Newsletter: February 10, 2009

Northeast ADA February 10, 2009 News Bulletin

What's New in Our Region:

Change in Medicaid Rules May Prove Hardship for Chronically Ill in NY:

For 20 years federal law has allowed that if a person needs expensive nursing home care, their healthy spouse will be able to retain assets and income. New York State (NY) has also typically offered these same benefits to people with illnesses who receive care at home. However in January the federal government ruled that NY has been too generous by extending this benefit to people who remain in their home which may force several thousand couples to have to make a choice regarding their living situation. The change was supposed to take effect in December but Governor Paterson's administration and the NY Congressional delegation won a delay until March. They are hoping President Obama will reverse this ruling.  Read more at:

Hornell, New York Reaffirms Commitment to People with Disabilities:

The city aldermen approved a measure at a January meeting to put Hornell in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan said the city has received thousands of dollars through the federal Community Development Block Grant program in the past. The city recently learned it was not following the terms of the grants because there was no policy protecting the ADA on record. The new policy states requirements Hornell must meet and provides a system to lodge complaints if the new rules are not followed. To read more, go to:

New York Education Will Now Include History of Disability:

Assembly Member Mark Schroeder introduced Assembly Bill 02242 in the New York State (NYS) Assembly last month. This bill intends "to amend NYS education law in relation to instruction on the history of people with disabilities", meaning that the history of people with disabilities is now required to be covered through instruction during, but not limited to, the third full week of October in all NYS schools to students over the age of eight years old. To see the full bill text, go to:

What's New in the Rest of the Country:

Recent Obama Appointments and their Connection to Disability Issues:

Two prominent members of the Disability Community, Kareem Dale and Paul Steven Miller, will serve as Special Advisors to President Obama on disability issues, including ensuring that people with disabilities are well represented in positions within the Administration. Read more about their credentials and new roles at:

President Obama also appointed Stuart J. Ishimaru as Acting Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Christine M. Griffin as Acting Vice-Chair. Both served as Commissioners prior to now. Read more at:

New Administration Puts Hold on Proposed ADA Regulations Pending Review:

On January 21, 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) notified the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that it has withdrawn its draft final rules to amend regulations implementing title II and title III from the OMB review process. This action was taken in response to a memorandum from President Obama's Chief of Staff directing the Executive Branch agencies to defer publication of any new regulations until the rules are reviewed and approved by incoming officials appointed by President Obama. This withdrawal does not affect existing ADA regulations. Title II and title III entities must continue to follow existing ADA regulations, including the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. This information was posted on the DOJ Website at:

What's New in the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP):

On February 6th, the U.S. Department of Labor released the first official data on the employment status of persons with disabilities. These data provide, for the first time, an official monthly measure of the labor force situation for people with disabilities.  ODEP will use this data for formulating policy recommendations, training, technical assistance, research, and dissemination efforts.  Access the data series at:

ODEP has created two new fact sheets on "Making Workplace Accommodations" and "Employer Assistance Programs for a New Generation of Employees". You can access them at:

ODEP's "Customized Employment Initiative" has received 2009 Harvard Innovations in American Government Awards Recognition, a program that highlights excellence and creativity in the public sector. ODEP's initiative was identified for their best practices. Read more about the Award and ODEP's initiative at:

Social Security Administration Expands Fast Track Disability Claims Process:

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security (SSA), announced on January 28th that improvements to SSA's computer system has increased the number of expedited approvals for disability benefits from 2.7% to 4% of all disability cases. These fast-track systems increase the efficiency of the disability process, freeing up resources to cope with the increase of cases resulting from the poor economy. Read the complete SSA News Release at:

Department of Justice (DOJ) Reaches Settlement Agreement with Wal-Mart:

On January 16th the Civil Rights Division entered into a Settlement Agreement with Wal-Mart under Title III of the ADA to improve access for people with disabilities at Wal-Mart stores all over the country, including Supercenters, Sam's Clubs, and Neighborhood Markets. This agreement requires Wal-Mart to improve access by providing reasonable modifications (i.e. disability-related assistance), welcoming customers with service animals, increasing training for all staff on these policies, and establishing a grievance procedure for filing disability-related complaints.  It will also pay compensation to individuals who filed administrative complaints and contribute financially to a public awareness campaign regarding service animals. Read more at:

First Ever Power and Pride Disability Inaugural Ball Held:

Several hundred disability advocates joined together on Sunday January 18th in Washington, D.C. for the first ever Disability Power and Pride Inaugural Ball. 

"The disabled community represents 54 million Americans and this is the first time they're coming together to honor an incoming president," stated Karen Lee, a spokeswoman for the Power and Pride Disability Inaugural Ball. "[Obama] supports equal opportunity in education, employment...he mentioned the disabled community on the long list of people who helped to get him here."  Andrew Imparato, head of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) stated, "Obama sees us as part of the mainstream, part of the political landscape...the disabled community has a lot of hope for the promise of his administration".  To read more and access related stories, go to:


Opportunities for YOU:

Free Online Training About Making Your Emergency Plan Accessible:

On Wednesday February 11th at 1:00pm EST, the Department of Agriculture's Departmental Administration will provide a free online training through their Target Center's Discovery Series entitled, "Discover How to Make Your Emergency Plan Accessible to Everyone".  Participants will learn how to develop emergency evacuation and shelter plans that take the needs of all individuals into account.  To access this opportunity, go to:

Registration Now Open for the 2009 National ADA Symposium:

Registration is officially open for the 2009 National ADA Symposium, to be held June 8-10, 2009 at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri.  Go to for details, complete agenda, and to register.

Spend the Summer in Costa Rica with Mobility International USA (MIUSA):

The Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Disability Rights Leadership Exchange Program is providing an opportunity to spend June 26-July 10, 2009 in Costa Rica learning both Spanish and about disability rights and leadership. Since 1981, MIUSA has been providing short-term international exchange programs and has worked with people with and without disabilities from over 90 countries. This program is funded by the New York Community Trust DeWitt Wallace/Youth Travel Enrichment Fund and administered by MIUSA to provide an educational travel opportunity to youth with disabilities from diverse communities.  First time travelers with disabilities age 18-24 years old, from cultural minority and low-income backgrounds are encouraged to apply.  Applications are available at:, deadline is March 20thFor more information: email or call 541-343-1284 (tel/tty).


Special Spotlight: What's New in the World of Assistive and Accessible Technology:

More and more we are realizing the incredible speed with which technology is advancing. With each new medical, scientific, electronic, and technological discovery and creation, another life is possibly improved, made more efficient, or even made happier. People with disabilities have certainly benefitted from the advancements that the world of electronics and technology has made. However, progress and change can also leave people behind. Accessible and assistive technology are fast growing fields that attempt to ensure technological developments are designed to be inclusive of, and enjoyed by, all- including consumers with disabilities. This was illustrated in January at the world's biggest gadget festival, the annual Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas.  Among other things, attendants learned that Google is working on ways to make touch-screen phones usable for blind people and National Public Radio announced a special radio receiver technology and software that would connect a digital radio to a dynamic Braille generating device. Read more about some recent developments in accessible and assistive technology, as well as some of the challenges and considerations developers are encouraged to remember:

Touch-screen gadgets alienate blind (January 8, 2009):

Article on Superior Mobile Reader product line for the learning disabled featuring the first cell phone that reads and translates (January 28, 2009):

The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) announces the winner of its recent Logo Contest (January 27, 2009):


See you in a few weeks!!!