’s Attorney Kim Pressling.

The daughter, who cannot care for or clean herself, was fed through the bars of the gate and slept on a mattress covered in human waste and menstrual blood, according to authorities.

The windows to the young woman’s bedroom were barred and a board covered the bars, according to court documents. The couple’s home lacked hot water and food, and the home’s roof was caving in.

Previously, the key to the daughter’s bedroom was held by the woman’s parents and one other person, authorities said. But in May, Hopkins changed the lock to the gate and carried the only key with him to work, meaning no one in the home could let the woman out when he wasn’t there, Pressling said.

During the hearing, Hopkins’ private attorney Elliot Zinger asked for a signature bond, citing the lack of a criminal record for his client, adding that there was “a lot more to the story” than what prosecutors claimed.

The judge allowed for their release, but barred contact between Hopkins and Hicks with children except for their own minor children, as long as they were in compliance with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

A DCFS representative wasn’t immediately available Saturday night.


Outtakes: 9th Annual Disability Culture Cabaret - Chicago Nov. 10, 2017 - free event

Come enjoy live performances of poetry, spoken-word, comedy, and more!

Matt Bodett
Louis de Marco
Gary Arnold
Mike Ervin
Arlene Malinowski
Di Reed
Ben Saylor

Date: Friday Nov 10th, 2017
Time: 6:30 — 8:00 PM

115 West Chicago Ave,
Chicago, IL 60654

Personal Assistants, Narrative Description & Sign Language Interpretation will be provided
Sponsored by: Access Living, Bodies of Work, UIC Department of Disability and Human Development, Illinois Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts

Kaiser Aluminum Settles EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit with $175,000 and Job Offer

Oct. 24, 2017 - Kaiser Aluminum Corporation, the leading producer of fabricated aluminum products in the United States, will pay $175,000 and reinstate its hiring offer to a qualified production worker to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's suit, Kaiser withdrew its job offer for production work at its Trentwood mill in Spokane after Donald McMurray's medical records showed a workplace injury from over 10 years ago. The EEOC found that McMurray, with a long history of construction work at the time, was a well-qualified candidate fully capable of meeting the job's physical demands.

"All I ever wanted was for Kaiser to let me prove that I was physically able to do the job," said McMurray. "My medical history didn't paint the true picture of who I am today and what I can do. But that's all behind me, and I am excited that my future is with an industry leader like Kaiser."

Failing to hire a person based on a record of a prior disability or a perceived disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington (EEOC v. Kaiser Aluminum Washington, LLC, 2:16-cv-00343-SAB) after an investigation by EEOC investigator Toni Haley and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"EEOC and Kaiser worked hard together to resolve a tough case and further the objectives of the ADA," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Teri Healy. "We are very pleased with the outcome of this lawsuit and appreciate Kaiser's willingness to work with the EEOC to resolve this matter and its commitment to its obligations under the law."

Seattle EEOC Field Director Nancy Sienko added, "Mr. McMurray will be a great addition to the Kaiser team. His reinstatement and Kaiser's implementation of new hiring procedures are a win-win for all involved. Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring and enforcing the ADA are high priorities for the EEOC."

With headquarters in Foothill Ranch, Calif., Kaiser employs more than 2,000 people at its 12 facilities in North America, and, according to www.kaiseraluminum.org , is a leading producer of fabricated aluminum products, with reported net sales of $1.4 billion and value-added revenue of $790 million in 2015.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Chicago Public Schools CPS Secretly Overhauled Special Education At Students’ Expense

After Julie Rodriguez enrolled her 10-year-old autistic son at a public school on Chicago’s Southwest Side last year, she found herself navigating a maze of paperwork that she said seemed designed to prevent her son from getting the special education services he needed.

solid article by Sarah Karp for WBEZ91.5Chicago | Oct 16, 2017                                       
Rodriguez had just moved to the city from the suburbs, and she brought with her a legally binding special education plan for her son from his suburban public school. She also had a thick binder detailing his behavioral and academic problems, including a detailed analysis from some of the most highly respected doctors in Chicago.

In addition to autism, he suffers from attention deficit disorder, speech delays, and oppositional behavior disorder.

But it took six disastrous weeks for Chicago Public Schools and the staff at Peck Elementary to determine what she already knew — that her son needed an aide by his side all the time and a laundry list of other services.

“The security guards were calling me every day,” Rodriguez said of that six-week period. “They have a police officer on staff — that person was calling me. ... Everybody had all these complaints. And I am like, ‘He needs all of these other services that he is not getting.’”

Little did she know that she came to Chicago just as the school system was attempting a major overhaul of its special education program, which serves more than 52,000 students and consumes about $900 million of CPS’ $5.7 billion operating budget each year.

A WBEZ investigation into that 2016 overhaul found officials relied on a set of guidelines — developed behind closed doors and initially kept secret — that resulted in limiting services for special education students, services like busing, one-on-one aides, and summer school. This overhaul was orchestrated by outside auditors with deep ties to CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. They had no expertise in special education.

In addition to interviews with parents of special-needs children, WBEZ analyzed school financial records and discovered a pattern where students did not receive services last year that they had previously counted on, raising questions about whether the rules violated federal laws aimed at protecting special-needs children. For example, the time children spent with specialists dropped by about 12 percent last year, WBEZ found.

At the same time CPS revamped special education services, it also changed the way it funded the program, making it impossible for even the most veteran expert to figure out where the school district was cutting back and by how much.

Back then, Claypool insisted he was not cutting special education, but now officials admit they budgeted substantially less and spent less.

Elizabeth Keenan, the recently installed head of special education for CPS, said the changes were about making sure students got the right help. In the past, services were given out without attention to whether they were working, she said.

“We want to make sure we are creating equitable outcomes and that students, when they are in special ed, continue to see academic growth,” she said.

But CPS’ new rules made it even harder to get children what they needed in a system that has long failed to properly support special-needs students, said Matt Cohen, a lawyer who specializes in special education and has worked in the field for more than 30 years.

“The overall effect is really to wear parents down in every way that they can, and wear the staff down in every way that they can, so that the ultimate outcome is giving less,” Cohen said. “It is equivalent to the old fable about a death by 1,000 lashes. This is a death by 1,000 slow cuts.”

A budget crisis and an internal report
For a school district that seems perennially in a budget crisis, CPS was in an especially dire financial position in the summer of 2016. It could only make payroll and pay for teacher pensions by taking out expensive loans. And officials could only claim the budget was balanced when they included state money that was not guaranteed.

There was an urgent need to cut expenses. And special education costs were rising.

But federal law mandates a “free appropriate” education for disabled children, and school districts cannot justify denying services by saying it can’t afford them.

Claypool and Pat Baccellieri, the director of special education at the time, insisted that special education needed fixing, not because they needed to save money but because the performance of special-needs students lagged behind other students.

In an internal CPS report released in July 2016, school officials made the case that too many students were identified as having special needs, especially black and Latino boys. They also said service delivery was inefficient and unevenly applied across schools, and the report suggested that CPS had a higher staff-to-student ratio than other school districts.

This was problematic, the report stated, because all these extra resources were not leading to better academic outcomes for special education students.

Longtime advocate Rod Estvan said officials were correct about the stagnant, troubling achievement gap between special education students and their peers, but he noted that about half of special education students have learning disabilities, which can make it difficult for them to perform on standardized tests.

Estvan works for Chicago’s premier disability rights group, Access Living, and spent six years monitoring CPS’ special education as part of a federal consent decree that has since been lifted. He said he is outraged that CPS’ solution was to withdraw resources.

Many of the report’s contentions — and hence the justification for the overhaul — are just plain wrong, including that CPS has too many students in special education and is spending too much on staff, he charged.

To counter the argument that CPS puts too many students in special education, he said that CPS’ percentage of special education students mirrors the national average of 13 percent. And Chicago’s average is less than many big city school districts, including New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, according to 2014 to 2015 data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.

How CPS’ special education population compares to other U.S. cities

The size of CPS’ special education population is comparable to other major school districts, according to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2014-2015 school year.

  • New York City
  • Boston
  • Milwaukee
  • Baltimore
  • Chicago
  • National average
  • San Antonio
  • Atlanta

Additionally, CPS’ report claimed that the school district is over-identifying black and Latino males for special education in particular. But a Better Government Association analysis this year disputed that claim. While those students make up 43 percent of the student body, they account for only 38 percent of students in special education, the BGA found. White males make up only 5 percent of the student body but account for 15 percent of special needs students.

And then there is the cost question. Although CPS’ special education costs went up between 2014 and 2016, CPS was spending right at the state average, according to an annual expenditure analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education. Sixteen school districts spend $10,000 more per special education student than CPS.

Special education spending in CPS matches state average

In Illinois, 16 school districts spend $10,000 more per student than CPS.

  • Lincolnshire
  • Summit
  • Schaumburg
  • Naperville
  • State average
  • Chicago
  • Elgin


The information represents what each town’s school district spends per student on special education.

Estvan said he understands that a non-educator like Claypool might be puzzled that so much money goes to a relatively small group of children. But Estvan argued it is not that special education students in Chicago get too much; it is that they get too little.

“Special education is not designed to be a permanent status, but in CPS it becomes a permanent status,” he said. “Why does it become a permanent status? Because the services are so underwhelming that they cannot provide the additional help you need to get over the hump.”

Bring in the auditors
Before the release of the report on special education, CPS quietly paid auditors from some of the biggest names in consulting — Crowe Horwath, PricewaterhouseCoopersand KPMG — to analyze special education data and work with its special education department to come up with changes, according to a WBEZ analysis of nearly 1,600 pages of invoices and contracts.

The auditors worked under what’s called “professional service” contracts, a notoriously vague type of contract that requires no public input. These contracts essentially put businesses in a rolodex that CPS can tap for a broad range of work that isn’t publically disclosed.

In several billing documents reviewed by WBEZ, Crowe Horwath made clear it was deeply involved in crafting the rules and documentation needed for a child to receive special education services — things like busing or an aide to accompany students during the school day.

In one document, for example, it cited this central task: “Developed and documented protocols around eight key aspects in a student’s IEP (individualized education plan).” These consultants billed CPS as much as $350 an hour.

A CPS invoice from Crowe Horwath consultants lists their tasks related to CPS 'diverse learners' or special education students, including 'working to create a standardized manual that will act as a procedural handbook.'
These big professional service contracts began under Claypool, who took over CPS in the summer of 2015, and have grown exponentially under his administration. Many of these contractors have long-standing professional ties to Claypool and his team. Altogether, these three firms have been paid more than $14 million under these deals since October of 2015.

Denise Little, a senior advisor to Claypool, downplayed the role of the consultants. Little said she and other CPS officials wrote the protocols and that the consultants essentially edited them.

Claypool defended the use of the auditors. He said special education was suffering because no one was carefully tracking services and checking whether “best practices” were followed.

“(The auditors) are experts in data and they are experts in IT systems and they are experts in process improvement,” he told WBEZ. “That is their expertise. They have decades of success at top levels of management consulting firms, and that is what was required.”

Keenan, CPS’ current head of special education, noted that other school districts have similar manuals.

Changes to special education funding and services
After the new guidelines were created with help from outside auditors, CPS officials turned their attention to the pot of money used to fund special education.

At the start of last school year, CPS budgeted about $29 million less than the year before at its more than 500 district-run schools, a WBEZ analysis of CPS data found. CPS officials said they ultimately spent at least $15 million more than budgeted, but they could not provide a full explanation of where that money went. CPS’ special education enrollment dropped by about 1 percent, but not nearly enough to explain the major dip in funding.

At CPS’ charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, the district spent about $5 million more last year for special needs students. Those schools saw a slight uptick in special education enrollment. Cutting special education in charter schools is more difficult than in district-run schools because charter contracts spell out how they are reimbursed for expenses.

The cutbacks at CPS’ district-run schools meant there were 350 fewer special education teachers and 76 fewer aides in the spring of 2017 compared to the year before, according to WBEZ’s analysis of CPS data.

As CPS began cutting its special education budget, children got less time with specialists, such as occupational therapists and psychologists. The time with these clinicians decreased by about 12 percent on average over the course of last year.

Special education students received fewer services last year

Compared with the previous year, time with specialists dropped in the 2016-2017 school year even though the number of students with special needs stayed about the same.














This data does not include charter schools or alternative schools.
Time with psychologists dropped the most by nearly 30 percent, while time with social workers and physical therapists dropped by about 13 percent.

The number of clinicians also dropped. Though CPS employee records show almost no change in budgeted positions in September, there were 100 clinician vacancies by March.

And the number of special-needs children who got an extended school year — extra class time, usually in the summer — dropped by 56 percent last year, from 7,084 to 3,176.

In an interview with WBEZ, CPS officials involved with the special education overhaul said if students were denied services, it was because they didn’t qualify under the new criteria.

Yolanda Williams’ daughter was one of thousands of students affected. She has Down syndrome and had qualified for occupational therapy for years, Williams said. But last year the staff at Penn Elementary in North Lawndale suddenly stopped providing it to her, she said.

Williams’ daughter sees an occupational therapist outside of school at the University of Illinois-Chicago. That therapist says the girl still needs the extra help at school, Williams said.

“I am trying to understand what happened and why?” she said.

The UIC therapist is teaching her daughter life skills such as brushing her teeth and tying her shoes, Williams said. But she said her daughter’s handwriting is virtually unreadable and she doesn’t know how to read, which are skills an in-school occupational therapist could work on.

Parents begin to notice

Katherine Gladson, a legal aid attorney with expertise in special education, has worked for years helping parents advocate for their children at various Chicago public schools.

She said in previous years, children who needed special education services would go through an evaluation, and then an agreement would be made between the teacher, school clinicians, and a parent.

But under the rules in the new special education manual, that agreement is now only the first step. Next comes reams of documentation and outside approvals.

“It was the most frustrating thing,” Gladson said of her experiences last year. She said in this new process, parents and staff who know the child best don’t have as much power as they once had.

Not only is the process frustrating, it’s also potentially a violation of federal laws designed to ensure special education students get the services they need in a timely fashion, she said.

“That is where we fall into the cycle of delays and potential inappropriate denial of services,” she said.

When Rodriguez enrolled her son at Peck Elementary last fall, she had no idea new special education guidelines existed.

But Rodriguez and her son dealt with its effects. WBEZ is not using her son’s name to protect his privacy.

Before coming to CPS last fall, she took her son out of school for a week for an in-depth evaluation at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Lurie psychiatrists said Rodriguez’s son needed a highly specialized school. Absent that, he should have an adult by his side, helping him calm down and focus, Rodriguez said they recommended.

Rodriguez said the special education teacher at Peck agreed that her son’s behavior was “at another level.”

But to get him an aide, the teacher had to spend weeks last fall documenting his every move in 15 minute increments and explaining why that behavior required the attention of an aide.

During that time, Rodriguez said her son mostly sat idle. Fourth grade essentially started without him.

Eventually, CPS approved a shared aide that would also help other students. But in practice, the school allowed the aide to stay by his side nearly all the time. She was thrilled but also worried about the school’s unwillingness to put the full-time aide in her son’s legally binding education plan. She said the experience has made her suspicious of CPS.

“They want a way of just pulling it from him,” Rodriguez said. “Just having control over if he is going to have it one day and not the other day.”

Just as Rodriguez was trying to get her son an aide, lawyers and advocates in Chicago got wind that the secret new rules existed. Amy Zimmerman, director of the Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, said her phone was ringing off the hook all summer and fall from parents panicked that their disabled children would no longer get bus rides to school.

Many parents had young children who were placed in special preschools far from their homes, and they had no way to get their children there, she said.

Zimmerman said she felt blindsided by the whirlwind of complaints.

“We didn’t know where it was coming from,” she said

Zimmerman said she eventually learned that CPS had overhauled its guidelines and created the secret manual. She said creating a manual for special education is not necessarily a bad idea. Written with the help of special education lawyers and parents, it could help standardize practices and create more parity in services across the city. Getting the right help for a student often can depend on the insistence and persistence of the parent and the school staff, she said.

District officials defended the manual’s development, saying CPS central office staff drafted it. But Zimmerman said CPS did not work with parents, school staff, and the city’s special education lawyers who she says best know the realities of working on special education inside the city’s schools. The changes they instituted meant some kids lost services they had relied on in the past and, in some cases, were legally entitled to, she said.

The manual, for example, prohibited disabled preschoolers from getting bus service, Zimmerman explained.

“The policy was inappropriate and frankly illegal,” she said.

She and some parents went public with their complaints. At a Chicago Board of Education meeting in September 2016, Claypool said he had listened to advocates and would allow preschoolers to take the bus.

But Zimmerman said she fears many parents who had been told there was no busing to special education preschools had already decided by then not to enroll their children.

Summer school was also severely restricted.

Teachers were required to document how much students would regress over the summer without summer school. Then, they could only request summer school during particular months. And special meetings with parents often were required to apply for summer school.

As a result, summer school enrollment for special education dropped by more than half.

“Basically a lot of special education teachers went into revolt over the paperwork,” Estvan said. “They just said, ‘Well this is too much.’”

Rodriguez’s son was only given four weeks of summer school — 16 days for three hours a day. She wanted eight weeks, but the teacher checked a box on a form indicating he would only regress three weeks during the summer without more schooling. Rodriguez said the teacher told her she wasn’t aware that checking that box would result in less summer school.

Also, because his individualized education plan said he only needed a shared aide, he didn’t get one during summer, she said. He also didn’t get speech therapy, even though he stutters badly and has a fluency problems, Rodriguez said.

Chicago’s most vulnerable students
Students with disabilities are among the least likely to graduate from CPS, and those with emotional disabilities, like Rodriguez’s son, are among the least likely to ever get a diploma, according to a 2009 study by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research.

Advocates and parents said they cannot understand why CPS targeted special education services as a place to save money. CPS officials stressed they are not trying to take away services from children, but rather make sure they get the right services.

Estvan said he’s especially disturbed by the secretive nature of this overhaul. CPS’ decision to shift so many items around in the budget last year means there is virtually no trail of what is spent on these students, he said.

He accused CPS of doing this intentionally “to mask this whole thing, to make it less transparent.”

At the very least, this feeds skepticism from families of students with disabilities about the level of services actually delivered to their children, he said.

Claypool, however, insisted that the budgeting change was an attempt to make principals prioritize the needs of special education students.

For this school year, Claypool said overall spending for special education is expected to stay the same as last year, with a slight increase for the most severely disabled students.

Meanwhile, CPS quietly posted an updated manual online this summer. Lawyers said it incorporates some changes they demanded but problems remain. Zimmerman said it is still cumbersome; written at a college level and only provided in English.

“This is a dense document with tons of burdens put on parents,” she said.

In practice, this means the most onerous — and potentially illegal — parts of the original manual are gone, but students likely can expect fewer services this year, she said.

Rodriguez said she is praying for a better year. But so far, she has been disappointed.

Her concerns are heightened this year as her son transitions to a middle school. She has heard the school has problems with drugs, gangs, and bullying.

“I am just worried he is just going to fall into the bad influences because he wants to have friends,” she said. “He tries to warm up to other students. I am just worried some kids are going to take advantage of him.”

And her son lost his full-time aide, just as she feared because it wasn’t spelled out in his education plan last year. At his new school, he is sharing his aide with another student. In addition, Rodriguez said she has witnessed the aide working with all the students in her son’s special education class.

And she said her son has started to act out.

Her next special education meeting at his school is scheduled for the end of October. She has hired Matt Cohen, the attorney with years of experience, to help her.

Rodriguez said the services her son was denied last year — summer school, speech therapy, and weeks without an aide — compound over time, making it that much harder to get him on track.

But she focuses on what he does have — her support. She is a single mother and is often tired when she gets home from work, but she tries to spend a few hours every evening teaching him.

Rodriguez said she will keep fighting for her son. All she wants, she said, is to give him the best chance possible to live up to his potential.

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.
Editor's note:
CPS disputes racial and ethnic demographic data on special education students presented in this story, which come from a Better Government Association report that ran in January.

In an interview with WBEZ, the Better Government Association said it stands by its reporting and that CPS has never asked for a correction.

In a letter to WBEZ, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said CPS data shows a “dramatic over-representation” of African American and Latino males in special education who are placed in “more restrictive educational environments … This means that African American and Latino boys are pulled out of the general education classroom more often,” which CPS says can have “detrimental effects.”

CPS officials also said white boys are not overrepresented in special education, as the BGA reported. They say just 5.5 percent of all white males are identified for special education, not 15 percent as the BGA reported.


Americans Support for Legalizing Marijuana - All Time High in 2017

Americans continue to warm to legalizing marijuana, with 64% now saying its use should be made legal. This is the highest level of public support Gallup (News) has found for the proposal in nearly a half-century of measurement. 

article by by Justin McCarthy for Gallup News | Oct 25, 2017                                                
The latest figure, based on an Oct. 5-11 Gallup poll, follows shifts in the U.S. legal landscape regarding marijuana since Gallup's 2016 measure. While still illegal at the federal level, the issue was featured on a number of state ballot initiatives in 2016, and with eight states and the District of Columbia having fully legalized marijuana, more than one in five Americans live in a state where they can legally enjoy use of the drug.

Gallup first asked national adults about their views on the topic in 1969, when 12% supported legalization. Support had more than doubled by the end of the next decade but changed little throughout the 1980s and 1990s. By 2001, however, about a third of Americans favored legalizing marijuana, and support has steadily increased since. A majority of Americans have consistently supported legalizing marijuana since 2013.

The trajectory of Americans' views on marijuana is similar to that of their views on same-sex marriage over the past couple of decades. On both issues, about a quarter supported legalization in the late 1990s, and today 64% favor each. Over the past several years, Gallup has found that Americans have become more liberal on a variety of social issues.

Majority of Republicans Now Support Legalizing Marijuana
Democrats and independents have historically been much more likely than Republicans to say marijuana should be legalized. In 2009, Democrats were the first partisan group to see majority support for legalization, followed by independents in 2010.

This year for the first time, a majority of Republicans express support for legalizing marijuana; the current 51% is up nine percentage points from last year.

Bottom Line
As efforts to legalize marijuana at the state level continue to yield successes, public opinion, too, has shifted toward greater support. The Department of Justice under the current Republican administration has been perceived as hostile to state-level legalization. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions could find himself out of step with his own party if the current trends continue. Rank-and-file Republicans' views on the issue have evolved just as Democrats' and independents' have, though Republicans remain least likely to support legalizing pot.

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 5-11, 2017, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

President Trump's Dept of Education “Confused” About Protections for Students with Disabilities — So Scrapped Dozens

The Trump administration is rolling back guidelines meant to protect students with disabilities
President Donald Trump with Betsy DeVos
article by TAYLOR LINK for Salon Media Group | Oct 23. 2017                                                 
Education secretary Betsy DeVos quietly rescinded 72 policy guidelines on the rights of students with disabilities over the weekend, The Washington Post reported.

When pressed by Democratic senators about during her confirmation about The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which dozens of the memos deleted by DeVos dealt with, the wealthy heiress and charter school advocate admitted that she had "confused it."

Devos' latest move comes as the Education Department seeks to follow through on President Donald Trump's executive order “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens.” The presidential action launched a review by department officials into regulations pertaining to disabled students.

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services revealed that it had “a total of 72 guidance documents that have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective — 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA),” The Post reported. The document that explained students’ rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act were one of the guidances rescinded.

Overall, the documents at issue here — some of which had been in place since the 1980s, according to The Post — provided information about the rights of students with disabilities and explained how federal funds could be used for special education.

Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Va., said in a statement that the documents rescinded by DeVos' department "focused on critical clarifications of the regulations required to meet the needs of students with disabilities and provide them a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment."

"Notwithstanding the actions taken by the Department today, the regulations still remained enforced; however they lack the clarification the guidance provided," The Post reported.

Scott asserted that the latest decision was another example of "disturbing actions taken by the Trump Administration to undermine civil rights for vulnerable Americans."

Trump's proposed policies thus far have been ruthless to Americans with disabilities.

The various iterations of the health care legislation he supported contained drastic Medicaid cuts that would have affected people with disabilities. ADAPT, a national advocacy group for disabled rights, organized a die-in in June in response to the Senate GOP's healthcare plan.

Policy rollbacks have defined Betsy DeVos' time as education secretary. Her department already scaled back investigations into civil rights violations at the nation’s public schools and universities, another decision made to ease the burden of regulations.

Monday, October 23, 2017

On-time Performance in City of Chicago Paratransit Service in Question

Transportation Delayed is Transportation Denied:
Report of On-time Performance in Pace's City of Chicago Paratransit Service
October 22, 2017 (Press Release)

Study Finds Only 62% of Chicago Paratransit Rides On-Time
Coalition Files Complaint with Federal Transit Administration

CHICAGO - A Report released today by Access Living finds that only 62% of the 186 paratransit pick-ups recorded through multiple surveys around Chicago were on-time. In contrast, Pace - which administers the paratransit program in Chicago - generally reports an on-time pick-up performance rate of 87.5%.

The surveys also found that when pick-ups were late, they were often very late. 41% of late pick-ups were over 40 minutes late. 16% were over an hour late.

Paratransit is the public transportation system for people whose disabilities make it too difficult for them to ride conventional public transportation. To use the system, paratransit riders schedule pick-ups 24 hours in advance of a trip, and arrange a specific pick-up time with the paratransit carrier. Pace considers a pick-up to be on-time if it occurs within 20 minutes of the scheduled pick-up time.

Even though paratransit vehicles are equipped with GPS technology that can track specific pick-up times, Pace's on-time performance reports rely on driver self-reporting. Because the on-time rate in the surveys is so different from the rate reported by Pace, the Report concludes that Pace's reliance on driver self-reporting is misplaced and Pace's published on-time rate is not accurate.

Concurrent with the release of this Report, a coalition of organizations filed a complaint with the Federal Transit Administration ("FTA"). The complaint alleges that Pace's on-time performance is so low that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

To fix this problem, the complaint asks the FTA to demand that Pace: (a) track pick-up times via its GPS capability, (b) enforce penalty clauses already in its contracts for late pick-ups, and (c) appoint an independent auditor to both uncover the reasons for the low on-time performance rate and propose action steps for improvement.

"This is about our basic civil rights," said Dr. Ayo Maat, President of IMPRUVE, a paratransit advocacy group. "We can't participate in society, hold down a job, or even get regular medical care if we don't have reasonably reliable transportation. Chicago's paratransit system isn't reliable enough to meet those needs."

For more information, contact Charles Petrof, Access Living, at 312.640.2124 (voice), 312.640.2169 (tty), cpetrof@accessliving.org (email). The report can be downloaded at this link.

source: Access Living of Metro Chicago

# # #

The Chicago Tribune published a article:
Pace service for disabled riders 'unacceptably poor,' advocate survey shows
CBS2 News report:
Pace Defends Service, Responds To Access Living Report Criticism

There are also other issues pertaining to PACE Suburban Bus transparency in the Paratransit service provided in the City of Chicago, maybe some of the long overlooked and ignored issues will finally come to light. - Jim W. at Ability Chicago Info

"Innovative Ideas for Ensuring Your Emergency Operations Plans Are Inclusive for the Whole Community" Webinar Nov. 9th, 2017

Ensuring your Emergency Operations Plans are inclusive of the whole community can come with challenges. In this presentation, we will explore innovative, efficient, and effective tools that will guide an agency to meet ADA requirements for emergency preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. Resources will be shared that will assist plans with compliance, while building comprehensive and collaborative partnerships in communities to enhance emergency plans.
Learning objectives:
  • Raise awareness of what an agency needs to do to ensure that emergency operations are in compliance.
  • Raise confidence in bringing the appropriate agencies to the table to help build inclusive plans.
  • Learn the resource tools needed to comply with ADA regulations for emergency plans.
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 midnight, November 8th, 2017.

Kathy Gerk served as the Emergency Services Manager for the City of Richmond Fire Department Office of Emergency Services for 28 years. Ms. Gerk developed and implemented the REACT (Richmond Emergency Action Community Teams) in 1995. This program was developed from the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program, and then customized to meet Richmond's specialized needs and threats adding hazardous materials awareness, shelter-in-place instructions, as well as a communications component. The REACT program was groundbreaking, as training was implemented at Richmond High School. The program was awarded the Helen Putnam Award of Excellence for five consecutive years beginning in 1997.
Kathy has served on numerous committees across the city, county, state and nation including Chair of the IAEM (International Association of Emergency Managers) Access and Inclusion Caucus, Chair of the California Governors CERT Advisory Work Group, Chair of Contra Costa County Cities Citizens Corps/CERT Committee, Chair of City of Richmond PWD/E (People with Disabilities/Elderly) Work Group, among several others. She was instrumental in developing the C8 (Contra Costa County Cities Citizens Corps CERT Committee) promoting partnership efforts between emergency services agencies and the communities they serve. She has received numerous awards including FEMA's 2009 Honorable Mention for National Citizens Corps Achievement Award Celebrating Resilient Communities - one of five in the nation.

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.

Transportation Research Board Issues Airport Guide "Enhancing Airport Wayfinding for Aging Travelers and Persons with Disabilities"

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has published a guidebook on airport wayfinding for people who are elderly or have a disability under its Airport Cooperative Research Program. 

Enhancing Airport Wayfinding for Aging Travelers and Persons with Disabilities (cover)
The new resource, "Enhancing Airport Wayfinding for Aging Travelers and Persons with Disabilities", offers best practices for improving and optimizing information for wayfinding and travel by people with cognitive, sensory, or mobility challenges in the complex environment of airports. It is intended to help airport operators and planners implement pedestrian wayfinding systems in standardized accessible formats to better serve travelers with disabilities or who are elderly.

The guidebook includes an airport wayfinding accessibility audit, guidance on creating wayfinding plans, information on best practices and available technologies and state-of-the-art techniques for wayfinding, and other topics. Further information is available on TRB's website