Newsletter: February 17, 2016

Northeast ADA Center News Bulletin: February 17, 2016

Updates from the Northeast ADA Center:

Bridging the Gap: What the Disability Service Professional Needs to Know About the ADA-Free Webinar

March 9, 2016

1-2pm EST

Presented By: Jeffrey Tamburo

The disability service professional plays a critical role in the advancement of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. This professional has the unique role of having to engage comfortably and effectively in both the human service and business worlds. Often, the employment staff serves as initial "bridge builder" between the individual with a disability and the employer. One important tool in any disability service professional's toolbox is the ability to maintain a sound understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This webinar offers an overview of the employment provisions (Title I) of the ADA, and will cover a variety of topics including reasonable accommodation, the interactive process, and disability disclosure in the workplace. To register go to:

What's New in Our Region:

The Feedback Loop: Public Comments and Questions about Special-Ed Ombudsman

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently signed a law that created a special-education ombudsman, essentially an office inside the state Department of Education that would help families and others work through issues involving students with disabilities. Public opinion supports what the new position is attempting to accomplish, but there are some concerns about how effective it will be, due to the fact that the office will be inside the Department of Education and serves as an additional step for families who are working to ensure their children have the appropriate accommodations while at school. Read more at:

Disability Rights Advocates Oppose NY Assisted Suicide Bills

Disability rights advocates are currently working to make New York State legislatures aware of the dangers inherent in legalizing state-assisted suicide.  Disability organizations in the state are concerned with the bill because it could very well lead to people's lives being ended without their consent due to mistakes and possible abuse of power. As Marilyn Golden, a member of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, put it "No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone." Read more at:

Protests in Favor of Special Education Students in Puerto Rico

Dozens of therapists and parents of students in the Special Education Program held two demonstrations in the vicinities of the Capitol, Treasury Department, and La Fortaleza (the Governor's Mansion) in Puerto Rico due to the non-payment of contractors by the Department of Education. Therapists highlighted that the debt could reach more than $40 million. Although some of the contracted corporations have not offered detailed information on the services that haven't been paid by the agency. Meanwhile, the Fortaleza's Secretary of Public Affairs, Jesus M. Ortiz, stated that although $1.8 billion are owed to government suppliers, and payments to essential services like education are given priority; Puerto Rico's Treasury Department was only able to issue $176,895 in checks last Friday. "We understand their claims. They provide a service, and they have to charge for their services. The government is making an effort to be able to comply, and for the citizenry to have these services, and for them to receive the payment they deserve," Ortiz said. Read more here:

1st Independent Living Movement 5K in PR

The Independent Living Movement (MAVI, Spanish acronym) will be holding its first 5K. MAVI, a private, non-profit organization, is an independent living center for people with disabilities. The 5K will be open to the general public, and will be held on April 24, 2016 at the Paseo Abelardo Diaz Alfaro in Caguas, starting at 6:00 am. For more information, and registration call: 787-758-7901.

What's New in the Rest of the Country:

NCD Applauds Precedent-Setting Decision That Disabled Workers Must Be Paid Fair Wages

The National Council on Disability-an independent federal agency-applauds the precedent-setting opinion issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administrative judge, in which three employees of a sheltered workshop in Ohio that pays below minimum wages to workers with disabilities, were  awarded minimum wages going forward as well as back pay. The petitioners had been paid an average of $2.50 an hour during their employment the workshop over the last three years.  NCD commends Disability Rights Ohio, the National Federation of the Blind, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and the Baltimore law firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP for filing the petition seeking fair wages for Joe Magers, Pam Steward, and Mark Felton who are among the first workers with disabilities ever to invoke the petition process seeking a review of their wages by the DOL.

In the decision, DOL's administrative law judge found that Seneca Re-Ad, a sheltered workshop, failed to prove that the petitioners' disabilities kept them from accomplishing their assigned tasks. As such, the judge decided that their wages were not calculated correctly and that Seneca Re-Ad must pay at least minimum wage.  Read more at:

Judge Rules that Wellness Program Screenings Don't Violate the ADA

Employee Wellness programs bring forth a conflict between the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act encourages businesses to implement these programs, however, the ADA prohibits employers from requiring workers to provide health information that is not directly relevant to their individual jobs. In a 2014 case between the EEOC and Orion Energy Systems, a judge ruled that that a safe harbor provision in the ADA protects employers who are "establishing, sponsoring, observing, or administering the terms of a bona fide benefit plan that are based on underwriting risks, classifying risks, or administering such risks," meaning that these programs do not violate the ADA. In response to companies looking for more clarity, the EEOC published a proposed amendment to the ADA in April 2015. The final version is expected this spring, though it's unclear whether it will make it through Congress. Read more at:

See the New Lego Set that has Disability Advocates Cheering

A series of photos from the Nuremberg Toy Fair confirmed that a new Lego mini-figure-one in a wheelchair with a service dog-will be released 8in 2016, marking the first Lego representation of the approximately 150 million disabled individuals worldwide. The creation of the mini-figure comes on the heels of a petition asking Lego to "positively represent disability." Lego has attempted to do exactly that by increasing diversity among mini figures in an attempt to represent more groups of people, although it is unclear when this new mini figure will be available for purchase. Read more at:

Disability: A New Campaign Issue About Not-so-new Concerns

Historically, legislative gains for Americans with disabilities have been made outside of the public eye, which is why presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's proposal to provide more resources for treating autism has been referred to as "unprecedented." Clinton did not offer a specific plan as to how this would be accomplished, and, due to wide disability cuts across age and class, there is much question as to what the government's role should be regarding disabilities. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been marginalized, especially in terms of employment, as evidenced by the fact that the employment rate for those with disabilities has fallen every year since the ADA was put into place.  There is question about whether focus should be on "curing autism" or providing more employment opportunities for the disabled community as a whole. Read more at:

SNF Reaches $50k Settlement in Disability Discrimination Suit

A South Carolina skilled nursing facility has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle claims that it fired a licensed practical nurse due to a disability that complicated her pregnancy. The company was aware that Tonya Aria had paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia when she was hired in 2002. The condition can cause rapid heart rate, blackouts and tunnel vision if not controlled by medication. In 2012, Aria learned she was pregnant and stopped taking her medication due to its possible side effects on her unborn child, leaving her condition uncontrolled. She missed three work days in early 2013 and was fired due to her absences. The company also agreed to a two-year decree prohibiting the company from taking any "adverse personnel actions" against employees based on their pregnancy status or disability. Read more at:

International Day of Acceptance Spotlights Disability

The International Day of Acceptance, which took place on January 20th, is targeted by 3elove and the ADA Legacy Project as a day dedicated to the social acceptance of disability. In order to garner more exposure for the event, 3elove, a company owned and operated by individuals with disabilities, promoted the day through social media in an effort to help bring disability acceptance into everyday conversation. As Tom Turner, a man who lives with spina bifida said of the day: "It's a movement, a chance to make people aware that people with disabilities live, love and work in the world." Read more at:

Opportunities for You!

FEMA Promising Practice: Establishing Disability Community Preparedness through State and Local Efforts-Free Webinar

March 10th, 2016

In this webinar, two presentations will demonstrate practices in the field that assist in the preparedness of people with disabilities. In the first half, presenters will discuss the development of a statewide task force on emergency management, disability, and functional needs support services (FNSS) issues, including an FNSS toolkit. This presentation will present a model for including individuals with disabilities and their organizations in advising and shaping emergency management practices and policy at the state level. Over the last four years the FNSS Task Force has developed guidance documents, training curriculum, and outreach initiatives. Representatives and subcommittee chairs will describe how the group serves people with disabilities and major initiatives it has undertaken. Lessons learned for the formation and continuity of such a state-level task force will be discussed. To read more and to register go to:

Special Spotlight:  

Call for Stories from the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) was passed by Congress and signed into law on October 2, 1986. This law guarantees that people with disabilities receive consistent and nondiscriminatory treatment during air travel and requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities.

In preparation for the 30th Anniversary of the ACAA, the PVA, a congressionally chartered veteran's service organization founded in 1946, is seeking help in showing the progress that has been made as well as highlighting the work that still needs to be done to accomplish the spirit of the ACAA.

Please use their submission form to share your stories, photos, videos, and graphics about your air travel experiences as a passenger with a disability. To Read more, visit: