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Advancing rights and enhancing lives of people with disabilities







August 2004

CDR Gargoyle Award Banquet to be held October 15

On Friday, October 15, CDR will hold its fourteenth annual awards banquet to honor outstanding advocates for people with disabilities. The event begins at 6 PM and ends after 10 PM; it will be held at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place at 2233 South King Drive in Chicago.

Invitations will be mailed by mid-September to Chicago and suburban recipients of CDR's print newsletter. Anyone else may request an invitation by calling or writing the CDR office. It is a beautiful location and we hope to see all of you there! Next issue will announce the award winners.

WRITE CDR office

Federal jobs for disabled drop

By Christopher Lee

The number of federal employees with severe disabilities has declined by nearly 20 percent over the last decade, challenging the long-held notion that the federal government is a haven of opportunity for such workers.

In fiscal 2003, federal agencies employed 25,551 workers who were deaf, blind, mentally ill or mentally retarded, or had other serious disabilities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That was a 19. 8 percent decrease from 31,860 such federal workers in fiscal 1994, the EEOC found. The steady decline far surpassed the 7. 6 percent reduction in overall civilian federal employment during the period, to 2. 42 million workers (including the U. S. Postal Service).

The trend was among many employment issues highlighted in a new annual EEOC report on the federal workforce. The decline is important because the federal government always has striven to be a model employer that is open to everyone, said Catherine McNamara, a lawyer and adviser in the EEOC's Office of Federal Operations.

"The community of people with disabilities is a huge, untapped resource of many, many talented, qualified people who are not being drawn into the workplace," McNamara said. "And as the federal government faces more and more of a challenging world and it is dependent on its employees to meet those challenges, we're going to need to tap as many areas of talent as we can. "

The contraction of the disabled federal workforce by nearly one-fifth surprised analysts and advocates for the 54 million Americans with disabilities. Nationwide, 35 percent of individuals with disabilities report being employed full or part time, compared with 78 percent of those without disabilities, according to a recent Harris poll.

Experts both inside and outside the government say they are not sure what accounts for the falling federal numbers. They theorize that more employees retired or left for jobs in a private sector that has grown more welcoming of disabled individuals, that federal recruiting efforts tapered off due to downsizing or that fewer employees are disclosing their disabilities.

"It's certainly a rather shocking decline," said Brewster Thackeray, a spokesman for the National Organization on Disability, an advocacy group. "I'm surprised because our impression has been that the government is making a sincere effort. " Doug Gallegos, acting director of the Office of Affirmative Employment at the EEOC, said officials are studying the issue.

"There has been a lot of downsizing of the federal government. That may play some role in this," he said. "There has been a lot less hiring by the federal government, too, in the last 10 years. The fact that people are doing less hiring may mean that they are not recruiting as much and not recruiting . . . persons with targeted disabilities. But it's kind of preliminary at this point and we don't have anything solid. "

Historically, the federal government has been considered a model in attracting and accommodating disabled workers.

The government extended civil rights protections and employment opportunities to disabled individuals long before the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act guaranteed equal opportunity for them in public accommodations, private employment, transportation, and state and local government services.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 banned discrimination against disabled people in federal hiring and required agencies to develop affirmative action plans to hire and promote more people with disabilities. It mandated that agencies provide "reasonable accommodations," such as interpreters or modified work schedules, to help disabled workers do their jobs. And it required agencies to buy, develop and maintain "accessible electronic and information technology," such as voice recognition software and computer screen readers.

Such laws, as well as federal hiring policies, have helped Mary Jean Secoolish and thousands of others with disabilities carve out successful careers in public service. Secoolish, who is deaf, is a supervisory attorney in the EEOC's Office of Federal Operations and has worked full time for the agency since 1985.

EEOC managers have always been supportive, Secoolish said. But her introduction to federal service, as an intern at the Justice Department in 1980, was not a positive one. Secoolish's boss learned she was deaf when she introduced herself on her first day, her government-provided interpreter in tow.

"He doesn't realize that the interpreter interprets everything he says," Secoolish recalled in an interview. "[H]e turns around and he says, 'What am I going to do with her?' "

Secoolish eventually won the boss over with her hard work, and later workplace experiences were better. A supervisor at EEOC once quashed complaints by subordinates that Secoolish was getting favored treatment because she did not have to review legal cases with audiotaped depositions. (She handled cases with transcripts instead. )

"I never failed to pull my share of the work, and he knew that," she said.

Although Secoolish considers the federal workplace receptive to people with disabilities, she said officials could do more to publicize job openings and the special rules that allow disabled applicants to bypass much of the cumbersome federal hiring process.

"The application process to government jobs is very intimidating," she said. "I don't think that they advertise that they are looking for people with disabilities. " Melanie Brunson, executive director of the American Council of the Blind, said newer technology used in government offices is not always as accessible to disabled individuals as it should be. And one of the biggest problems is a lack of awareness by human resources officials of the capabilities of people with disabilities, Brunson said.

"No matter what the law says, I think there's a certain number of people who are going to shy away from hiring somebody with a disability because they are not going to know how to cope with it," she said.

W. Roy Grizzard Jr. , assistant secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy in the Labor Department, said the success of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which opened many private-sector doors, may help explain the decline in disabled federal workers.

"A lot of those people are being hired in private industry," he said.

The Bush administration, through the New Freedom Initiative, is promoting opportunities for disabled people by increasing access to technology, integrating disabled people into the workforce, and expanding educational and transportation options, Grizzard said. One such effort is a recruitment program that this year will provide more than 340 students or recent graduates with summer internships in government offices, he said. About 15 percent of the participants get permanent government jobs, Labor officials said.

Agency leaders also are personally encouraging the hiring of individuals with disabilities, he said. A May 24 memo from Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld urged agency heads to take part in the summer jobs program.

"There is a concerted effort in this administration to begin to turn that ship around," Grizzard said. The federal employment web site, USAJobs, has assistive technology such as screen readers to ensure that job listings are accessible to everyone, said Michael Orenstein, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management.

Also, OPM Director Kay Coles James has proposed changing hiring rules for people with disabilities to remove a requirement that the Department of Veterans Affairs or a recognized rehabilitation agency certify that job seekers are disabled, he said. The proposal would allow other federal agencies to certify a disability in some cases.

"If it's clearly obvious that the person has a disability, then why run them through the wringer of having to get things certified?" Orenstein said. "It's bureaucracy at its worst. "

Peter Blanck, a law professor who is director of the Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at the Iowa College of Law, said employment opportunities for the disabled need to be improved across the board, and the federal government is no exception.

"The government has typically been a model for hiring and accommodating and has led the way for the private sector," he said. "And my hope would be that in the federal government we would not be seeing negatives. "

Source: The Washington Post, 7/7/04.

Job Opportunity: D. C.

Dear Advocate:

I received a call today from a colleague in a staffing firm that does temp to perm placements. They have several entry level HR positions to fill in the Washington, DC area.

This firm places only people with disabilities and a job candidate needs a degree in either Human Services or Business. This is entry level, so no HR experience is necessary, but excellent computer and workplace savvy is a must. This is a great opportunity for recent college graduates with disabilities.

Anyone who is interested should email me a resume in Word and I will forward it to my colleague. Also, I don't have details (such as salary), but this firm pays a decent wage and includes health care and other benefits.

Maggie Roffee, Lead Program Specialist
Office of Disability Employment Policy
U. S. DOL Room S 1303
200 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20210
202/693.7855 Phone / 202/693.7888 Fax

WRITE Maggie Roffee

News from the US Access Board

New accessibility guidelines released

On July 26, the 14th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law, the Board published updated accessibility guidelines for facilities covered by the ADA.

The new document overhauls and updates the ADA Accessibility Guidelines and includes a number of revisions both large and small. It marks the first full-scale update of the guidelines, which were originally published in 1991 on the first anniversary of the ADA. The published rule also includea updated guidelines for Federal facilities, which are covered not by the ADA but by an earlier law, the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). Both the ADA guidelines and the ABA guidelines, which the Board updated jointly to make them more consistent, address access in new construction and alterations and contain scoping provisions, which indicate what has to comply, and technical specifications, which spell out how compliance is to be achieved.

The published guidelines are not mandatory for the public. Instead, they serve as the baseline for enforceable standards (which are mandatory) maintained by other agencies. These other agencies, such as the Department of Justice under the ADA, must update their standards according to the Board's guidelines. In doing so, they will indicate when the new requirements must be followed. The existing standards are to be used until the effective date specified for the new standards.

The Board will provide print copies free upon request. Technical assistance on the guidelines will be available through the Board's toll-free line, and the Board will offer training on them at various events across the country in cooperation with other organizations. Requests for training on the new guidelines or existing Board guidelines and standards should be directed to Peggy Greenwell, the Board's training coordinator, at 202/272.0017 (v), 202/272.0082 TTY.

READ New guidelines for accessible design

WRITE Peggy Greenwell

GO Access Board

Board to organize advisory committee on courthouse accessibility

The traditional design of courthouses, particularly courtrooms, poses unique challenges to access for persons with disabilities. Most courtrooms feature a variety of elevated spaces, including witness stands, jury boxes, and judges' benches, within areas limited by the well of the court and spectator seating. Determining the best way to provide access to these spaces can be difficult. The Board is undertaking an effort to develop information on courtroom design that addresses these and other aspects of accessibility as part of an outreach initiative that will highlight and promote access to courthouses. While the Board has established guidelines for courthouses under the ADA which cover access to courtrooms, many have sought guidance on how compliance can best be achieved. Additional information will be helpful that explores new or innovative design solutions.

At its May meeting, the Board approved a plan to establish an advisory committee to gather and develop this information. Advisory committees allow for a cross-section of different interests and stakeholders to advise the Board on particular issues. They have played an instrumental role in the Board's development of guidelines and standards. However, this committee will not be tasked with making recommendations for new guidelines. Instead, its mission will be to advise the Board on issues related to the accessibility of courthouses, particularly courtrooms, including best practices, design solutions, promotion of accessible features, educational opportunities, and the gathering of information on existing barriers, practices, recommendations, and guidelines.

Through a notice published in the Federal Register on June 25, the Board requests applications for representatives to serve on the committee. The Board seeks to include members representing designers and architects, disability groups, members of the judiciary, including judges and court administrators and organizations representing them, the codes community and standard-setting entities, government agencies, and others with an interest in the issues to be explored. The committee will be structured to represent a balanced cross-section of different interests.

The published notice, which provides instructions on submitting applications, is posted on the Board's web site. Print copies can be ordered by calling the Board's publication order line at 202/272.0080 (press "2," then "1") and requesting publication S-44 (Courthouse Access Advisory Committee notice). Persons using a TTY should call 202/ 272.0082. Those who would like the notice in an alternate format should specify the desired type (cassette tape, Braille, large print, or computer disk). Applications must be received by August 24, 2004. The Board will follow-up with a notice announcing those named to the committee and the date of its first meeting.

WRITE For more information, contact Elizabeth Stewart (202/272.0042 (v), 202/272.0082 (TTY)).

READ Notice of intent to establish advisory committee

Board holds public meetings in Chicago in October

Every year the Board holds a public meeting in a different city to discuss various aspects of accessibility and the work of the Board. These town meetings typically focus on topics that relate to the Board's rulemaking agenda and allow members of the public to discuss issues of accessibility with Board members in an informal setting. They also provide an opportunity for Board members to visit sites and explore access issues in greater depth.

Chicago will be the site of this year's meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for October 27 - 29. The meeting will be used to further advance and promote Board initiatives concerning passenger vessels, courthouse accessibility, and international outreach. As part of its work on new guidelines for passenger vessels, the Board will hold an information meeting on its passenger vessel rulemaking. Materials related to this rulemaking will be released in advance of the meeting.

The Board also intends to visit area judicial facilities to help promote its outreach initiative on access to courthouses. The Board is also exploring plans to participate in the Fifth International Conference on Justice Design that is being held in Chicago at the same time. Organized by the American Institute of Architect's Committee on Architecture for Justice, the conference will focus on growing challenges and opportunities justice-system professionals and design professionals face in designing court facilities for the future. To further its work on international outreach, the Board will meet with representatives from Canada and Mexico to discuss collaborative initiatives on promoting accessibility.

Research underway on surfacing treatments for play areas and trails

Surfacing at play areas poses challenges to accessibility since materials must be used that are suitable for cushioning falls yet firm and stable enough for wheelchair maneuvering. Choosing materials that are sufficiently accessible is also an important consideration when developing outdoor trails. Guidelines the Board issued under the ADA for play areas address surfacing and reference industry standards for impact attenuation and wheelchair maneuverability.

The Board is sponsoring research on enhancing the accessibility of engineered wood fiber, a popular surfacing material, and various binding agents that can enhance its usability and reduce maintenance. This study, which was initiated in 2002, is being conducted by the U. S. Forest Service's Forest Products Laboratory. In Phase I, researchers analyzed various surface treatments that had the potential of enhancing the firmness and stability of engineered wood fiber. Laboratory testing was conducted on 18 different test bed configurations. The results narrowed the viable candidates down to 8 configurations for further testing in Phase II, which involved four-foot test beds in Madison, WI that were exposed to a wide range of climatic conditions for 12 months, including freeze-thaw cycles, rain, and heat. Based on the results, two binding agents (a synthetic latex and a polyurethane) were selected for further testing in Phase III.

Phase III of the study, now underway, involves full-scale field assessments at playgrounds in Madison, WI, Berkeley and San Diego, CA, and Loudoun County in northern VA. The Madison test site, installed last fall, also includes a beach trail. Field-testing at these sites will be conducted over a 12-month period.

WRITE For further information on this study, contact Bill Botten (202/272.0014 (v), 202/ 272.0082 (TTY)).

READ A report on Phase I: "Improved Engineered Wood Fiber Surfaces for Accessible Playgrounds."

New edition of ANSI standard published

A new edition of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A117. 1 standard, a voluntary consensus standard that provides technical criteria for accessible buildings and facilities, is now available from the International Code Council (ICC). Referenced by the International Building Code (IBC) and various state codes, the ANSI A117. 1 standard has provided a baseline for accessible design for over 40 years. The Board's guidelines, including those it originally published under the ADA, derive in large measure from earlier editions of the ANSI standard. However, various differences existed between them. The Board and the ANSI A117 Committee coordinated extensively in the update of their respective design documents so that these differences could be reconciled. As a result, this latest edition of the ANSI standard (ICC/ANSI A117. 1-2003) and the technical provisions of the Board's updated ADA and ABA guidelines have been largely harmonized.

The ICC, which maintains comprehensive and coordinated national model construction codes, including the IBC, serves as the secretariat of the ANSI A117 Committee. The 2004 supplement to the IBC will reference this latest edition of the ANSI standard.

GO Copies of the ICC/ANSI A117. 1-2003 standard, as well as earlier editions, are available for purchase from the ICC (703/931.4533).

Report issued on international workshop on wheeled mobility aids

A report from an international workshop on space requirements for wheeled mobility aids held last October in Buffalo is now available. Organized by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Universal Design with sponsorship from the Board, the workshop helped define research objectives in determining space requirements for mobility aids in built environments. It brought together more than 60 experts in the fields of human factors research, data analysis and demographic studies, disability research, and the design of mobility aids from the U. S. , Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

The published report summarizes submitted papers, presentations, and major findings of the workshop. Papers presented included a critical review of recent anthropometry research of wheeled mobility users and assessments of trends and issues in wheeled mobility technologies, disability data and demographics, and lift and ramp technologies. There were also presentations made on related research from other countries, anthropometry and accessibility guidelines, long-range research plans, and human modeling software. The findings include recommendations to the Center on a project to develop a database on human measures that will take into account the various types of mobility aids now in use.

READ The report, as well as workshop's papers and the presentations

WRITE For more information, contact the Center (800/628.2281).

Transportation Security Administration posts new tips for air travelers with disabilities

The Transportation Security Administration, a division within the Dept. of Homeland Security responsible for protecting the nation's transit system, has posted updated guidance for air travelers, including those with disabilities, on security screening procedures. This information explains the rights of passengers with disabilities and details necessary screening procedures. Guidance is provided concerning different types of disabilities and assistive devices.

READ Travel tips

WRITE Access Board (800/872.2253, ext.0026 (voice) or 800/993.2822 (TTY) / Mailing address: 1331 F Street, NW, Suite 1000; Washington, D. C. 20004-1111)

Source: Access Currents, Vol. 10, No. 3, May/ June 2004

Hepatitis C already infects three times more people than does AIDS

My name is Dr. C. Everett Koop. I am a former Surgeon General of the United States, and I have an important message for you. Many of you have heard me speak about the AIDS crisis during my tenure as Surgeon General.

Today we sit at the edge of an even graver threat to our public health. I am referring to a viral disease that infects millions, but few of them even know it. A disease that they will carry for a decade or more (and that can be spread to others) before it makes itself known as a threat to their health. A disease about which we have, so far, not done nearly enough.

This disease is viral Hepatitis — one of the most significant preventable and treatable public health problems facing our nation today.

There are in fact five different types of viral Hepatitis, but of these, the type known as Hepatitis C is the greatest threat. Unlike many other forms of Hepatitis, there is no vaccine against Hepatitis C. More than 4 million Americans, and perhaps as many as 200 million people around the world, are currently infected with Hepatitis C. More than 80% of those who get Hepatitis C will have the infection for life if it is not treated. Many will develop chronic, life threatening liver disease.

Hepatitis C already infects three times more people than does AIDS. It is responsible for more than one-third of all liver transplants. And by the turn of the century, it will kill far more people than AIDS each year.

Yet the onset of Hepatitis C can be unnoticed. Some people think they have a touch of the flu. Many people only find out that they have the disease because of a routine blood screening test which picks up the antibodies to Hep C. Many cases have no symptoms at all.

This may continue for more than 20 years, but eventually, many of those infected will progress to chronic liver disease, with jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, and abdominal swelling. Eventually, the infected person can die.

Prior to 1990, there were no tests for Hepatitis C, and the risk of infection from a blood transfusion was between 8% and 10%. Anyone who has received a blood transfusion prior to that time is at risk for having been infected and should be tested.

Other risk factors include I. V. drug use, snorting cocaine, needle-stick injuries in health care, as well as tattooing and body piercing. Virtually any exposure to blood can transmit this virus. We are not as sure about transmission by sexual activity with infected partners, and contact with household members infected with Hepatitis C. Perhaps about 13% of all infections are passed this way.

If you believe yourself to be at risk for having contracted this disease, I strongly urge you to seek testing and treatment through your doctor. Even if you feel you are not at risk, I hope you will explore the materials available on this website and educate yourself on this disease.

Hepatitis C does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, gender, and sexual orientations. It is not a "disease of the poor". It affects people from all walks of life, in every state, in every country. Most important, it affects a large number of individuals, a group in the United States that is as large as the populations of every capital city, in every state combined. All Americans must understand the risk that this disease poses. We must help America become a leader in the fight against this disease, both here at home and around the world. Talk to your friends, your family, and your co-workers. If you are a teacher, tell your students. If you are a doctor, tell your patients. If you are a patient, make sure your doctor knows about it. By working together, we can help to reverse the spread of this terrible disease.

Thank you.

Dr. C. Everett Koop, 7/01/04

Source: C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth College.

Walgreen Co. agrees to make Illinois stores accessible
Groundmaking agreement valued at over $500,000

Chicago, 6/29/04 — Hailing the agreement as a major victory for Illinoisans with disabilities, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has reached a settlement with Walgreen Co. that will resolve a suit she filed last year alleging that many of the popular drug stores had barriers that limited access for individuals with disabilities.

The settlement is the largest ever negotiated under the Illinois laws that govern access to facilities by people with physical disabilities. It will result in new parking spaces closer to store doors, signs designating parking spots for consumers with disabilities, new curb cuts for wheelchair access, decreasing the slopes of existing curb cuts, moving obstructions such as concrete barriers and trash cans and other changes.

The agreement was filed this morning in Cook County Circuit Court. Under the agreement, Walgreens will pay an independent monitor $150,000 to inspect stores in the chain in Illinois to ensure compliance with the agreement. All Walgreens stores will be made accessible to people with physical disabilities as required by state law. Additionally, Walgreens will pay $350,000 to settle the case with the Attorney General.

Madigan said that as part of the agreement, Walgreens has created new accessibility policies to be applied to all of its more than 400 stores in Illinois. She added the changes will help ensure that customers with disabilities in Illinois will not face barriers such as steep ramps, blocked access to entryways and a lack of accessible parking spaces.

"Customers with disabilities are no different than customers without disabilities: they need to pick up soap, buy notebook paper for their kids or fill prescriptions," Madigan said. "No customer should face barriers that are inconvenient and illegal. I commend Walgreens for working with my office to reach this settlement, which I hope will serve as a nationwide model. "

Today's settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by Madigan in the Chancery Division of Cook County Circuit Court on March 11, 2003. The suit alleged Walgreens' retail stores contained barriers to access for people with disabilities in violation of the Illinois Environmental Barriers Act and the Illinois Accessibility Code.

Bureau Chief Lisa Danna handled the case for Madigan's Disability Rights Bureau.

WRITE Melissa Merz (312/814.3118, 877/844.5461 (TTY))

Source: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Office

Disability law doesn't cover diabetes

By J. Daniel Marr

A diabetic worker may not be protected by federal employment disability discrimination law. This point was illustrated in the case of Stephen C. Orr v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. decided in the 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals on July 22, 2002. This year, on May 24, the United States Supreme Court let this appeals court decision stand.

In that case, Orr filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart alleging violations of, among other things, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) when he was fired as a pharmacist. Orr is a diabetic and to control his diabetes he uses a glucometer to monitor his blood glucose levels, takes insulin and eats a special diet within 30 minutes of taking insulin.

While working at Wal-Mart, Orr injected insulin three times a day — early in the morning, at noon and before bedtime. Orr controls his disease to the best of his ability, and when it is not well controlled, he suffers from vision impairment, low energy, lack of concentration and mental awareness, lack of physical strength and coordination, slurred speech, difficulties typing and reading, and slowed performance.

This lawsuit arose from a requirement by Wal-Mart that Orr, as the single pharmacist at the Wal-Mart store, was required to work his entire 10-hour work shift from 9 a. m. to 7 p. m. without having an uninterrupted lunch break, even though Wal-Mart had previously allowed him to have a half-hour uninterrupted break (where he would actually close the pharmacy for 30 minutes around noon to eat lunch). Orr ultimately refused to follow the policy of keeping the pharmacy open during his lunch break, claiming that not having an uninterrupted lunch break could adversely affect the control of his diabetes, and he was fired.

A disability under the act is defined as a "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual." The court noted that a diabetic is not automatically considered to be disabled, but must demonstrate that his condition substantially limits one or more major life activities. The court also noted that a person whose physical or mental impairment is corrected by medication or other measures does not have an impairment that substantially limits a major activity.

Since Orr's diabetic impairment can be corrected by medication and other measures, Orr was found not to be disabled, and therefore not afforded protection. J. Daniel Marr is a director and shareholder at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P. A., whose legal practice includes counseling businesses and business persons on a variety of legal issues and advocating on their behalf.

Source: Nashau [NH] Telegraph 7/30/04

Survey finds that lawyers discriminate against disabled lawyers

By Mike McKee, The Recorder

Losing his left arm in an industrial accident a decade ago was bad enough for Anil Mehta, but the California law firm doors that were quietly shut in his face when he sought work as a lawyer years later added insult to injury.

"Nobody would offer me an employment opportunity because I have a visible impairment," Mehta recalled recently. On the phone, firms would sound encouraging, he said, but "you meet them at the door, and they say, 'We have filled that position.' "

Mehta, now an attorney in Washington, D. C. , with the U. S. Dept of Transportation's Hazardous Materials Safety and Emergency Transportation Law Division, said that his experience was by no means unique. Almost all lawyers with disabilities, he said, face discrimination on a daily basis — a statement supported by a survey released last week by the State Bar's Committee on Legal Professionals with Disabilities.

The online survey, conducted in a six-month period last year, found that disabled lawyers face high unemployment, a shortage of services, resistance to reasonable accommodations and "a surplus of skepticism" — 13 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the Bar's most recent demographic survey, conducted in 2001, 4 percent of respondents named themselves as physically disabled.

The biggest complaint was lack of employment opportunities, with 45 percent of the respondents — even those in the upper 10 percent to 20 percent of ABA-accredited law schools — saying they had been denied jobs because of their disabilities. Among those with visible disabilities, the problem was worse, with 68 percent reporting job refusals.

Source: New York Lawyer, July 30, 2004

Assisted-living project will be dedicated to disabled

By Jane Adler, Special to The Chicago Tribune

Like many disabled adults, Susan White has had a tough time finding affordable and accessible housing. White, 40, who has multiple sclerosis, relies on a cane or walker, and sometimes a wheelchair, to get around. She had to give up her third-floor condominium last year because she couldn't walk up the stairs anymore.

White also lost her job, which means she now lives on small monthly Social Security payments. She lives alone in the basement of a townhouse owned by her brother, though she'd rather have her own place. She's applied for an apartment at several low-cost buildings; one has a waiting list seven years long. "It's not easy to find a place," White said.

Disabled people such as White could get some help from developer Mitch Hamblet. His company has undertaken the $10 million renovation of a four-story building about a half mile north of Wrigley Field in Uptown.

The Eden Supportive Living building, at 940 W. Gordon Terrace, is among the first of its kind to be developed under a state program meant to provide assisted living for seniors and disabled adults with low incomes. Only disabled people ages 22 to 64 who need assistance in normal activities can live at the Eden building.

The building will have studio and two-bedroom apartments, plus services that include meals and house-keeping, according to Hamblet. Residents will get some help with personal care, such as grooming and medication reminders. They can also get assistance with activities as simple as getting out the door in the morning. "These apartments are for people who only need a little help in order to have a normal life," said Hamblet, a local landlord and president of Eden Supportive Living LLC, Chicago.

The building, previously operated by Hamblet as a single-room-occupancy facility, will be ready at the end of November, he said.

Hamblet believes the rehabbed building will be in demand. A market study conducted for Hamblet showed there are about 10,500 disabled people living within 5 miles of the building.

Others agree the building will fill a need. "Everyone who deals with this problem knows there is not enough housing for disabled adults," said Jo Holzer, executive director at the Council for Disability Rights, Chicago.

Holzer says disabled adults often cannot work, which leaves them with little income and no choice but to enter a nursing home where the state pays the bill or to find a low-rent government subsidized apartment. But not all subsidized apartments are wheelchair-accessible. Adding to the housing shortage, she says, buildings that do have accessible apartments are not reserved for handicapped people.

The 84 apartments at Eden Supportive Living will be reserved for disabled adults. The units will have barrier-free bathrooms with roll-in showers, an emergency call system and high-speed Internet access, Hamblet said. Each apartment will have its own kitchen, though meals also will be available in the building's dining room.

Monthly rent for a studio apartment is $2,454. A two-bedroom apartment, which must be shared, costs $2,319 per resident. Residents who can afford to do so, pay the rent themselves, Hamblet said. Those eligible for Medicaid can rent a place, too.

That's possible because the Eden building is part of the state's Supportive Living Program designed primarily to provide assisted-living buildings for low-income seniors as an alternative to nursing-home care. The program taps Medicaid and other government sources to pay the rent and living expenses for low-income residents at certain buildings.

There are 38 supportive living buildings operating in the state, according to Wayne Smallwood, chief of the bureau of long-term care at the Illinois Department of Public Aid, Springfield. Thirty-six of the supportive living buildings are for low-income seniors; another 30 buildings for seniors are in the works.

Only two buildings have been licensed under the program for disabled adults — the Mary Bryant Home for the Blind in Springfield and the Eden building for young disabled adults in Chicago.

Smallwood says the state is open to doing more buildings for disabled adults, but there has been little interest from developers and the agencies that serve the disabled. "We don't have applications pending for more of these buildings," he said.

Hamblet stresses that his Eden building is not a nursing home. The medical staff at Hamblet's building will wear khaki pants and polo shirts, he said. The building will have a business center on the first floor. Hamblet is also reserving space there for a resident-run business that focuses on helping the disabled. "This could be a great chance for [disabled] people who are not working," he said. So far, 47 people have put their name on the list to get an apartment. (For an application, call 773-472-1020. ) Apartment applicants must complete a physical and financial screening to make sure they qualify for the building.

White has her name on the list and she's awaiting her application packet in the mail. "The more I hear about this new building," she said, "the more I'm excited about it."

Source: Chicago Tribune, 7/25/04.

Training resources for nonprofit developers

The Statewide Housing Action Coalition (SHAC) provides training and technical assistance to existing and potential nonprofit affordable housing developers in Illinois, excluding Chicago.

SHAC focuses on building overall organizational capacity of nonprofits to own, develop and sponsor affordable housing projects by providing direct technical assistance, training workshops, and the creation and dissemination of reference materials.

The Chicago Rehab Network provides training and technical assistance to organizations in Chicago and its suburbs.

WRITE Organizations interested in training and technical assistance outside Chicago should contact Brenda Grauer (312/939.6074).

WRITE For more information on training in Chicago, contact Rachel Johnson (312/663.3936).

Source: Community Development News, Summer 2004.

Fact sheet on workplace rights of people with epilepsy under ADA

WASHINGTON — The U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today released a new fact sheet addressing the workplace rights of people with epilepsy under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title I of the ADA, which is enforced by the EEOC, protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination by private and state and local government employers with 15 or more employees. President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990.

"Epilepsy does not hinder a person's ability to be a productive employee or compromise safety in the workplace," said Commission Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "Too often, however, individuals with epilepsy are still denied job opportunities because of misperceptions and fears about this condition. The EEOC's fact sheet dispels some of these myths and answers frequently asked questions about how people with epilepsy are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 2.3 million people in the United States have some form of epilepsy, with more than 180,000 new cases diagnosed each year in Americans of all races and ages. Epilepsy is a general term that includes various types of seizures. A seizure happens when abnormal electrical activity in the brain causes an involuntary change in body movement or function, sensation, awareness, or behavior. People diagnosed with epilepsy have had more than one seizure.

The Epilepsy Foundation and other organizations point out that most people with epilepsy will probably never have a seizure on the job, and people with epilepsy do not have more accidents on the job or raise an employer's insurance premiums.

The EEOC's new fact sheet explains:
  • When epilepsy is a "disability" within the meaning of the ADA;
  • When employers may (and may not) ask applicants and employees about their epilepsy;
  • Reasonable accommodations that some people with epilepsy may need to work, most of which involve no cost; and
  • How employers should deal with safety concerns that they may have about employees with epilepsy.

This publication is the second in a series of EEOC fact sheets focusing on particular disabilities in the workplace. Last October, the Commission released a fact sheet on the ADA and people with diabetes.

The EEOC has taken a leadership role in advancing President George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative, the Administration's comprehensive strategy for the full integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of American life. Efforts include increased ADA outreach to small businesses nationwide and an in-progress study of best practices used to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities in state government. To date, the states of Florida, Maryland, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington have joined the States' Best Practices Project as partners.

In addition to enforcing Title I of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government, the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older; the Equal Pay Act; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Contacts: Jennifer Kaplan, 202/663. 7084 or David Grinberg, 202/663. 4921 or 202/ 663.4494 (TTY).

READ New fact sheet

Source: US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 7/28/04.

Students with disabilities gain improved access to learning

Students with blindness, low vision and print disabilities are expected to gain improved access to textbooks under a voluntary standardized format for electronic files, U. S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced today. On behalf of Secretary Paige, Deputy Secretary of Education Gene Hickok discussed the new standard at an event commemorating the 14th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The event was co-sponsored by the Departments of Commerce and Education in Washington, D. C.

"President Bush believes that every single child can learn and deserves the opportunity to learn — that's why he pushed for the historic education reforms of the No Child Left Behind Act," Secretary Paige said. "Today, we're taking another step toward this goal with a new, voluntary standard that will enable students and teachers to more quickly access general curriculum materials, thereby opening more doors of opportunity to students. "

When textbooks and classroom materials are produced using this voluntary standard, they will be in a standard electronic format that can be adapted to products ranging from Braille editions of textbooks to on-screen displays of text and graphics. In past years, the lack of a standardized format meant that publishers had to produce materials in multiple formats — often causing delays that meant students with disabilities did not receive their textbooks in time for the beginning of the school year.

To address these challenges, the Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs provided funding to the National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum at the Center for Applied Special Technology, Inc. to convene an expert panel to establish a voluntary, standardized format for materials. The 40-member panel included educators, publishers, technology specialists and advocacy groups.

In addition to establishing the new standard, the Department of Education will fund two centers to support further development and assist states with implementing the voluntary standard, thus improving academic results for students with disabilities.

The No Child Left Behind Act is the bipartisan landmark education reform law designed to change the culture of America's schools by closing the achievement gap among groups of students, offering more flexibility to states, giving parents more options and teaching students based on what works. Under the law's strong accountability provisions, states must describe how they will close the achievement gap and make sure all students, including students with disabilities, achieve academically.

Contact: Elaine Quesinberry 202/401.1576

GO For more information on the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard, visit the National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum.

Act's complexities make compliance difficult to attain

By Marc Beauchamp, Record Searchlight

Business owners are growing increasingly angry over the cost of litigation and compliance related to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and similar laws. The city of Redding, CA, and the Shasta Builders' Exchange recently held several meetings with business owners to explain the often-confusing state and federal disabilities legislation.

"There were people who were very upset," recalled Bill Nagel, the city of Redding's building official. "They'd been approached and threatened with lawsuits."

Nagel said ADA compliance issues now take up about a third of his department's time. Nagel noted that city inspectors check only for compliance with state law — not the ADA — because the city lacks the authority to enforce the federal requirements.

"The irony," said Discovery Village developer Jim Maxwell, "is that even City Hall isn't in compliance" with ADA requirements. One of Redding's newest buildings, it was completed in 2000 at a cost of $24 million.

"We are in substantial compliance," Nagel said. "It's questionable whether any building in town is completely compliant given the complex nature of the regulations.

"In a bathroom alone there are approximately 120 items you need to look at. " He urged business owners to learn the law, quickly fix the easy problems — such as installing handicapped parking signs — and come up with a plan to get into full compliance.

Nagel encouraged business owners who feel they've wrongly been targeted to contact Shasta County District Attorney Jerry Benito.

"There's a fine line between fraud and being legal here," he said.

Marc Beauchamp can be reached at

Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA), July 25, 2004

Register and Vote!!!

If you are registered and want to become a deputy registrar, call CDR as soon as possible so we can send the required letter to the Board of Elections. For the available training dates, call the Chicago Board at 312/269. 7851.

If you are not yet registered, come by our office or any library and bring two pieces of identification. You must register by the first Tuesday in October. This election is critically important for our future. Please register and vote.

Council for Disability Rights

Knowing your rights is the easy part. Exercising them can be a bit trickier.

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