Department of Justice Enters Statewide Settlement Agreement with Rhode Island

The Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into the first statewide settlement agreement with the state of Rhode Island on behalf of people who are “unnecessarily segregated in sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs.”  DOJ found that the state’s day activity service system over-relied on segregated settings to the exclusion of integrated alternatives in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Under the settlement agreement, approximately 3,250 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) will have the opportunity to obtain integrated employment that pays at least minimum wage or participate in non-work activities in the community.  The consent decree will require the state to provide supported employment services over the next 10 years to about 2,000 people, including 700 in sheltered workshops, 950 people in facility-based non-work programs, and about 300 leaving high school.  Rhode Island also will provide transition services, such as trial work experiences, job site visits, and supported employment to 1,250 students between the ages of 14 and 21.  After having experiences in competitive employment settings, individuals who choose to remain at sheltered workshops may do so.

DOJ estimates that about 450,000 individuals with I/DD are in sheltered workshops nationwide.  The Rhode Island settlement provides a “road map” for other states to comply with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Department of Justice Releases A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations

The US Department of Justice released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations in order to incorporate the changes made by the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008. The NPRM makes changes to Titles II and III ADA regulations to amend the definition of disability which was broadened by the ADAAA and expand the definition of major life activities by including major bodily functions.  The NPRM includes examples of impairments, such as intellectual disability, that should easily be found to substantially limit a major life activity and cause the necessary individualized assessment of the impairments to be simple and straightforward.    The Title I ADA regulations were amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2011.  The NPRM will align the definitions in Titles II and III with those in Title I.  The NPRM is open for comment for 60 days until March 31, 2014.

Department of Justice Releases Report on Investigation of Rhode Island’s Sheltered Workshops

The Department of Justice (DOJ) reported on its investigation of Rhode Island’s sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs concluding that the state was violating the rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  DOJ said that the state had over-relied on segregated placements that were designed and functioned like most institutional settings for individuals who could and want to participate in more integrated alternatives.  DOJ conducted its state wide investigation of Rhode Island’s employment and day services system following its findings in June 2013 regarding two of the largest programs in the State located in Providence.  DOJ provided Rhode Island with steps it must take to comply with the ADA, including providing supported employment services, integrated day activities, and transition services to youth with I/DD leaving school and shifting its funding of segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs to integrated supported employment and community-based day services.  Ironically, Rhode Island has no state-operated or state-funded, privately-operated institutions for people with I/DD.

New York City in Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for Failing to Accommodate Needs of Individuals with Disabilities

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.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) Fines US Airways

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.

New Report Documents Inaccessibility at Amtrak Stations

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 and Texas Have Entered Into an Interim Olmstead Settlement Agreement

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.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Report Shows Many States Failing to Live up to Integration Mandate of the ADA

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.

Settlement Agreement Reached with the State of Rhode Island and the City of Providence Resolving Violations of the ADA

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.

Department of Housing and Urban Development Issues Guidance on Olmstead

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.