Newsletter: January 26, 2009

Northeast ADA January 26, 2009 News Bulletin

What's New in Our Region:

New York City (NYC) Theater District Hotels Sued for ADA Violations:

The Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced on January 13th that lawsuits have been filed against five hotels in NYC's Theater District for several violations of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.  For the past three years, this office has conducted an ADA compliance review of 50 Theater District hotels which has resulted in over 40 voluntary compliance agreements. These five hotels are the first to be sued. Read more at:

The New York Times Article, January 14, 2009: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/14/us-sues-5-hotels-over-access-for-disabled/

Press Release from Department of Justice, January 13, 2009: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nys/pressreleases/January09/hoteladacivilcomplaintspr.pdf

New Jersey May Close 5 of 7 Institutions for People with Disabilities:

Assembly Budget Chairman Louis Greenwald has introduced a bill to close five state institutions for people with developmental disabilities within five years and reallocate that money to community housing. Stated Greenwald, "We are warehousing human life...we pride ourselves on being a progressive state in health care and science, but New Jersey is so far behind other states in this area".  He said that the state can no longer afford to support seven institutions and estimates that community care would cost far less.  Read about the bill and reactions to it at: http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-12/1231392915194180.xml&coll=1.

What's New in the Rest of the Country:

Resources Available on the New Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Rules:

In November 2008, the Department of Labor (DOL) published new regulations covering FMLA and new military family leave entitlements. These rules went into effect beginning January 16th.  The DOL says many of the changes were designed to improve communication between employers and employees by clarifying what needs to be said when and how between the parties regarding FMLA issues. For summaries of the 11 important revisions included in the new rules, go to:  http://hr.blr.com/news.aspx?id=79434.  HR.BLR (Human Resources Business & Legal Reports) has also created a resource center full of documents offering guidance to employers on how to comply with the new FMLA. This can be accessed at:  http://hr.blr.com/resource_centers.aspx?collection=21.

ODEP Encourages "Employment First" Integrated Employment for People with Intellectual Disabilities:

On January 15th, outgoing Office of Disability Employment Policy Assistant Secretary Neil Romano issued a memorandum to "all parties interested in a better economic future for people with disabilities" that outlined the "Employment First" policy, which many states have already implemented, that focuses on integrated, community-based employment that earns individuals with intellectual or other developmental disabilities at or above the minimum wage. Romano stated that this approach taps the skills of these employees to match the employer demand for a reliable, productive workforce through customized employment opportunities. In October, 2008 Romano led a meeting among leaders from various sectors to discuss integrated employment and is now inviting everyone to read the summary of this discussion and share with ODEP their "suggestions about including people with disabilities in sustainable economic growth initiatives with the active engagement of the employer community".  More information, including the summary and how to submit your suggestions, can be found at: http://www.dol.gov/odep/events/employmentfirst/employmentfirst.htm

ODEP and the National Association of Governors' Committees on People with Disabilities (NAGC) Form Alliance:

ODEP and NAGC formed an Alliance to provide NAGC members and others with information, guidance, and access to resources that will help them advance employment opportunities for workers with disabilities. The goals of this Alliance are outreach and communication; training and education; technical assistance; and national dialogue.  Read more about this Alliance and the details of each goal at: http://www.dol.gov/odep/alliances/nagc.htm.

New Work Group Focused on Federal Employment of People with Disabilities:

A U.S. Department of Labor-led interagency work group consisting of representatives from 18 federal agencies was formed in mid-January as part of a continuing commitment to encourage and increase opportunities for workers with disabilities in the federal workforce. At their initial meeting the attendees participated in discussions and presentations on a variety of topics including tools for recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing employees with disabilities and leadership and innovative practices in federal employment for this population of employees.  The group will meet again in the next few months. Read more at: http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/odep/odep20090062.htm.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Announces Over $650 Million to Help Elderly and People with Disabilities:

Thousands of very low-income senior citizens and individuals with disabilities will be better able to find affordable housing thanks to more than $650 million in grants being provided by HUD. This funding will provide financial assistance to non-profit developers to create accessible housing, offer rental assistance, and provide supportive services to those with disabilities and the elderly.  Read more at: http://www.hud.gov/news/release.cfm?content=pr09-007.cfm.

Stimulus Proposal Offers Financial Aid to People with Disabilities:

The second economic stimulus package proposal released mid-January includes a one-time stimulus payment to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients as funding for healthcare, education, and employment programs aimed at Americans with Disabilities, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Medicaid, Independent Living, and Vocational Rehabilitation. The proposal will be voted on by the House of Representatives first and then the Senate before reaching President Obama's desk, hopefully by mid-February.  Read more about this proposal at: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2009/01/16/stimulus/1715/.

 

Opportunities for YOU:

Don't Forget- FREE Workshop for the Virgin Islands- Sign Up Now!

We are offering a free workshop, Reaching Employers: Promoting Disability Inclusive Workforce Strategies as a Source of Competitive Advantage, for our Virgin Islands constituents. Come create strong partnerships by building strategies for disability inclusiveness that contribute to organizational success! The program will be offered on four different days during the week of February 23rd on both St. Croix and St. Thomas- participants need only attend one day. For registration information, contact Barbara Sosna at either 1.800.949.4232 or bms8@cornell.edu.

24th Annual International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference:

California State University Northridge Center on Disabilities announces its annual conference to be held March 16th - 21st at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott & Renaissance Montura Hotels. The conference will present experts and trends in both assistive and adaptive technology.  For more information and to register, go to: http://csunconference.org/index.cfm?EID=80000144&p=88&page=Text&ECTID=144

 

Special Spotlight: The Federal Government Transition of Power- Successes of the Past and Hopes for the Future:

On January 20, 2009 we experienced the first transfer of power in eight years when Barack Obama took the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States. With that transfer comes time for reflecting on the past and planning for the future.  On April 11, 2008 then-Presidential candidate Obama stated, "We must build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination.... policies must be developed, attitudes must be shaped, and buildings and organizations must be designed to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the education they need and live independently as full citizens in their communities."

Below we will look at how one of the highest offices in the land on disability issues, the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, views disability progress thus far and as we move forward; President Obama's plan to empower people with disabilities; and some of the country's key disability organizations' suggestions for the New Administration as we work toward improving the social, economic, and civic lives of Americans with disabilities:

Reflecting on the Past:

ODEP Assistant Secretary Neil Romano's Departing Speech: http://www.dol.gov/odep/documents/farwellromano.doc

Assistant Secretary Romano highlights some of ODEP Accomplishments thus far: http://www.dol.gov/odep/documents/accompromano.doc

Summary of Assistant Secretary Romano's key messages on disability: http://www.dol.gov/odep/documents/messageromano.doc

Moving toward the Future:

President Obama's Comprehensive Plan to Empower People with Disabilities: http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/disabilities/

Fact Sheet on the New Administration's Plan: http://www.flse.net/flprovidernetwork/FPNresources/DisabilityPlanFactSheet.pdf

Disability Organizations Letter of Recommendations to President Obama and his Transition team: http://jfactivist.typepad.com/jfactivist/2009/01/disability-groups-send-recommendations-to-obama.html

 

 

See you in a few weeks!!!