The Federal District Court in Manhattan found that New York City was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for failing to accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities before and during emergencies. A lawsuit was filed following Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The court found that the city failed to develop evacuation plans for people with disabilities who lived in high-rise buildings based on evidence that people were not able to get out of their apartments, had no water or heat, and had to wait days for help. The city’s evacuation plans relied on the mistaken notion that everyone could evacuate using stairs and inaccessible public transportation.
DOT fined US Airways $1.2 million for failing to accommodate passengers with disabilities using wheelchairs in Philadelphia and Charlotte. Under DOT’s rules implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act, airlines are required to provide free, prompt wheelchair assistance upon request to passengers with disabilities. This includes helping passengers to move between gates and make connections to other flights. The fine is one of the largest ever assessed by DOT in a disability case.
The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) released a report demonstrating Amtrak’s negligence in following the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA gave Amtrak 20 years to reach compliance with the law and 3 years past the deadline much remains to be done. NDRN and other disability organizations visited 94 stations in 25 states and the District of Columbia, to find and document the evidence in the report. The report contains a full review of Amtrak’s non-compliance with the ADA, state-by-state findings of the reviews, and recommendations for Amtrak, Congress and the Administration. A copy of the report can be downloaded here.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state, and the state of Texas entered into an Interim Olmstead Settlement agreement concerning thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) living in nursing homes. Texas has agreed to identify people with I/DD living in nursing homes and inform them about community options. The state must assist those who wish to move and provide the necessary services and supports. Texas agreed to create a system to help keep people from transferring from the hospital directly to a nursing home. Six individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, The Arc of Texas and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities filed a lawsuit in 2010 and DOJ intervened in 2012 due to Texas’ failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C., and other laws which led to the unnecessary institutionalization of people with I/DD in nursing facilities. This interim agreement represents the first statewide Olmstead settlement on behalf of individuals with I/DD living in nursing facilities. Additional information, including briefs filed in the case and the interim agreement are on the ADA website.
Last Week, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released a new report revealing that 14 years later, many states are failing to live up to the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. in 1999 that the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, thus directing states to enable community-based long-term care services for these Americans.
The report, titled “Separate and Unequal: States Fail to Fulfill the Community Living Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” is the result of requests for information sent by Chairman Harkin to all 50 states on the progress made to transition individuals out of institutions. The full report, with executive summary, can be found here. A copy of responses from states can be found here.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) reached an interim settlement agreement with the State of Rhode Island and the city of Providence resolving violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement addresses the unnecessary segregation of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in a sheltered workshop and segregated day activity service program and the placement of students with I/DD at risk of unnecessary segregation in those programs. The settlement impacts about 200 Rhode Islanders with I/DD who have received services in the segregated programs. The state will no longer fund the sheltered workshop or segregated day program and the city will stop funding the in-school sheltered workshop. Over the next year, individuals will receive person-centered career development planning, transitional services, supported employment, and integrated day services with the goal of working 20 hours per week at competitive wages.
On June 5, 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new guidance to HUD-assisted housing providers on how they can support state and local efforts to increase the integrated housing opportunities for individuals with disabilities who are transitioning from, or at serious risk of entering, institutions and other restrictive, segregated settings. The guidance provides background information about the integration mandate under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. The guidance also includes a question and answer section addressing the definition of integrated setting and the role HUD agencies play in Olmstead implementation planning.
The Access Board Advisory Committee on Medical Diagnostic Equipment will hold a teleconference on June 17, 2013 from 1 – 4:30 ET. The Board was charged with developing standards to address accessibility of examination tables, weight scales, mammography equipment, and other diagnostic equipment by the Affordable Care Act. Proposed standards were released by the Board in February 2012. In July 2012, the Board created an advisory committee to help it address issues raised in public comments in response to the proposed rules. During the teleconference, the committee will review its final report. There will be opportunity for public comment during the call. More information is available on the Access Board’s website.
Due to a provision in federal law, the $240 million jury award for employment discrimination and harassment that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) won for 32 men with intellectual disability may have to be reduced to $50,000 each. A jury in Iowa awarded the larger sum to the men based on the harm they suffered while employed at a turkey processing plant in Iowa. The jury’s verdict was the largest verdict ever obtained by the EEOC in an employment discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Iowa jury’s recognition of the inherent value of the lives of individuals with intellectual disability was historic. However, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 limits damages for discrimination to $50,000 for punitive and compensatory damages combined in cases where the employers have 15 to 100 employees. If the award is reduced by the court, it will not affect the $1.37 million award the men won previously due to wage discrimination. Despite the fact the Henry’s Turkey Service is believed to have no more than $4 million in assets, EEOC has pledged to pursue the men’s awards vigorously. Kenneth Henry, president of Henry’s, has said he will appeal the decision.
Over four decades, Henry’s sent hundreds of men who had disabilities from Texas to Iowa to work at a West Liberty meat-processing plant for wages far below minimum wage. The men lived in a 100-year-old former school building that had been converted to a bunkhouse. Federal law limited EEOC to the final two years of Henry’s operation which limited the number of workers who could claim compensation. Henry’s has been fined by the US Department of Labor and Iowa Workforce Development for labor law violations for a total of $2.96 million. To read The Arc’s statement, visit our website.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in Wisconsin directing it to ensure that private voucher program schools do not discriminate against students with disabilities. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin, and Disability Rights Wisconsin filed a complaint in 2011 alleging that the programs discourage students with disabilities from participating in the voucher program, deny admission to students with disabilities, and expel or otherwise force students with disabilities to leave the programs by failing to accommodate their needs. DOJ told DPI that, regardless of the fact that the voucher schools are private or secular, the voucher program must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act since public funds are used.