Newsletter: March 16, 2016

Northeast ADA Center News Bulletin: March 16, 2016

Updates from the Northeast ADA Center:

Overview of the Proposed Public Rights of Way Accessibility Guidelines-Free Webinar

Presented By: Jennifer Perry

Wednesday April 13 2016, 1:00pm to 2:00pm EST

This webinar will review the U.S. Access Board's proposed guidelines that address conditions and constraints that are unique to public rights-of-way, including pedestrian access to sidewalks and streets, crosswalks, curb ramps, street furnishings, pedestrian signals, on-street parking, and other components of public rights-of-way. We will also discuss the U.S. Department of Justice's guidance materials re: Title II entities obligations to provide accessible pedestrian walkways for people with disabilities. To register go to: http://www.edi.cornell.edu/register/index.cfm?event=5657

What's New in Our Region:

Accessible Swing Sets for Children with Disabilities at Luis Muñoz Marin Park

On February 20, 2016 the Municipality of San Juan re-opened the Luis Muñoz Marin Park, with an $18 million investment cost. It is a park filled with beautiful green areas in the heart of Puerto Rico's metropolitan area. It is a great place to go cycling (rentals start at $6), walking, and spend a nice day surrounded by nature. One of the park's main attractions is the cable car ($2 for adults, $1 for children). The park also has a small artificial lake that can be navigated with a paddle boat (rentals start at $6). There are also food stands that can be rented for activities. One of the new attractions is the game area for children with disabilities, which promotes inclusion. For more information in Spanish, visit: http://www.zeepuertorico.com/lugar/parque-luis-mu%C3%B1oz-mar%C3%ADn.aspx.

http://ahoranews.net/re-inauguracion-del-parque-luis-munoz-marin/

The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico Authorizes Claims for Damages in Special Education Cases

The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico has allowed for parents and legal tutors of children in the Department of Education's Special Ed Program to claim compensation for damages caused to their children due to the lack of educational services. In a six to two voting decision, the Supreme Court revoked the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeals' decision. The dissenting votes were from the presiding judge Liana Fiol Matta, and the Associate judge, Anabelle Rodriguez. Judge Maite Oronoz did not participate.

The decision was celebrated by the Leading Committee of Parents for Special Education and similar organizations. Attorneys Jose Torres Valentin and Jose Juan Nazario, of the Committee's legal team, stated that once the decision is finalized, if it is not brought to appeal by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico, they will call for a general assembly to determine their next step.  Nazario said that the parents and legal tutors will not have to file separate lawsuits, and that all claims will be evaluated, according to the court's procedures. Torres Valentin stressed that until August of last year there were 160,521 students in the Special Ed Program, and so the lawsuit protects them all. And now it also protects their parents, and legal tutors. It also applies retroactively to every student since the class action suit started in 1980, even though they are now adults. For more information in Spanish please visit:  http://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/tribunales/nota/supremodapasoaquepadresyencargadosdealumnosdeeducacionespecialreclamendanos-2150943/

Note: The Movement for Achieving Independent Living's 5K changed dates. Now it will be held on June 12. For more information please call: 787-758-7901.

New Jersey Court Finds Employer Improperly Required Employee to Submit to Fitness-for-Duty Exam

The case, In the Matter of Paul Williams, Township of Lakewood, No. A-0341-15T2, was recently ruled on by the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division. The court held that the ADA allows employers to conduct fitness-for-duty examinations, but they "are permissible only when an employer 'has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that: (1) an employee's ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition; or (2) an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition.'"  In the particular case the court heard, they found that the employer, the Township, did not have either reasonable belief or the objective evidence to validate the use of a fitness-for-duty examination as all they had was an "anonymous letter" and did not conduct their own investigation. Read more at: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=c2817995-bdf3-4a18-854c-961f0b310976

N.J. Will be Marking World Down Syndrome Day Early

World Down Syndrome Day is March 21, "symbolic of the third copy of the 21st chromosome present in people with Trisomy 21," but in New Jersey it will be held on March 12 in the Cranbury Inn in Cranbury. Dr. Burgos, who has a young son with Down syndrome says, "there still remains significant ignorance to the many capabilities and the great potential for people with Down syndrome even among medical professionals," which is one of the reasons World Down Syndrome Day is so important as it can help raise awareness and knowledge about Down Syndrome. Read more at: http://www.nj.com/hunterdon/index.ssf/2016/03/nj_marks_world_down_syndrome_day_early_on_march_12.html

Roselle Resident with Disability Works to Serves Others

Richard Nolte, a participant in the community-based day and residential programs offered at The Center for Family Support's Day Program, in Hillsborough, braves the cold weather to deliver hot meals to those in need. Despite his own disability he eagerly works to help those in need, visiting four to five homes, three times each week, serving up nutritious meals. The Center for Family Support is a non-profit human services agency that provides support and assistance to individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families in New Jersey and New York. The center supports over 1500 individuals in both the NYC Metropolitan area and New Jersey, to help them live the lives they want, respecting diversity, and individual choice.

Read more at: https://www.tapinto.net/towns/roselle-roselle-park/articles/roselle-resident-with-disability-works-to-serves

Disability advocates urge pols to require wheelchair-accessibility for Uber, for-hire vehicles in NYC

Disability advocates are calling out the City Council for leaving wheelchair-accessible cabs out of the vehicle for-hire industry. The United Spinal Association and other groups say the Council should be pushing legislation to require Uber to include accessible vehicle options. The city currently has a deal in place where half of yellow cabs are supposed to be wheelchair accessible by 2020, but the requirement doesn't apply to services like Uber. Uber argues that passengers can use its app to request a green cab that is accessible, but advocates say the growth of Uber is hurting the more accessible portions of the industry.

Read more at: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/disability-advocates-mad-pols-nyc-cab-regulations-article-1.2546966

Thousands of New York City Students Deprived of Special-Education Services, Report Says

According to the education department, as many as 40 percent of students in New York City recommended for special-education services may not be getting them.  The department also stated that their data systems were so unreliable that it is not clear as to what percentage of students were not receiving these services. Based on data that was retrieved from the end of last year, the report found that 5%, or nearly 9,000 students, who were recommended for services, were not receiving them at all. Furthermore, 35%, or more than 60,000 students, were receiving only some of the services recommended for them.

Read more at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/nyregion/thousands-of-new-york-city-students-deprived-of-special-education-services-report-says.html

What's New in the Rest of the Country:

Governmental Entities Should Identify and Remove Potential ADA Accessibility Barriers on their Websites

There have been reports of law firms that are contacting government agencies claiming to represent unidentified web users who are accusing the agency of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not having an accessible website for the users who are visually impaired. These law firms "encourage the entity to take remedial measures, and - of course - pay the law firm to avoid litigation, including attorney fees and costs." Web accessibility standards currently remain as only "guidelines" and a set of best practices. Fortunately that may soon change as the DOJ has proposed a new law that would set binding standards for website accessibility and nondiscrimination. Until than it is recommended that entities, particularly governmental entities, should review their website compliance and try to ensure the sites meet the guidelines. Read more at: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=7bfe6d55-64a6-4c91-b065-6f6afc55cafc

The Ugly Truth About Campus (In)Accessibility

This is an OP-ED from Sarah Kim, a student with cerebral palsy who attends Barnard College of Columbia University.  In this essay Kim points out the shortcomings of her universities' accessibility and illustrates that it is more of a façade than anything else. According to Kim, many of the ramps and other accessibility features on the campus are severely lacking as they are in very inopportune locations and often, in the case of elevators and automatic doors, are not repaired in a timely manner. Kim also stated she was "disheartened by the fact that the University seems to put the needs of disabled students at the very bottom of its list of priorities." and wished the university would spend its money for better accessibility features. Read the entire essay here: http://columbiaspectator.com/opinion/2016/03/01/ugly-truth-about-campus-inaccessibility

Opportunities for You!

Accessibility Online-Free Webinar

Thursday, March 24, 2016; 2:00pm to 3:00pm EST

AccessibilityOnline represents a collaborative training program between the ADA National Network and the US Access Board. The program includes a series of free webinars and audio conferences on different topics of accessibility. Sessions are held on a monthly basis and cover a variety of topics concerning accessibility to the built environment, information and communication technologies, and transportation. The training is being coordinated and hosted by the Great Lakes ADA Center on behalf of the ADA National Network as a mechanism to provide accurate and quality training on the Architectural Barriers Act and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA/ABA) Accessibility Guidelines and on electronic and information technology accessibility standards (Section 508). The ADA National Network provides a comprehensive set of services for up-to-date information, consultation, referrals, resources, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act for businesses, employers, governmental entities, service providers and individuals with disabilities.  To register go to: https://www.accessibilityonline.org/ao/ 

Special Spotlight:  

Galleria's Owner Agrees to Improve Accessibility

After being cited by the Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, for non-compliance with the ADA the Pyramid Management Group has agreed in a settlement "to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities at its 12 malls in Upstate New York." While this in itself could be seen as a victory, Todd Vaarwerk, the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for Western New York Independent Living, Inc. hopes that this settlement does more, he hopes it "sends a message to the broader development community that they have to look at accessibility in a real way, and not as an afterthought in terms of getting things zoned and booked and occupied."  Read more at: http://wivb.com/2016/02/26/gallerias-owner-agrees-to-improve-accessibility/