Newsletter: January 16, 2019

Northeast ADA Center News Bulletin: January 16, 2019

Updates from the Northeast ADA Center:

Attn: Albany Region Residents - TRAC (Transit Research & Accessibility Center) is Up and Running!

Do you want to know what an accessible bus trip looks like?
Would you like to provide feedback on bus access in the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) region?
If so, sign up to watch our short and easy to understand "How To" videos that explain the accessibility requirements and features of public buses.

After watching the videos, you can choose to register to evaluate a bus trip using an app for your smartphone.
To learn more about the TRAC, and how you can participate, email us at or call 732.449.3621.
We would love to hear from you!

The Transit Research & Accessibility Center (TRAC) was created by the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University, under New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council contract #C024328.

What's New in Our Region:

Buffalo Bank Settles EEOC Allegations it Put Workers with Disabilities on 'Involuntary Leave'

A Buffalo NY bank has settled a lawsuit that alleges the corporation failed to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities by putting them on "involuntary leave" until they could have medical authorization to return to work without accommodations.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Hudson City Savings Bank (HCSB), which has merged with Wilmington Trust, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by placing employees on involuntary leave due to their disability or impairment. In one instance, the EEOC said, a bank teller whom needed a cam walker boot for tendonitis and bone spurs was placed on leave and then fired due to her condition. "HCSB's policy was in place since at least 2002 and, knowing of the 'no restrictions' require¬ment, some employees did not even attempt to request necessary accommodations of their disabilities," EEOC regional attorney Jeffrey Burstein said in a statement. "Wilmington Trust's actions required by the consent decree will ensure that legacy employees will be fully informed that HCSB's longstanding policy no longer applies." "We hope that this settlement will help inform employers and the public at large that the ADA requires employers to engage in an interactive process and does not allow for such 'no restriction' policies," added EEOC New York District director Kevin Berry. You can read more at:

Commemoration in Puerto Rico of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

On December 3, on the commemoration of the International Day of People with Disabilities, a group of persons with disabilities from various organizations met at the PR Capitol and the Governor's Office to demand that the Government uphold their rights. Among the organizations represented were: the Broad Coalition for Functional Diversity for Equality, the Steering Committee for People with Disabilities, the United Spinal Association PR Chapter, ELI Foundation of PR, the Steering Committee of Mothers and Fathers of the Special Education Class Action, and young self-advocates of the RIE (Respect, Include and Educate) Project of System TV subsidized by the State Developmental Disabilities Council (SDDC). The activity was titled: Fed Up Christmas Carol Protest of Indignation on Wheels. Using music and choruses alluding to their claims, they took to the Legislative and Governor's offices with their message that the rights of people with disabilities must be respected in PR.

For more information on the demonstration held on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in PR, visit:

The Deaf Community Voices its Claims in PR

The Deaf Autonomous Movement (MAS, by its Spanish acronym), as well as individual deaf people, their families and advocates, have been recently demanding across the media and on social media that their rights be met. First, the Deaf Autonomous Movement rejected a local comedy performance which they felt had mocked deaf people by imitating a sign language interpreter, making inappropriate gestures. Also the attorney for the Legal Assistance Society (SAL, by its Spanish acronym), Atty. John J. Troche Villeneuve, founder of the SAL por los S.O.R.D.O.S. Project (The Spanish acronym for Representation and Advocacy Services for the Deaf) stated: "There is a shortage of sign language professionals and one of the problems is that there is no public policy, and therefore no board of examiners to regulate interpreters; nor is there an Education Council to regulate sign language. The service is provided by private companies and freelance interpreters. We need to regulate a field that is totally unregulated because right now, there is no way to guarantee the level of quality needed for these services." In addition, individuals from the deaf community, along with their families, expressed their views regarding the discrimination they are continuously subject to. They also demanded that PR Law #56, of January 24, 2018; sponsored by Senator Juan Dalmau be upheld, which orders the Department of Education to create a curriculum to teach sign language in public schools. The Secretary of Education, Julia Keleher, said that the Committee that the law requires had already been created and that they had published a notice to recruit volunteers that know sign language. The Secretary said that: "We started with a few modules. We are working on that. If I only had more people with that ability... I would love to have at least one in every school. But I have to find a way... and I understand that it can benefit from organizations; there are people who know, parents, the community; so that, even if it is not very formal to begin with, but that we can have the resources for that support." The law establishes that the DE implement the program in stages, starting with the elementary level, and as the availability of resources will allow. The initiative would entail hiring a specialized teacher for every school. The Secretary of Education admitted that they have yet to define the budget needed to implement this law. You can contact the Deaf Autonomous Movement through their Facebook page:

For more information, visit:

The Judicial Branch Signs an Agreement with the University of PR to Benefit People with Disabilities' Access to Justice

The Presiding Judge of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, the Hon. Maite D. Oronoz Rodriguez, has renewed an agreement for up to five years, together with the President of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Dr. Jorge Haddock Acevedo, for the Judicial Branch and the Puerto Rico Technology Assistance Program (PRATP, by its Spanish acronym) to continue their collaboration on activities to improve access to the justice system by providing technological assistance for people with disabilities.

Since 2015, the Judicial Branch maintains a collaboration agreement with PRATP intended to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience, to develop joint projects. As a result, hundreds of Judicial Branch officials were given dozens of training courses on the subject of technology assistance for people with disabilities. In addition, technical assistance was provided to improve accessibility to the Judicial Branch's website. The use of technology assistance equipment in judicial proceedings was also encouraged, among other achievements. This initiative is part of the Judicial Branch's effort to comply with PR Law #174 of 2018, "Law to facilitate access to justice for people who suffer from conditions that prevent them from communicating effectively," which states that: "When a person with profound, severe, moderate or mild deafness, or who shows any other kind of hearing impairment or condition that prevents effective communication, is part of a process being heard before the Court of First Instance; the court, at its discretion and when requested by the party, shall take measures to ensure that the hearing and other court proceedings, including preliminary hearings, are preserved by some method of digital or video recording that will allow playback of the recording and ensure the preservation and visual integrity of the process, especially in the case of interrogations, testimonies and arguments submitted or interpreted through sign language, lip reading or based on the reasonable accommodations needed. This visual record shall be a part of the case file." Also, as part of this process, the resident PR Technical Assistance Specialist of the Northeast ADA Center, will soon offer training on the ADA to Judicial Branch personnel, through the Achievement of Independent Living Movement (MAVI, by its Spanish acronym), starting with those working with jury candidates and bailiffs.

For more information, visit:

What's New in the Rest of the Country:

No Vaccine? No Job! Court Affirms Employer's Ability to Condition Employment Upon Vaccinations

On December 7, 2018, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an employee who was terminated for refusing to take a rubella vaccine was not discriminated or retaliated against, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this case, Janet Hustvet worked as an Independent Living Skills Specialist. In May 2013, Hustvet completed a health assessment, during which she stated she did not know whether she was immunized for rubella. Subsequent testing confirmed she was not. Her employer -- Allina Health Systems -- then told Hustvet she would need to take one dose of the Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine ("MMR vaccine"). Hustvet stated to an Allina representative that she was concerned about the MMR vaccine because she had previously had a severe case of mumps and had "many allergies and chemical sensitivities." Later, Hustvet refused to take the MMR vaccine, and was terminated for failure to comply with Allina's immunity requirements. Hustvet then sued Allina, alleging discrimination, unlawful inquiry, and retaliation claims under the ADA and Minnesota state law. When affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment, the court explained that the information requested and the medical exam, which tested for immunity to infectious diseases, were related to essential, job related abilities. Indeed, Allina sought to ensure their patient-care providers would not pose a risk of spreading certain diseases - such as rubella - to its client base. Thus, the inquiry was job-related and consistent with business necessity. You can read more here:

University of Montana Research on ADA Has National Implications

A research center at the University of Montana is brokering answers to contemporary questions about the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The UM Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities is also helping UM law students become sensitive to disability issues, regardless of the type of law they practice, said Martin Blair, executive director of the institute. Last week, Blair discussed three research projects the institute recruited UM law students to tackle as part of a collaboration with the Rocky Mountain ADA Technical Assistance Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He said the questions come from the region, but the answers can have national implications.

For example, UM law student Joshua Thornton examined whether the ADA applies to vacation rental properties such as those listed on VRBO and Airbnb. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times cited the study in a story about travelers with mobility issues. The projects give students the chance to do professional work before they enter the workforce, and they give them the opportunity to broaden the legal understanding of the ADA and disability policy. To read more go to:

Airline's Provision of Alternative Accessible Website Triggers Hefty Fine Under the Air Carrier Access Act

In response to the onslaught of website accessibility lawsuits against public accommodations covered by Title III of the ADA, some website accessibility consulting companies have been promoting solutions that involve the use of an alternative version of a business' primary website that conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA (WCAG 2.0 AA). The alternative version is typically accessed through a link on the website and, unlike the bare bones "text-only" websites of the past, looks very much like the non-accessible website. While not cheap, this solution is appealing to many businesses because it requires no coding changes to the primary website, no substantial commitment of internal company resources because it is implemented by the third party consultant, and can be implemented fairly quickly to provide immediate access for users with disabilities. In a recent consent order against airline SAS, the Department of Transportation (DOT) made clear that these alternative websites do not meet the Air Carrier Access Act ("ACAA") requirement that all airlines make all web pages on their primary websites accessible by December 12, 2016. The DOT said SAS violated the ACAA's website rules when it when it "created a separate Web site for individuals with disabilities instead of ensuring that its primary Web site met the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA standard." To avoid an enforcement action, SAS entered into a consent order which requires SAS to pay $100,000 in immediate penalties, and other $100,000 in penalties if it later violates the Consent Order. To read more about this go to:

Opportunities for You!

Free Webinar-Effective Communication in the Criminal Justice System: Lessons from Case Law

Thursday, January 24th, 2019
12:30 PM EST - 1:15 PM EST

This is the second of a 3 part series, ADA Lessons from Case Law, where the presenter will examine recent court cases as they pertain to different areas of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A cornerstone of the ADA is the requirement that covered entities provide effective communication. The ADA's effective communication obligation raises interesting questions for law enforcement and corrections given the unique issues that arise in the criminal justice context. Through an in-depth review of recent court cases and settlement agreements, participants will learn what courts are saying about providing effective communication in the criminal justice system, including best practices and practical strategies.

Presenter: Rachel M. Weisberg, Staff Attorney and Manager, Employment Rights Helpline, Equip for Equality
The webinar:

  • This webinar will be presented via the Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing platform.
  • Real-time captioning will be available through the webinar platform.
  • A telephone option will also be available.

To register go to:

508 Webinar: Open Q&A Session on the Revised 508 Standards

Tuesday, January 29, 2019
1:00 PM EST - 2:30pm EST

This webinar provides an opportunity for attendees to pose questions to the Access Board on the revised Section 508 Standards. The 508 Standards apply to information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector such as computers, telecommunications equipment, printers, software, websites, information kiosks and transaction machines, and electronic documents. Questions are welcome on all sections of the standards, including application and scoping, functional performance criteria, hardware and software requirements, support documentation and services, and referenced standards. Access Board ICT Specialists will also address questions about companion guidelines for telecommunications equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act and any other topics related to the Board's activities on accessible ICT.
Participants are encouraged to submit their questions in advance of the session through the registration portal. They can also pose questions during the live webinar. This session will be helpful to anyone involved in complying with the 508 Standards or interested in ICT accessibility. Join us for a lively and informative discussion.


  • Bruce Bailey, ICT Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board
  • Timothy Creagan, Senior ICT Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board
  • Katherine Eng, ICT Accessibility Specialist, U.S. Access Board


Special Spotlight:

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease. Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase. Glaucoma is called "the sneak thief of sight" since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it's permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Moreover, among African American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Over 3 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of them do not know they have it. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we do not raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma. To read more about Glaucoma and see how you can help visit: