Newsletter: June 18, 2014

Northeast ADA Center Newsletter: June 18, 2014

Updates from the Northeast ADA Center:

Free Webinar July 9th on Twenty-four Years of the ADA

The ADA was passed 24 years ago amidst a great hope that this bold new legislation would remove barriers to equal opportunity and access for individuals with disabilities across several life spheres. In what areas have we made progress over the last 24 years?  In what areas do we still have work to do?  What possibilities do new policies and legislative changes bring?  In this webinar, we will reflect upon our progress toward the goal of equal opportunity and access.  We will focus on several life spheres for individuals with disabilities, including economic life, employment, physical and program access. This webinar will be held on Friday, July 9th from 2 to 3:00 PM EST. To register, visit: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/edi/register/index.cfm?event=4502

Free Webinar July 18th on Accessible Event Planning

Whether you are hosting a small, indoor meeting for a group of employees or a large outdoor event open to the entire public, it is important to plan and create an experience that allows everyone, including those with disabilities, the opportunity to fully engage and participate. Through this webinar, we will address how to plan an accessible event from beginning to end, and review what the ADA says about accessibility and how to apply it to events being planned. This will be useful for anyone engaged in planning meetings or events of any kind. The webinar will be held July 18th from 2 to 3:30 PM EST. To register, visit:   http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/edi/register/index.cfm?event=4509

What's New in Our Region:

DOJ Settlement Agreement with U.S. Virgin Islands Taxi Company

On May 23rd, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a Settlement Agreement with a self-employed taxi driver on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). This was one of the first individual complaints against a private taxi service provider in the USVI under the ADA. The complainant, who is blind and has service animal, alleged that the taxi driver denied him services.  The taxi driver admitted she denied services but claimed she did not know he was blind. However a local television station filmed the incident (which can be viewed at www.drcvi.org). The taxi driver has agreed to participate in ADA training, which is available to all taxi drivers in USVI. According to our Northeast ADA Center USVI affiliate, the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands (DRCVI), "the impact of this complaint is far-reaching...following the complaint, the V.I. Taxi Commission, the U.S. Attorney's office and the DRCVI, participated in ADA transportation training for taxi drivers. Thanks to [the complainant's] willingness to report this violation...and the efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Virgin Islands, there are now more accessible private taxis in the Virgin Islands".  To read the settlement agreement, go to: http://www.ada.gov/roumou-taxi-sa.htm.

Proposed New York State Bill to Update Accessible Parking Signage

New York state legislators as well as disability rights advocates are advocating for legislation that would alter both the images and text on signs for accessible parking. The proposed new signage would feature a picture of a wheelchair user in motion, as opposed to static image currently in use. Additionally, there is support for the removal of the word "handicapped" from the sign. The proposed changes would give deference to advocates who say that the usage of the word is outdated as well as offensive to individuals with disabilities. These new signs, which would replace signage that had been damaged, are already in use in New York City as well as other countries around the world. To read more, visit: http://www.wgrz.com/story/news/2014/05/19/ny-bill-would-remove-handicapped-accessible-from-signs/9294301/

New York Settlement Helps Ensure Access to Shopping Centers

New York (NY) state's recent settlement with Kimco Realty Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that operates 34 NY shopping centers, will help to ensure that NY residents with disabilities have equal access to the company's shopping centers. The settlement, part of an ongoing initiative by the Attorney General's office to ensure disability access to retail sites, requires the company to ensure that the various areas of its shopping centers, from the sidewalks to the parking lots, comply with the accessibility requirements and design standards set forth in the ADA. Action against Kimco was initiated when a complaint about wheelchair inaccessibility at a Staten Island Kimco shopping center was received. As part of this settlement, Kimco will have to undertake a number of steps to increase accessibility; including hiring an ADA consultant to assess its shopping centers and working to promote ADA compliance among the tenants of its shopping centers. Read more at: http://www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-secures-agreement-major-commercial-real-estate-company-ensure-equal

NYC to Include Vets with Mental Disabilities in Vendor Licensing Program

Legal Services New York City (NYC) Veterans Justice Project has reached a settlement with NYC's Department of Commerce regarding discrimination against veterans with service-connected mental disabilities applying for the city's yellow vendor license program. The licensing program provides veterans with disabilities special vending licenses to sell merchandise on NYC streets. Prior to this settlement, the Department of Commerce had been excluding veterans with service-connected mental disabilities, such as PTSD, from participation in its veterans' vendor program. The settlement will require the Department of Commerce to update its application materials and policies to ensure that veterans with mental disabilities are given equal consideration as veterans with physical disabilities are in this program. To read more, visit: http://www.legalservicesnyc.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=815

What's New in the Rest of the Country:

911 Services Increasingly Available by Text across United States

The ability to text 911 in emergency situations as opposed to calling is increasingly becoming more of an option because starting in May of 2014, the nation's four main cellphone networks: Sprint, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and AT&T will support text messaging to 911.  By the end of the year, the Federal Communications Commission is requiring all text messaging providers to support the service. The option to text message 911 provides individuals, for example those who have difficulty hearing or speaking, with increased access to emergency services. The full availability of text to 911 will now depend on the adoption of the needed technology and software in 911 call centers across the country. Call centers in certain communities in 16 states are currently equipped to receive 911 text messages, while only Vermont has deployed the service across the state. To read more, visit:  www.disabilityscoop.com/2014/05/22/increasingly-911-text/19385/

Law School Admissions Council to Update Accommodation Policies

The DOJ has reached a settlement with the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) regarding LSAC's practices in accommodating Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) takers with disabilities. The LSAC agreed to a number of changes to its LSAT policies, such as ceasing to flag test scores of test takers given extra time on the LSAT and changing the requirements for qualifying for an accommodation. In addition, the LSAC will pay a $7.73 million dollar fine, which will be used to compensate approximately 6,000 individuals who requested an ADA accommodation from the organization within the last five years. Read more at: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/lsac_to_pay_7.73m_change_lsat_policies_in_settlement_of_ada_suit/

DOJ Title I and Web Access Settlement with Florida State University

The DOJ reached a settlement with Florida State University (FSU) in which FSU agrees not to conduct any medical examination or make disability inquiries of job applicants before a job offer, and to make its employment opportunities website and mobile applications conform at least to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA Success Criteria. This resulted from finding that the FSU Police Department's online application form asked questions about disabilities and other medical conditions, which is in violation of the ADA.  Access the press release and full agreement at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/June/14-crt-606.html.

U.S. Mines Personal Health Data to Find the Vulnerable in Emergencies

The federal Department of Health and Human Services has been working with officials in cities around the country to help ensure the safety of individuals with health conditions during emergencies. Through utilizing Medicare records, the federal government has been piloting programs such as door-to-door visits and phone calls that would check on individuals with a range of medical conditions such as renal failure during emergencies. For example, during an ice storm in New Orleans in January, dialysis patients were informed by phone that the city's dialysis centers would be closing early, allowing them the chance to get needed care earlier. Programs such as these have arisen as a benefit of the federal push to digitize health records. In implementing these programs, federal and local agencies have taken care to ensure the privacy of Medicare participants and to comply with privacy relevant laws. To read more, visit:   http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/16/us/us-mines-personal-health-data-to-aid-emergency-response.html?_r=2

New EP-RRTC Website Launched

The Rehabilitation and Research & Training Center on Employer Practices Related to Employment Outcomes among Individuals with Disabilities (Employer Practices -RRTC) has recently launched a new project website. The site contains information summarizing the research findings presented at the October 2013 State of the Science Conference along with research briefs, links to papers, as well as online tools and resources. The site also features short video clips of representatives from business, government, and academia, sharing their perspectives on the importance of the Employer Practices-RRTC findings to date. To learn more, visit: http://employerpracticesrrtc.org/

Federal Contractors: Creating a Culture of Inclusion

A recent Employer Assistance and Resource Network Article (EARN) in Ability Magazine highlights key elements of an inclusive workplace as prescribed by the new Section 503 and VEVRAA regulations that went into effect in March. In the article, Kathleen Lee, Business Outreach Specialist at Cornell University's National Employer Technical Assistance, Policy, and Research Center discusses how federal contractors can incorporate inclusive strategies to capitalize on new opportunities to expand the hiring of individuals with disabilities and veterans, to move beyond compliance, increase employee engagement and productivity, and create a culture that values the contributions of all employees. To read more, visit: http://www.abilitymagazine.com/503-Regulations.html

Opportunities for You!

Free Webinar July 1st: Including Disability in State and Local Offices of Emergency Management

The National Network of ADA Centers and the Pacific ADA Center are offering the next session in their Emergency Management and Preparedness Webinar Series, entitled "Including Disability in State and Local Offices of Emergency Management" on July 1st, at 2:00pm ET.  This session discusses the importance of having people with disabilities located in the offices of emergency management or related offices to convey the disability perspective. The presenters will provide firsthand experience with doing this at the state, regional, and city levels. Register for this free webinar at: http://www.adaconferences.org/Emergency/.

Special Spotlight: 15th Anniversary of Olmstead v. L.C. 

Olmstead v. L.C., the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on community integration for individuals with disabilities, was decided on June 22, 1999. This June will mark the 15th Anniversary of this ruling, which has had a wide-ranging impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities across the country.  Though much progress has been made toward meeting the mandates of the ruling, more work is still needed to ensure that individuals with disabilities across the country are able to live in the least restrictive settings possible.  Read more about this landmark case below:

Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone:
http://www.ada.gov/olmstead/olmstead_cases_list2.htm#ny

Olmstead Technical Assistance:
http://www.ada.gov/olmstead/olmstead_ta.htm  

Olmstead Enforcement:
http://www.ada.gov/olmstead/olmstead_cases_list2.htm

Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Role of Housing in Accomplishing the Goals of Olmstead:
http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=OlmsteadGuidnc060413.pdf