Newsletter: March 18, 2015

Northeast ADA Center New Bulletin: March 18, 2015

Updates from the Northeast ADA Center:

Free Webinar! Community Accessibility Q&A

3-25-15 - 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST

The ADA and other disability laws exist to promote the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of community life. This session will feature guest speakers who will discuss the independent living movement and the role of grass roots advocacy efforts to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities, with a look at both successes and challenges that people with disabilities face. To register, please visit: http://www.edi.cornell.edu/register/index.cfm?event=5056

Free Webinar! Universal Design: What does it Really Mean?

4-8-15 - 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST

This webinar will review the major principles of Universal Design and will also discuss how Universal Design concepts differ from the requirements for physical accessibility that are found in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. To register, please visit: http://www.edi.cornell.edu/register/index.cfm?event=5058

Building Design Accessibility Webinar - 4-22-15 - Submit Your Questions!

We want to hear from you! Our webinar on 4-22-15 will address your ADA building design questions. If you have a question to submit for this webinar, please send it via email to northeastada@cornell.edu with the subject line "Building Design Question" by April 10th, 2015.

Help Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA by Signing the ADA Pledge Today!

Celebrate the progress of the ADA and the 25th ADA Anniversary - July 26, 2015 - with the ADA National Network and its ten regional ADA Centers, including the Northeast ADA Center. Signing this pledge is part of a nationwide observance and recommitment to the ADA, with the goal of receiving 2,500 signatures from both individuals and organizations. By signing the Pledge, stakeholders are recognizing the progress that has been made, by reaffirming the principles of equality and inclusion and recommitting their efforts to reach full ADA compliance. You can learn more about the Pledge at: http://adaanniversary.org/pledgeon

What's New in Our Region:

Comptroller Audits the Special Education Program in Puerto Rico

The Office of the Comptroller of Puerto Rico audited the Department of Education's Special Education Program from June 2009 - July 2013.  The findings of this audit include: billing therapy sessions for 45 minutes of service when service wasn't beyond 30 minutes; therapies billed and collected without certification that were actually offered; numerous discrepancies in the times and places at which allegedly therapies were offered; and billing and payment to seven specialists contracted by the Program for 38 therapies "offered" on days when children were absent from their classes. The PR Comptroller, Yesmín Valdivieso, recently stated: "It is evident that the Department of Education failed to ensure that therapies are offered as contracted and that children receive the recommended treatment." For more information read (in Spanish):

www.elnuevodia.com/opinion/editoriales/laceranteslasexcusassobreeducacionespecial-editorial-2000821/

AIDD Audits the Protection and Advocacy Agency in Puerto Rico        

In May 2012, the Administration of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) released an audit report based on research findings from 2007 - 2011 of the Office of the Ombudsman for Persons with Disabilities (OPPI by its Spanish initials), the Protection and Advocacy Agency in Puerto Rico.  Some deficiencies noted in the audit report include: the lack of qualified employees to manage some federal grants; lack of knowledge about federal laws and regulations and its powers and authority as an entity; and incomplete reporting.  At this time, AIDD has not approved any of the corrective action plans submitted by OPPI and, therefore, appointed the agency as "high risk" on April 2014.  In October 2014, AIDD discontinued federal funding to OPPI.  The fallout of this is that 50 jobs in OPPI and certain services for people with disabilities may be lost.  On March 19th, 2015 OPPI should explain their corrective actions at an administrative hearing with the federal agency.  For more information read (in Spanish):

www.primerahora.com/noticias/gobiernopolitica/nota/fortalezaaseguraqueoppidebeatendersenalamientosfederales-1063969/

www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/locales/nota/procuradordepersonasconimpedimentosdenunciadiscrimen-2004201/

New Resource in New Jersey! Getting the Community Life You Want: A Guide to Home and Community Based Services Advocacy

The Home and Community Based Settings (HCBS) Final Rule, a federal policy change announced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), provides new opportunities for people with disabilities to have the kinds of community services they want. The Rule requires that the places where people receive HCBS waiver services offer full access to the benefits of community life. New Jersey will be submitting a transition plan describing how they will make sure that Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) and the places where they are provided promote integration and access to the community, choice, individual rights, and independence. This guide, available for download on The Boggs Center website, provides information about the HCBS Final Settings Rule and resources to help you give input to Home and Community Based Services and New Jersey's transition plan. Read more at: http://rwjms.rutgers.edu/boggscenter/news/Announcements.html

What's New in the Rest of the Country:

Tax Filing Resources for Persons with Disabilities

With the widespread reception of W2 forms and similar tax documents, the IRS has issued a resource, "Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities", that you can access here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p907.pdf.  Additionally, if you have yet to file your taxes and earned $60,000 or less in 2014, you can use www.myfreetaxes.com  to electronically file your state and federal tax returns for free.

Providing Meaningful Access to U.S. Currency

In January 2015, the Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) launched its U.S. Currency Reader Program nationwide. The program provides a free currency reader device to all U.S. citizens or legal residents who are blind or visually impaired. The currency reader is a small, compact, hand-held device - about the size of a credit card and about one-half inch thick. It runs on one AAA battery, which is included. To use the currency reader, you simply insert a U.S. bill into the reader and presses a button. The device quickly identifies the note's denomination in one of three ways: a clear natural voice, a pattern of tones or a pattern of vibrations for privacy. The vibration mode assists people who are deaf and blind. The currency reader identifies all U.S. currency in circulation, including $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations.  To access the Currency Reader Application form, please visit: http://www.bep.gov/uscurrencyreaderform.html. You can also read more about the program at:

https://usodep.blogs.govdelivery.com/2015/02/09/providing-meaningful-access-to-u-s-currency/.

Federal Government Weighs In on Case of Infant Placed in Foster Care because of Mother's Disability

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly came out and rebuked the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), accusing them of violating the rights of a parent with a mild intellectual disability. This action is expected to have far-reaching effects for the estimated 4.1 million parents in the United States who have disabilities. The case centers around a mother, Sara Gordon (pseudonym used in court papers), with a mild intellectual disability, whose baby was removed from her care by DCF at two days old. In November 2012, Gordon, then 19 years old, gave birth to her daughter, Dana. Sara lives with her parents, Kim and Sam Gordon and had the full time support of her mother, Kim to raise her child. Despite this, Sara, however, was referred to DCF while still in the hospital because of her "mental retardation." Ultimately DCF removed the baby and placed her in foster care, after the agency observed that Sara missed a feeding for the baby because she had trouble reading an analog clock, and that she failed to burp her child properly. What is historic about this recent letter from DOJ and HHS is that the federal government is, for the first time, interpreting the 25-year-old ADA to apply to parenting. Read more at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/10/baby-taken-away-because-mom-s-disabled.html

Justice Department Requires Law School Admission Council to Revamp Accommodation Request Procedures

On February 4th, The Justice Department (DOJ) posted a best practices report from an expert panel convened pursuant to the Consent Decree in Dept. of Fair Employment & Housing (DEFH) v. Law School Admission Council, Inc. (LSAC).  According to the panel's Best Practices Report, the LSAC's testing accommodation practices are in need of widespread changes in all ten areas that underwent examination. Examples of the areas determined to be in need of alterations include: the processes of sufficient documentation of accommodation requests, proper review of accommodation requests and the appeals process for candidates whose accommodation requests are denied. For more information, you can read the Executive Summary of the Final Report of the "Best Practices" Panel at:   http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/sites/colker2/files/2015/02/Executive-Summary-of-the-Report.pdf

Department Of Justice Reaches Agreement in Tulsa Hotel ADA Violation Case

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reached an agreement, re: a Days Inn in Tulsa that denied lodging to a veteran and his family due to the veteran's use of a service dog. As a result of the Agreement, the owner will be required to pay $5,000 to the family, train the Inn's employees on the ADA and its protections for guests with service animals and post signs and other forms of announcements at the hotel stating the company's willingness to provide rooms for individuals with service animals. For more information about the case and the requirements for places of public lodging under the ADA please visit: www.ada.gov  or call the DOJ toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514--0383 (TDD).

New Federal Resource for Employers Interested in Hiring Individuals with Disabilities

Recently the White House announced at a Summit on Disability Employment that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) has developed a new resource guide to help employers better facilitate the employment of individuals with disabilities. The guide, titled "Recruiting, Hiring, Retaining, and Promoting People with Disabilities" is designed in a question and answer format to provide both the best technical assistance for employers as well as the most specific answers to common questions. In addition to providing information surrounding the hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities and answering frequently asked questions, the EEOC's new guide also provides an extensive list of federal resources to aid in the recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion process for employees with disabilities. For more information on the EEOC's guide, please visit: http://www.workerscompensation.com/compnewsnetwork/news/20693-eeoc-creates-resource-guide-on-disabled-individuals-for-employers.html

Opportunities for You!

National ADA Symposium, 5-10-15 - 5-13-15, Atlanta, Georgia

The National ADA Symposium is a four day comprehensive conference on the ADA. The 19th annual ADA Symposium will offer an opening reception, pre-conference, keynote, 72 break-out sessions, advanced discussion groups, exhibits, and hands-on learning activities. The registration fee is $650.00 prior to March 20, 2015 and $800.00 after that date. To learn more, please visit: http://adasymposium.org/

Special Spotlight:  In Memoriam: David Gray, Ph.D., Disability and Rehabilitation Research Pioneer

The field of Independent Living lost a leader on Feb. 12, 2015 when David Gray, Ph.D., died at his home in St. Louis. The following tribute was written by Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL) Director Glen White, Ph.D.

Dr. Gray was a pioneer in the field of Disability and Rehabilitation research and a tireless advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.  He was an insightful teacher and wonderful mentor to the students who were fortunate enough to be able to work with him. Dr. Gray blazed the trail of disability research in many ways and was the first person with a disability to head the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (called National Institute of Handicapped Research back then, before he helped change the name).  He went on to the National Institute for Health (NIH) where he helped to establish the National Center for Medical and Rehabilitation Research.  He was always the consummate researcher who used science to identify solutions to socially relevant problems, and applied the results to improve the lives of people with disabilities. His untimely departure from this life will leave a vacuum that will not be easily filled, if at all. Read more at: http://www.rtcil.org/news/DavidGray.shtml