Monday, June 11, 2018

Supreme Court Voter Purge Decision Potentially Devastating for People with Disabilities

Although Federal laws prohibit states from removing people from voting rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote”, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the state of Ohio’s ability to do just that with a close 5 -4 decision.

Ohio will cut people from voting rolls if they skip elections and fail to respond to state official notices. Under the process, Election officials send notices to anyone who fails to cast a ballot during a two-year period. People who do not respond to the notice and don't vote over the next four years, including in two more federal elections, are dropped as registered voters. Chris Carson, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States, says "This decision will fuel the fire of voter suppressors...” noting that the "right to vote is not 'use it or lose it’”.

Many different individuals are likely to have their voting rights damaged by the new ruling, and people with disabilities, who often face significant barriers to voting to begin with, seem greatly at risk. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) notes that 1 in 5 eligible to voters has a disability, yet limited/poor community accessibility and polling place access issues can make it difficult to impossible for people with disabilities to cast votes in elections at all levels.

The Pew Charitable Trusts (an evidence-based, non-partisan analysis group) reports that issues with non-functioning accessible voting machines, poorly training poll workers, and physical barriers such as stairs and uneven/unpaved surfaces are among the most common issues. Pew has also noted, “The proliferation of voter ID laws may compound the problem since people with disabilities are less likely to drive and to carry a photo ID.” 

Aspects of a person’s disability itself may create additional barriers; for instance, a person who requires multiple hospitalizations over time may easily miss several elections as well as miss any notices sent to a home mailing address; likewise, caregivers and other assistants may toss such notices as ‘junk mail’.

Although the ADA requires accessible polling locations and processes, many people with disabilities are thwarted nonetheless. The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently found pervasive barriers exist at most U.S. polling stations—more than 80% of locations were partially or wholly inaccessible during the 2016 Presidential election! It is not difficult to imagine many Ohioans with disabilities—and voters with disabilities everywhere— getting turned away at polling places. That is, if they can even access the necessary transportation services to get there in the first place. 

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Under Consideration: New Fed Rules for Flights with Service Animals

With numerous recent issues related to the safe travel of service and comfort animals on airlines, the Department of Transportation is considering new regulations for flights, with most of the controversies and recent concerns related to emotional support animals, a somewhat ill-defined category.

DOT officials are considering rule changes and seeking public comment on concerns such as requirements for leashing or crating service animals and whether emotional support/comfort animals should be included in the same category as service animals such as those for individuals who are Blind, for instance. The Department is also considering possible limits on the size and/or species of animals permitted on planes, as well as requirements for documenting an animal's training and qualifications.

Proponents and opponents of emotional support animals both note that the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Acts are at times unclear and even in conflict regarding the legal responsibilities of air carriers and the rights of passengers with disabilities.

Transportation.gov provides the following information to passengers considering air travel with a service animal at this link: https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/service-animals-including-emotional-support-animals

To comment on the newly proposed regulations, please visit: Regulations.gov at: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOT-OST-2018-0068-0001


For additional viewpoints on the issue, please visit:

https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2018/05/22/feds-eye-flying-service-animals/25113/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/01/travel/service-animals-planes.html
https://www.dallasnews.com/business/airlines/2018/04/15/pets-plane-american-southwest-airlines-government-help-emotional-support-animals

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Congress Members Request GAO Analysis of School ADA Compliance, Protest Equity Delays

Last week, three U.S. Representatives from two states--  José E. Serrano, a Democrat form New York, Jerrold Nadler, also a Democrat from New York, and Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia, sent a letter to the Government Accounting Office (GAO) urging the agency to launch a nation-wide anaysis of school compliance with the Americans with Disability Act. The congressmen are the Ranking Member of the House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, and Ranking Member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, respectively.

The letter noted, "...localities continue to undermine the law by limiting the number of schools students with disabilities can physically access through negligence and lackluster enforcement of the ADA. That is why we write to request the Government Accountability Office to analyze and issue a report on ADA compliance in our nation’s schools.”

Full text of the GAO letter can be found here: https://democrats-edworkforce.house.gov/media/press-releases/congressman-serrano-leads-joint-effort-to-help-ensure-students-with-disabilities-can-access-public-education-

Mr. Scott along with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) is also engaged in ongoing efforts to prevent delays and possible rollbacks of civil rights protections for students with disabilities under the Equity in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) rule, which addresses disproportionate identification, placement, and disciplinary treatment of students of color in special education. Congressman Scott and Senator Murray are especially concerned since February, when the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services announced plans to postpone the compliance date of the “Equity in IDEA” or “significant disproportionality” regulations for K-12 students until July 1, 2020, and for children ages three through five until July 1, 2022.