Thursday, December 11, 2008

Texas State School Deaths Spark Protests


AUSTIN, Texas— Protesters gathered at a Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) board meeting yesterday to demonstrate against alleged mistreatment of state school residents who have disabilities, including intellectual disabilities. Wearing shirts with the number 53 on them and chanting “Shame on you” and “53 deaths on your watch”, the protesters disrupted the meeting for about 10 minutes, until security personnel escorted them out. The protesters belong to an Community Now, an advocacy group. According to the Austin-American Statement, “A federal Department of Justice report released last week found at least 53 patients in Texas' large residential facilities died in 2007 from preventable conditions that were often the result of lapses in care.” Since 2004, the state has terminated or suspended over 800 employees for mistreating consumers.

SOURCES:

Protesters disrupt meeting about Texas' state schools for the disabled.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-stateschools_11tex.ART.State.Edition1.4ac8359.html

Protesters disrupt state meeting

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/6157643.html

Protesters disrupt state council meeting, angry about conditions at state schools

http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/politics/entries/2008/12/10/protesters_disrupt_state_counc.html

(INCLUDES VIDEO of Protest)

RELATED:

http://www.offthekuff.com/mt/archives/009890.html

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-stateschools_25tex.ART.State.Edition2.42b6d15.html

http://www.houstonpress.com/2008-07-31/news/texas-woman-fights-abuse-at-the-state-s-schools-for-the-mentally-retarded/

Sunday, December 7, 2008

NRCA Disability Legislative Update

From the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association:
Major Events Last Week
Obama Administration: President-elect Barack Obama announced that he will nominate Peter Orszag, Congressional Budget Office Director, to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the White House which oversees the federal budget. Orszag has significant expertise in health policy. If confirmed, he is expected to play a major role in the development of health care reform policies, focusing on health care costs . President-Elect Obama also announced the nomination of Rob Nabors, Staff Director of the House Appropriations Committee to be OMB Deputy Director.
Medicaid : The Department of Health and Human Services has published a list of the federal matching rates for the Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for Fiscal Year 2010. This list shows the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) that the federal government will pay for approved services under the state Medicaid plan from October 1, 2009, through September 30, 2010. The list also includes Enhanced FMAP percentages which are to be used for the SCHIP program and for certain children in the Medicaid program. The state list can be found at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-28233.pdf
Major Events Ahead
U.S. Congress: The Congress is not in session this week. It will convene next week for a lame duck session.
Economic Stimulus/Medicaid: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will meet with the leadership of the National Governors Association (NGA) to discuss elements of the economic stimulus package that Congress is expected to consider in early January. A temporary increase in the federal share of Medicaid spending (known as the FMAP) is high on the NGA's wish list.
Education: The U. S. Department of Education published final rules this morning for certain provisions of the IDEA Part B State Grant Program. The rules deal with parental consent for special education services, fees for non-attorneys in due process hearings, and efforts to employ and promote individuals with disabilities. See the regulation at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-28175.pdf
Announcements
Access Board Leadership: The Access Board, an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities, named David Capozzi as its new Executive Director on November 24th. Prior to this announcement, Mr. Capozzi served as Director of the Board’s Office of Technical and Information Services and as Acting Interim Director. Capozzi states that he has “a vision of a higher performing agency that will grow to meet the demands of our complex society.”
Policy Recomendations for Obama Administration: The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), a coalition of more than 100 national disability organizations, submitted its policy recommendations to the Obama transition team. View the document at http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/trans/CCD-Transition-Recommendations-11-17-08.pdf
--------------------
Please note that you can view previous issues of the Capitol Insider, at thearc.org anytime by
Annie Acosta
Director of Communications and Grassroots Advocacy
Disability Policy Collaboration

National Rehabilitation Counseling Association (NRCA)
PO Box 4480
Manassas, VA 20108
703-361-2077 (voice)
703-361-2489 (fax)
(Office hours: Monday through Thursday; 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. EDT)
"There's a place for you in NRCA"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dec. 3 International Day of Persons with Disabilities


The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, established by the United Nations, is December 3, 2008. This year’s themes are Dignity and Justice, and the "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Dignity and Justice for All of Us". It is also the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

About 10% of the world’s population (650 million people) has disabilities. However, many people with disabilities still do not have rights equal recognition before the law and legal, freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to participate in political and public life. About 80% of the global population of people with disabilities, or about 400 million people live in poor countries where a significant link between poverty and disability exist.

The UN. Enable website says, “2008 is a significant year in the international human rights movement, given the entry into force on 3 May of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, legally binding instruments which set out the legal obligations of States to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities”.

To find out which countries have ratified the Convention, and which have not, visit the UN website at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=18&pid=257

Monday, December 1, 2008

Recent Books Consider Theology and Disability


Three recent books investigate disability from the perspective of Christian theology, according to The Christian Century. Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity (Baylor University Press), by Amos Yong; Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality (Brazos), by Thomas E. Reynolds; and Spirit and the Politics of Disablement (Fortress), by Sharon V. Betcher all examine the theological implications of different types of disabilities from various perspective, both personal, professional, and pastoral.

Disability and spirituality has become an increasingly important topic in disability studies and rehabilitation counseling. Various authors have considered disability through the theological lenses of Judaism, such as Judith Z. Abrams’ “Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli” and Islam, as in “Disability in Islamic Law”, by Vardit Rispler-Chaim, just to name two.

SOURCE:
Toward a Theology of Disability
http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=5761
RELATED:
Disability in Asian Cultures and Beliefs: History and Service Development– Some Collected Papers by M. Miles
http://www.haworthpress.com/stor/toc/J095v06n02_TOC.pdf?sid=WMJKJR2TC31M9GHNGKCBKS4LXX6E8320&

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lawsuit for Dorm Rights in Michigan

MICHIGAN, The Detroit News—

The Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service is suing Oakland University on behalf of Micah Fialka-Feldman, a 24 year old with mild cognitive impairment. Fialka-Feldman attends courses and participates in campus life through the special program, but is not a student officially admitted to the University. The Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service says Oakland University should permit him to reside in the dorms as a reasonable accommodation, and is in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and Rehabilitation Act by not doing so.

According to the Detroit News, the program Fialka-Feldman attends “… was designed for college-age students with cognitive disabilities who couldn't be admitted to Oakland under the regular admissions standards”. Through the three-year program, participating individual develop social, vocational and independent living skills.

SOURCES:

Disability Advocacy Group Sues Oakland University Over Student Dorm Issue

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081128/METRO02/811280401

Oakland U Sued in Dorm Case

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081129/SCHOOLS/811290380

RELATED:

The documentary and website, “Through the Same Door” chronicles Fialka-Feldman’s search for inclusive housing.

http://www.throughthesamedoor.com/

Disability Nation’s article, “Battle for Inclusion” includes an interview with Fialka-Feldman and his family as well at YouTube clips:

http://www.disabilitynation.net/blog/battle-inclusion-michigan

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day Lawsuit for the VA


The Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington today against the Department of Veterans Affairs in hopes of requiring the VA to provide 90-day initial rulings on disability benefits disability benefits within 90 days and 180-day appeal resolutions. Together, the Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare groups represent about 60,000 veterans.

The President of the Vietnam Veterans of America says delayed claims give the impression the nation does not respect veterans. Currently, initial claims decision wait times average about six months, while appeals can take up to four years to be resolved. The VA is currently handling 600,000 pending claims.

In addition to time limits on claim decisions, the veteran’s groups seek interim benefits for veterans whose claims cannot be decided within the 90/180 day limits of about $356 monthly for a single veteran without dependents. Lisette Mondello, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs says, “The Department of Justice handles litigation issues in the U.S. District Court for the VA… the VA has made considerable improvements in claims adjudication and continues to do so. It is a key priority for the VA."

Obama's "Plan to Empower Americans with Disabilities"

The American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD) reports on the four core themes of President Barack Obama’s Plan to Empower Americans with Disabilities:

  1. Providing Americans with Disabilities Educational Opportunities including full federal funding for IDEA, improving college opportunities, and improving transition
  2. Ending Discrimination and Promoting Equality of Opportunity for People with Disabilities by implementing the ADA Amendments Act and Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, judicial appointments, increasing enforcement funding, and by improving access to health care, including mental health care
  3. Increasing the Employment Rate of Workers with Disabilities by improving federal hiring and federal contractor hiring, creating a national commission to look at Social Security work disincentives, and by promoting workplace flexibility
  4. Supporting Independent, Community-based Living for Americans with Disabilities by passing Community Choice Act and CLASS Act, implementing the Olmstead decision, protecting voting rights, fixing Medicare "homebound" rules, improving access to technology, and by strengthening the VA

Early in his campaign, Barack Obama responded to an AAPD questionnaire developed and submitted with the National Council on Independent Living, ADAPT, and Self Advocates Becoming Empowered. Obama will have a full-time Assistant to the President for Disability Policy in the White House Domestic Policy Council to carry out his disability Plan.

To work with President-Elect Obama on disability-related concerns during his transition and in his administration, AAPD is creating a talent bank of interested AAPD members. Send Resumes to resumes@aapd.com.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spotlight on VSA Arts


Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith founded VSA Arts as an international nonprofit organization in 1974 to create a society for people with disabilities to learn about, participate in and enjoy the arts. VSA Arts is affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. VSA Arts includes teaching support materials and an Artist’s Registry- a database of artists with disabilities.Location: 818 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20006(P) 202-628-2800, 800-933-8721 (F) 202-429-0868 (TDD) 202-737-0645Online: http://www.vsarts.org/x11.xml
To view the online exhibit, “Art, Disability, and Expression”, visit:
http://www.vsarts.org/prebuilt/showcase/gallery/exhibits/disability/

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pres-Elect Obama Mentions Disability in Acceptance Speech


President-Elect Barack Obama mentioned people with disabilities in his acceptance speech Tuesday night:

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dreams of our founders are alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer… It is the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans who send a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states - we are and always will be the United States of America."

Despite his lack of person-first language, his recognition of people with disabilities as part of America's diversity is noteworthy.

For a Full Text Transcript of the speech, go to:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/28/us/politics/28text-obama.html

For You Tube videos of the speech, go to:

http://video.google.com/videosearch?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&channel=s&hl=en&q=obama+acceptance+speech&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&resnum=4&ct=title#



Monday, November 3, 2008

Tuesday November 4th is Election Day


For a quick view of candidate disability policy statements, please visit:

Obama/Biden Disability Issues Statement: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/disabilities/

Obama/Biden Disability Plan Fact Sheet:
http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/DisabilityPlanFactSheet.pdf

Obama/Biden Disability Community Group Discussion Posts:
http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/group/ObamaDisabilityPolicyDiscussion

McCain/Palin Disability Statement:
http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/9cb5d2aa-f237-464e-9cdf-a5ad32771b9f.htm
** Senator McCain’s official website does not contain a separate disability policies document and does not maintain a disability-related community discussion board.

National Campaign for Fair Elections:
http://www.nationalcampaignforfairelections.org/page/-/ACCESSIBILITY%20FOR%20VOTERS%20WITH%20DISABILITIES.pdf

National Disability Rights Network: Election Day Resources for Voters with Disabilities
http://www.napas.org/issues/voting/day/default.htm

For assistance in voting with a disability, call: 1-866-OUR-VOTE

Monday, October 27, 2008

Speedy SSA Claims for Severe Conditions

Washington DC, USA-- People with certain cancers and other severe conditions will have their disability claims fat-tracked under a new Social Security program, which may result in disability decisions in a matter of days, not months. Michael J. Astrue, head of the Social Security Administration says new Compassionate Allowances initiative will apply to 25 rare diseases and 25 cancers. Disorders and diseases include inoperable forms of breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder, kidney, and bone cancers, acute leukemia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Creutzfeldt-Jakob and Gaucher diseases, and Rett Syndrome. The new process uses rapid action computer scanning for key terms, resulting in 95% claim acceptance. The president of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), Peter Saltonstall, says the new allowances are "an outstanding achievement" for people with certain rare diseases.

SOURCES:
Social Security speeds disability claims review

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iehbar0cfRyF-t4ZjGfDc0BZglAgD942RP9G0

New Compassionate Allowances for Social Security Disability Represent 'Outstanding Achievement,' NORD Says

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/new-compassionate-allowances-social-security/story.aspx?guid=%7B48F443FE-0ABE-4131-8675-C71A197F2AA3%7D&dist=hppr

RELATED:

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

www.rarediseases.org

Social Security’s List of Compassionate Allowances:

www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Veteran's Affairs Press Release: SWEEPING VETERANS’ MENTAL HEALTH BILL NOW LAW

Thank you to the NRCA Office ListServ for forwarding this press release.
VA PRESS RELEASE:
SWEEPING VETERANS' MENTAL HEALTH BILL NOW LAW
IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Kawika Riley (Veterans’ Affairs)October 10, 2008(202) 224-9126

SWEEPING VETERANS’ MENTAL HEALTH BILL NOW LAW

Akaka’s legislation was inspired by first-hand accounts from veterans and their families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today regarding enactment of S. 2162, the Veterans Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008. S. 2162, introduced by Senator Akaka and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators, makes various improvements to veterans’ mental health and other forms of care. The bill pays tribute to Justin Bailey, an Iraq war veteran who returned from combat only to lose his life to PTSD and an accidental overdose of prescription medications.

“Now that S. 2162 has been enacted, VA can incorporate these provisions to improve its strategy against the injury and enemy of PTSD and other invisible wounds,” said Akaka.

In his floor statement urging passage of S. 2162, Akaka detailed the origins of his legislation: “The legislation did not stem from a lobbyist or an interest group. It came about because of one letter – a letter to me from the parents of Justin Bailey – Mary Kaye and Tony Bailey.

“Justin Bailey was a war veteran who survived Iraq only to die while receiving care from VA for PTSD and substance use disorder. A week after his death last year, Justin’s parents were naturally heartbroken by the death of their only son, but even more than that, they were concerned that other veterans might share his fate if VA mental health care did not improve,” said Akaka. The Bailey family has worked actively to improve veterans’ mental health, testifying before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and supporting S. 2162.

S. 2162’s improvements to veterans’ mental health care include:
  • Setting a standard minimum level of care for substance use disorder, and creating innovative enhancements to treatment
  • Improving treatment to veterans with multiple disorders, such as PTSD and substance use disorder
  • Mandating a review of VA’s residential mental health care facilities, to ensure that they are adequately staffed
  • Creating a research program on PTSD and substance use disorder, in cooperation with the National Center for PTSD
  • Enabling VA to provide mental health services to veterans’ families, and setting up a program to aid the families of returning servicemembers
S. 2162 also makes significant improvements in other areas of veterans’ health care:
  • Rural Veterans: More than doubles the beneficiary travel mileage reimbursement (from 11 to 28.5 cents per mile) eligible veterans can receive for travel to receive VA care, permanently sets the deductible to $3 each way for such travel, creates a pilot program on the use of peers to enhance outreach to rural veterans, and encourages coordination between VA and rural community-based resources.
  • Emergency Care for Veterans: Corrects current procedures used by VA to reimburse community hospitals for emergency care provided to eligible veterans.
  • VA Epilepsy Centers of Excellence: In recognition of the link between traumatic brain injury, a signature wound of the current conflicts, and epilepsy, establishes up to six VA Epilepsy Centers of Excellence focused on research, education, and clinical care for epilepsy.
  • Veterans’ Pain Care: Requires a pain care program, including care for acute pain, for all VA inpatient facilities for long-term mental health and substance abuse care and to prevent long-term chronic pain disability, expands VA health care staff education on pain assessment and treatment, and increases VA research on pain care.
  • Veterans’ Caregivers: Extends authority for VA to provide institutional and non-institutional long-term care and caregiver assistance services.
  • Medical Construction: Authorizes a series of major medical facility construction projects and outpatient clinic leases.
  • Homelessness: Creates targeted programs to assist low-income veterans, and increases funding capacity for the successful VA Grant and Per Diem program, which assists community-based organizations that serve homeless veterans.
  • Rehabilitating Veterans: Expands a program to help formerly incarcerated veterans reintegrate into society through employment counseling and other services.
S. 2162, introduced by Chairman Akaka, was reported by the Senate Committee, then passed the full Senate unanimously before being amended and passed in the House, then passed again in the Senate. President Bush signed the bill into law on October 10, 2008.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Employing People with Disabilities: 5 Recommendations

USA-- DiversityInc, a leading publication on diversity and business, has publishes its annual list of top employers for people with disabilities. DiversityInc began in 1998 as a web-based publication with a print magazine added in 2002. DiversityInc.com has a large career center online. The organization makes the following five recommendations for employers to increase disability diversity in the workplace:

  1. Make Inclusion part of the company's culture
  2. Think globally in hiring, design, and accessibility
  3. Provide support groups
  4. Celebrate people with disabilities
  5. Make the workplace accessible

About 49.7 million Americans have a disability and roughly 30.6 million are of working age, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

SOURCES:

http://www.diversityinc.com/public/4533.cfm

RELATED:

The 2008 DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for People With Disabilities

http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3573.cfm

The 2008 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity

http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3272.cfm

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month


The theme of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2008 is "America's People... America's Talent... America's Strength!"


This year's theme is designed to convey the signfiicant contributions Americans with disabilities can make and do make in the workplace and the economy. Neil Romano, assistant secretary for the Labor Department´s Office of Disability Employment Policy, says. "People with disabilities are the next great wave of diversity, and diversity fosters innovation to drive our economy and our nation into the future."


NDEAM began in 1945, when Congress deemed the first week in October each year as "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month, declaring October "National Disability Employment Awareness Month."


White House Press Release:



Department of Veteran's Affairs:


Work World:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

October 6 Deadline for Voter Registration!!


October 6th is the voter registration deadline for the November 4th Presidential Election. Be sure to be included by registering prior to the deadline.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Direct from the NCRA List Service:

Rights for the Disabled
Congress approves landmark protections for disabled workers.
Monday, September 22, 2008; A14

IT WENT largely unnoticed in a week of economic upheaval, but Congress approved one of the more momentous pieces of civil rights legislation in recent years. The bill, passed overwhelmingly in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate, will significantly broaden protections for the disabled. It instructs the Supreme Court to act "in favor of broad coverage," a distinction that should make it easier for disabled workers to claim discrimination. By explicitly arguing for a less constrictive interpretation, lawmakers sought to restore the intent of the original Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990; the Supreme Court has imposed a consistently narrow interpretation of the ADA. President Bush has said that he will sign the bill into law despite previous concerns that the legislation would spur excess litigation.

The legislation is the result of two years of remarkable cooperation between business groups and disability rights organizations. The compromise strikes a balance as it guarantees rights for workers with "actual or perceived impairments." For example, airlines can no longer discriminate against prospective pilots if the applicants employ "mitigating measures," such as corrective eyewear. At the same time, the bill limits unwarranted claims by requiring that workers prove they have a disability that "would substantially limit a major life activity when active." The bill will also provide protection, for the first time, to workers with serious ailments such as diabetes, epilepsy and cancer.

Business and disability groups are pleased with the final version of the bill and said that collaborating on the legislation should reduce the number of lawsuits over its implementation. The direct language of the bill, and the laudable cooperation that forged it, should also improve employment levels for the disabled. Two out of three people with significant disabilities are unemployed, a disturbing statistic that disability organizations say is unchanged from when the original ADA became law. This time, Congress's intent is clear, and we hope the courts follow it.

NCRAOFFICE@aol.com


Monday, September 15, 2008

U.S. & Australia Fight for Murderball Gold


BEIJING— The U.S. beat Great Britain and Australia upset Canada on Monday in the Beijing Paralympics Wheelchair Rugby semifinals. The U.S. will play Australia today for the gold medal. The U.S. team has won two previous gold medals in the sport, however won only a bronze medal in Athens in 2004. Australia’s secret weapon is "Magic Boy" Ryley Batt, an incredibly strong player who has helped Australia achieve excellent status in the game. Nonetheless, the U.S. is favored to win.

SOURCES:
U.S., Australia to fight for wheelchair rugby gold at Beijing Paralympics
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-09/15/content_10023237.htm
Ryley Batt Set to Dominate Wheelchair Rugby
http://7thspace.com/headlines/292931/ryley_batt_set_to_dominate_wheelchair_rugby.html
U.S. Paralympic rugby team, including Austin-based players and coach, goes for gold today
http://www.statesman.com/sports/content/sports/stories/other/09/16/0916pararugby.html
RELATED:
Murderball’s Back, Baby!
http://deadspin.com/5049496/murderballs-back-baby-watch-your-toes
Murderball: Movie
http://www.murderballmovie.com/

Congressional Hearing on SSA Disability Backlog

The Congressional House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security holds a hearing Tuesday, September 16th to address the 761,000 claim backlog of Social Security disability cases. Claim decision wait times are over 2 years in some regions of the country; overall, the wait for a decision has doubled since 2000. An increase in baby boomer applications and personnel shortages throughout the system are among factors contributing to the problem. The government is using several tactics to decrease the backlog, including hiring 189 additional administrative law judges and using videoconferencing to hear cases. Some methods are working; the Social Security Administration has completed 200,000 cases over 900 days old. Currently, 9 million people with disabilities collected a total of $96 billion in 2007. This year, 2.6 million people will file Social Security disability claims.


SOURCES:
“Congress Holds Hearing Tuesday, Sept. 16 on Backlog of Social Security Disability Cases -- Judges Say More Staff and Not Just Judges are Required to Reduce Caseload”
http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/congress-holds-hearing-tuesday-sept/story.aspx?guid={FE19C88B-C6EC-41AD-B42A-E8BF941AF29A}&dist=hppr
“Applicants endure hardship while waiting for disability benefits to be OK'd”
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/custom/consumer/sfl-flrxdis0913pnsep13,0,3371474.story
“Social Security’s clogged pipeline”
http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/stories/2008/08/21/disabled.html

RELATED:
The Social Security Administration
http://www.ssa.gov
The Association of Administrative Law Judges
http://www.aalj.org/

Friday, September 12, 2008

Harkin Hatch Press Release on ADA Amendments

United States Senate, WASHINGTON, DC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Contact: Jennifer Mullin (Harkin) 202-224-3254

Mark Eddington (Hatch) 202-224-5251

HARKIN, HATCH MEASURE FULFILLING PROMISE OF AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT PASSES SENATE UNANIMOUSLY

Legislation responds to Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the definition of disability

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) today announced that the Senate had approved by unanimous consent a bill that would clarify the law's intent and ensure that all Americans with disabilities are protected from discrimination. The bill will need to be acted upon by the House of Representatives before being sent to the President's desk.

The Senate bill is similar to bipartisan legislation introduced in the House by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner that passed by a 402-17 margin this summer.

Considered to be one of the landmark civil rights laws of the 20th century, the ADA was designed to protect any individual who is discriminated against on the basis of disability. The law was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

Since the ADA became law, a series of court decisions have narrowed the category of who qualifies as an "individual with a disability," contrary to Congressional intent. By raising the threshold for an impairment to qualify as a disability, these court decisions have deprived individuals of the discrimination protections Congress intended to provide.

The ADA Amendments Act would remedy this problem and restore workplace protections to every American with a disability. The bill leaves the ADA's familiar disability definition intact, but takes several specific steps to direct courts toward a more generous meaning and application of the definition. The legislation would make it easier for people with disabilities to be covered by the ADA because it effectively expands the definition of disability to include many more major life activities, as well as a new category of major bodily functions.

"With today’s vote, we have restored the promise of the ADA which was signed into law 18 years ago," said Harkin, the chief author of the original ADA. "The protections afforded under this historic law have been eroded and the result is that people with serious conditions like epilepsy or diabetes could be forced to choose between treating their conditions and forfeiting their protections under the law. That is not what Congress intended when we passed the law, and this bill is the right fix."

"This is a historic day," said Hatch. "This bill continues our ongoing effort to expand opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate in the American Dream. Passage of the ADA Amendments Act ensures that the Americans with Disabilities Act will continue to help change lives. I'm proud to have worked with my good friend Tom Harkin in crafting this monumental bill that enjoys such strong bipartisan support."

The ADA Amendments Act enjoys strong support by advocacy groups, including most national disability organizations, 23 major veterans organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the Human Resources Policy Association.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Disability and September 11th


The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 affected many people in many ways, most of which have been chronicled thoroughly the media, art, and journalism in addition to myriad more personal remembrances. However, consideration of September 11th from a disability-related perspective has been more limited. Yet, the events of September 11th had immediate effects and continue to have long-term impact on people with disabilities.

Immediate Impact
The September 11th attacks put a large system of rescue and recovery into motion. In particular, enormous focus was placed on rescue and recovery at the World Trade Center (WTC) site, due to overwhelming scope of the disaster there. However, there was little to no commensurate rescue and recovery mobilization for people with disabilities in proximity to the devastation. In Manhattan, for example, the disaster immobilized the entire disability-related service delivery system; many individuals with disabilities could not access critical services. With most accessible transportation necessarily diverted to the rescue effort, people with disabilities had a great deal of difficulty leaving the area. When people with disabilities were able to evacuate the WTC area, they found most relocation hotels and shelters, as well as the homes of friends and family inaccessible.

For people with the most severe disabilities, many found their local independent living centers short on staff and unable to provide adequate services due the lack of accessible transportation and their own personal impact. The Deaf community faced significant communication difficulties without TTY and Video Relay Services— the WTC roof had housed many communication technologies.

As September 11th unfolded and in the days and weeks immediately following, the situation for people with disabilities did not always significantly improve. Some local trauma and grief counselors had difficulty understanding the experiences of people with disabilities whose routine services and supports were unavailable. Relief workers, most from out-of-state, were unfamiliar with local and area services and were not able to offer reliable assistance. Some did not understanding why the public transportation shutdown prevented some people with disabilities from accessing assistance.

September 11th had a disproportionate negative impact on people with psychiatric disabilities, many of whom experienced an increase in symptoms. In addition, many previously healthy individuals developed stress disorders, event fatigue, and PTSD-like symptoms.

Longer Term Effects
The events of September 11th resulted in many long-term changes in transportation and building security that have also unevenly affected people with disabilities. Air carrier and air travel accessibility have been longstanding problems for people with disabilities, now made more difficult in today’s security environment. The elimination of curbside check-in and drop-offs has created significant travel barriers. Restrictions on carry-on items, medical equipment, and medications are often difficult for people with disabilities to manage. Sometimes, security officers will not clear an unticketed personal attendant accompanying a traveler with a disability to a gate, creating frustration and delay.

September 11th generated an unprecedented outpouring of compassion and generosity by individuals and from the charitable community. The September 11 Fund began days after the attacks, and has provided over 273 grants. A number of grants went to disability service providers, such as Village Care in Manhattan, Quality Services for the Autism Community, The Center for the Independence of the Disabled in New York, and Helen Keller Worldwide, an organization that sustained nearly $42 million in damages in the WTC collapse. Military and foreign affair related budgets also increased dramatically, and the government established the Department of Homeland Security. The new Department awarded Homeland Security grants in all 50 states to improve security and emergency preparations and to increase police and emergency personnel.

September 11th brought the widespread lack of disaster preparedness and safe, efficient evacuation processes for people disabilities into focus. Post-September 11th research found traditional and narrow definitions of disability are not appropriate in modern disasters. Organizations routinely overlook people with “invisible” disabilities, such as psychiatric disorders, asthma and other respiratory disorders, multiple chemical sensitivities, and some sensory and cognitive disabilities. Moreover, organizations leave almost all people with disabilities out of preparedness and planning activities. As a result, most emergency response plans involve walking, running, driving, seeing, hearing, and quickly responding to alerts and announcements—tasks that are quite difficult for people with disabilities. Despite the lessons of September 11th, emergency response first aid stations, mass feeding areas, portable phone banks and toilets, and shelters often remain inaccessible, as seen in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Palin Coverage Rife with Disabling Language

PRNewswire via COMTEX— Media coverage of Sarah Palin and her son, Trig, is full of disabling, non-person first language. Media reports on Trig variously describe him as a “Down syndrome baby” and “Down syndrome child” who is “afflicted”. The preferred means of speaking and writing about people with disabilities is Person-First, a style of communication that puts the person before any mention of his or her disability and avoids the use of value-negative terms, such as afflicted or suffers. Person first language demonstrates that disability is not the sole defining characteristic of a person, any more than an individual is solely defined by hair or skin color. Cynthia Kidder, CEO of Band of Angels (http://www.bandofangels.com), a national outreach group says, “Language sets a tone and standard of expectation… This discussion must include the power of language and the influence of the media in shaping national standards for language.”

SOURCE:

Palin's VP Nomination Highlights Media's Disability Language Gaffes

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/palins-vp-nomination-highlights-medias/story.aspx?guid={4BE09EC2-2854-45A1-A4C6-82BE8ED47DA7}&dist=hppr

RELATED:

American Speech and Hearing Association Guide to Person First Language:

http://www.asha.org/about/publications/journal-abstracts/submissions/person_first.htm

Disability is Natural Guide to People First Langauge

http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/peoplefirstlanguage.htm




Friday, September 5, 2008

QuickNews: Mobile ASL


SCIENCE DAILY, USA— Last week, Science Daily reported on newly developed software that transmits sign language over cell phones. A group of University of Washington Engineers received a National Science Foundation grant for the project, called MobileASL, which begins official next year. The system will provide two-way real-time video communication and the demonstration project on YouTube (http://youtube.com/watch?v=FaE1PvJwI8E) has been a smash hit with the Deaf community. The MobileASL project website is available at: http://mobileasl.cs.washington.edu/index.html

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Disaboom Poll: 91% Call for Increased Political Voice

MARKET WIRE via COMTEX— Healthcare, employment issues, and community support top the list of issues people with disabilities want our presidential candidates to address, according to a new poll by Disaboom (http:// www.disaboom.com). Fully 91% of people with disabilities participating in the poll say they do not have a political voice. Disaboom founder Dr. Glen House says people with disabilities are “eager to be included in the political dialogue in the 2008 election", noting that people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the U.S. In a related poll, Disaboom reports 57% of people with disabilities support Barack Obama, while 37% support John McCain.

SOURCES:
“91% of People with Disabilities Believe They Don't Have a Political Voice, Urge Candidates to Address Top Disability Issues”

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/91-people-disabilities-believe-they/story.aspx?guid={04FD55A1-D275-429B-92D3-D661038BA0EC}&dist=hppr

“Disaboom's Survey Shows Disabled People Urge Presidential Candidates To Address Disability Issues”

http://www.rttnews.com/Content/BreakingNews.aspx?Node=B1&Id=698347%20&Category=Breaking%20News

“91% of People With Disabilities Believe They Receive Less Attention From Presidential Candidates Than Other Groups”

http://www.financialnewsusa.com/news.php?rlsid=2066

RELATED:

“People With Disabilities Choose Obama, Disaboom Poll Shows”

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/people-disabilities-choose-obama-disaboom/story.aspx?guid={FA2F014B-FCA8-4E24-8013-0C0F1E81BA32}&dist=hppr

Disaboom has 2008 Election coverage available: http://www.disaboom.com/Living/Election08/Default.aspx

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