Newsletter: November 14, 2012

Northeast ADA Center News Bulletin - November 14, 2012

What's New in Our Region:

Judge Grants Class Action to Individuals with Disabilities Suing New York City

Non-profit groups, such as the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled and Disability Rights Advocates, are suing New York City (NYC) because they claim that NYC's emergency preparedness plans are discriminatory. According to the allegations, the plans do not adequately accommodate individuals with disabilities during natural disasters such as hurricane Sandy. These groups claim that emergency plans, shelters, and transportation do not sufficiently consider the needs of people with disabilities. The non-profit groups cited the fact that individuals with disabilities found some of hurricane Sandy designated shelters to be inaccessible. The lawsuit specifically arose after Hurricane Irene, and the trial is set to begin on December 10th. To read more, visit: http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2012/11_-_November/Judge_grants_class_action_to_disabled_suing_NYC/  

Court: Medicaid Patients Don't Have to Get Prescriptions by Mail

In a recent Albany court case, the state Department of Health has agreed to allow managed care plans to permit patients to fill prescriptions at local pharmacies, as opposed to only by mail. The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, who claimed that the Department of Health barring local pharmacies from dispensing prescriptions to managed care patients was hurting New York's pharmacists and costing the state in lost taxes, filed the lawsuit. To read more, visit: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/10/court_medicaid_patients_dont_h.html

Lady Liberty Now Wheelchair Accessible

The Statue of Liberty is now fully accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. The addition of an elevator and a new staircase will allow an additional 26,000 individuals to visit the statues observation deck. To read more, visit: http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2012/10/25/Lady-Liberty-now-wheelchair-accessible/UPI-98031351182198/

Puerto Rico Vote Endorses Statehood with Asterisk

Puerto Rico has been a territory for 114 years and its people have been United States (U.S.) citizens since 1917. Residents of the island cannot vote in the US presidential election, have no representation in the Senate, and only limited representation in the House of Representatives. The people of PR have voted regarding their political status with the U.S. 4 times; in 1967, 1993, 1998, and the most recent one, in November 6, 2012.

In this last event, citizens were given two questions -one asking if they were satisfied with their current status as a commonwealth of the United States -they could answer 'yes' or 'no', and another question, which gave them three status options: independence, statehood, and sovereign commonwealth (free association).  In the first question, by a 54% to 46% margin, voters rejected their current status as a U.S. commonwealth.  In the second question, 61.13% chose statehood as the alternative; 33.33% voted for the sovereign commonwealth (free association); and 5.54% for independence.  It should be noted that approximately 30% of voters left the second question blank.  These blank ballots can be interpreted as a vote to maintain the current status, which had won the previous referendums.  This was the suggestion of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD for its Spanish initials), whose Governor candidate, Alejandro Garcia-Padilla, was elected by a close vote (47.79% to 47.09%) over the present Governor, Luis Fortuño, of the New Progressive Party (PNP for its Spanish initials, pro-statehood).  In addition, most of the legislative candidates of the PPD were also elected.

It is the first time that statehood wins in a referendum in Puerto Rico. However, the overall results of the poll show that citizens of Puerto Rico are still divided in terms of the status they prefer.  If Congress approves Puerto Rico to be a state, not only will its citizens be able to vote for the President, they will also receive between 6 and 7 seats in the House of Representatives and 2 seats in the Senate.  The new Governor has said that if the White House and Congress do not act on this issue before 2014, they will organize a Constituent Assembly to discuss the status. According to statistics from the Census Bureau, approximately 1/4th of the population of Puerto Rico has some form of a disability.  Thus, if Puerto Rico becomes a state, people with disabilities in Puerto Rico will have the same rights as people with disabilities throughout other U.S. states, including full access to Medicare and Medicaid, disability related federal funding, and other benefits.

For more information visit:  

http://www.boston.com/news/world/caribbean/2012/11/07/puerto-ricans-opt-for-statehood-referendum/8Pw9ZUELMiCEsc8Oahpl8J/story.html

Self-Advocacy, Mentors Key for College Students with Disabilities

A recent study interviewed 20 college graduates with disabilities who attended New Jersey colleges between May 2008 and May 2012. These recent graduates stated that self-advocacy and the ability to endure were contributors to their college success. College graduates with disabilities also emphasized the importance of a close relationship with at least one faculty or staff member on campus. To read more about this article visit: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/10/22/self-college-disabilities/16698/

What's New in the Rest of the Country:

Mandatory Preference vs. Disability-Neutral Workplace Policies

In a recent court case, the EEOC successfully convinced the Seventh Circuit to reinstate a precedent that requires employers to reassign employees with disabilities as a means of accommodation. This recent reversal by the Seventh Circuit, which adopts the EEOC's position regarding reassignment as a reasonable accommodation may substantially shift how courts will interpret this requirement post ruling of the United States Supreme Court's case Barnett case, 535 U.S. 391 (2002). In the Barnett case the court asserted "[t]he simple fact that an accommodation would provide a 'preference'-in the sense that it would permit the worker with a disability to violate a rule that others must obey-cannot, in and of itself, automatically show that the accommodation is not 'reasonable." Employers may no longer be able to refuse reassignment as an accommodation merely because of an established disability-neutral workplace policy.

To read more on this article visit: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=26b09544-d008-4d3d-aa47-5624b41d01e6

The ADA and Workplace Drug Testing: What Are an Employer's Rights?

Although the ADA protects individuals with alcoholism or a past of alcoholism from discrimination, employers may administer drug and alcohol tests for employees in the work place. The right to administer drug and alcohol tests ensures that employers have workplaces that are alcohol and drug-free environment. This article provides recommendations to employers on how to develop drug testing policies and practices that do not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. For example, testing for illegal drug use is not considered a medical examination; however, testing for alcohol use is.  For more information on this subject visit: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=2093f22e-d687-4062-9f33-829f77608cac  

Employees with Disabilities: How Far to Reasonably Accommodate?

An employee working as a supervisor of felony offenders in a Kansas county had been diagnosed with a disability that caused her to have mobility issues (in ability to stand or walk for long periods of time). Her employer was able to provide reasonable accommodations for her on several occasions by temporarily relieving her from some of her essential job functions and reassigning them to other employees. She performed most of her work from home.  After a second surgery that left her unable to walk, the county decided to terminate her. Thus in Robert v. Board of [Brown] County Commissioners, the court ruled in favor of the employer because relieving an employee from some essential job functions and/or allowing leave indefinitely were unreasonable. To read more on this article visit:

http://hr.blr.com/HR-news/Discrimination/Disabilities-ADA/Employee-disability-How-far-to-reasonably-accommod/

Disability Employment Effort Gets Boost

The U.S. Department of Labor has recently pledged $20 million dollars to expand its "Disability Employment Initiative." The initiative supports the training of individuals with disabilities who are unemployed, underemployed or receive Social Security Benefits. A goal of the program is to allow states to increase collaboration between various programs such as vocational rehabilitation centers and independent living centers in an effort to improve employment outcomes. The new funding will expand the program to seven states: Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island. To read more, visit: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/09/21/disability-employment-boost/16502/

Opportunities for You!

Rental Housing Search and Occupancy Experiences of Veterans with Military Associated Disabilities

*For participating in this study, veterans have the opportunity to enter into a drawing to win 1 of 4 money orders in the amount of $50.00!

Veterans with military associated disabilities who live in rental housing are invited to participate in a research study to bring awareness of their rental housing search and occupancy experiences. If you are interested in participating in this research study, please cut and paste the following link to your internet browser to access the electronic version of this study:

https://vtsurveycenter.us2.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_5BVhEcHNiAKnXqB

Participants have until Saturday, December 15, 2012 to complete the survey.

For participating in this study, you have the opportunity to enter into a drawing to win 1 of 4 money orders in the amount of $50.00! The odds of winning 1 of the 4 money orders in the amount of $50.00, is 1 out of 32 individuals.

If you have any questions regarding this research, contact Luz Semeah via phone (561) 603-2350 or email at lmsemeah@vt.edu or lmsemeah@cornell.edu.

Perspectives on Employment of Persons with Disabilities

The Perspectives on Employment of Persons with Disabilities Conference, which is open to federal employees, will provide strategies and information relevant to recruiting, hiring, and advancing federal employees with disabilities. Some of the scheduled sessions will cover the Workforce Recruitment Program, Assistive Technology, as well as the Interactive Accommodation Process under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The conference is sponsored by several federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Labor. To register for the conference, visit: http://www.silverstarconsulting.com/perspectives/

JAN Webcast: Harnessing the Accessibility Features of Mobile Devices for Use as Reasonable Accommodations

This webinar will introduce the accessibility features of popular mobile devices and mobile technologies. It will also focus on how these devices and technologies can be used in accommodation plans. Technologies such as smartphones and tablets are being used more frequently in workplaces, and this webinar will provide managers and employers practical tips on how to use these tools to optimize the efficiency of employees with certain disabilities.

To register for the webinar, visit: http://askjan.org/webcast/index.htm

Special Spotlight:
Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a nationally recognized holiday dedicated each November to honor members of the military for the sacrifices they make in support of the freedom and values of the United States. The Northeast ADA Center is asking the public to honor members of the armed forces who have served America by commemorating Veterans Day in your local communities or by exploring ways to assist a veteran in need.

For more on Veterans Day -

President Obama's Veterans Day Proclamation

http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/docs/veterans_day_proclamation.pdf

This Veterans Day, Think Beyond the Parade

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/128833-this-veterans-day-think-beyond-the-parade

President Obama Honors Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/11/11/president-obama-honors-veterans-arlington-national-cemetery

Making the VA Work for Our Veterans

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/homeland-security/267129-making-the-va-work-for-our-veterans

Veterans Day Ceremonies at VA National Cemeteries

http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/VeteransDayCeremonies2012.asp

History of Veterans Day

http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp

Veterans Day Parade in New York City

http://gonyc.about.com/od/autumninnewyork/a/veterans_day.htm

Ex NYC mayor a grand marshal for veterans parade

http://online.wsj.com/article/AP3d60e9ebe04b45f4995667340a23a54c.html