Health Care/Rights – Senate Holds Hearing on Wellness Programs

On October 19, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on “Examining How Healthy Choices Can Improve Health Outcomes and Reduce Costs.” Witnesses were Steve Burd, Founder and CEO, Burd Health; Michael F. Roizen, MD, Chief Wellness Officer and Founding Chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic; David A. Asch, MD, MBA, John Morgan Professor, Perelman School of Medicine and the Wharton School, Executive Director, Center for Health Care Innovation, University of Pennsylvania; and Jennifer Mathis, Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. In her testimony, Mathis discussed the negative impact that regulations that define programs as “voluntary” when they charge penalties for non-participation have on the rights of people with disabilities. Visit the committee web site to review opening statements and archived video.

Rights – House Committee Approves Bill Limiting Enforcement of Americans with Disabilities Act

On September 7, the House Judiciary Committee approved the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R.620) by a vote of 15-9. This bill prevents lawsuits over architectural barriers violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless an individual provides “specific enough” notice and allows 120 days for a business to correct that barrier. The bill was introduced on the belief that the ADA has led to “frivolous lawsuits” where plaintiffs and attorneys intentionally seek barriers in order to extract funds. However, the ADA does not allow courts to award monetary damages to plaintiffs. Where those damages are available, it is through state law. Furthermore, there are already laws on the books that allow punishment of attorneys who represent clients in frivolous lawsuits. This bill effectively eliminates incentives for businesses to comply with federal law until 120 days after a person with a disability asks them to do so. See this fact sheet from Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund for more information.

Rights – July 17-21 is National Disability Voter Registration Week

According to a Rutgers University research report, people with disabilities and their families accounted for 25% of the electorate in 2016. Yet, people with disabilities register and vote at rates that continue to lag behind voters without disabilities.

Let’s change that! This is National Disability Voter Registration week – and it’s time to Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power! Join the REV UP Campaign and use this quick and easy link to Register to Vote Now!

Already registered? Make sure your friends and family are registered too!

Here are helpful resources:

Thank you for your supporting National Disability Voter Registration Week!

Rights – Senate Confirms Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court Associate Justice

On April 7, the Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch as Associate Justice by a vote of 54-45. This followed the invocation of “cloture” or forcing an end to unlimited debate. Traditionally, this requires 60 votes. However, the Senate invoked the “nuclear option” which allows reinterpretation of the rules by a simple majority vote (51 votes) to change the vote required for cloture on Supreme Court nominees to a simple majority. Issues important to people with disabilities often come before the U.S. Supreme Court. They span such important concerns as rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the right to fair, non-discriminatory treatment in health care settings, and the death penalty.

Civil Rights – The Arc Issues Statement on Leaked Draft Executive Order

In light of a recently leaked draft Executive Order that would impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who are legally residing in the United States as well as people with I/DD who are hoping to legally immigrate, The Arc released a statement:

“We are facing a civil rights crisis in our nation and people with disabilities are in the crosshairs with the latest draft Executive Order being circulated in the White House. The Executive Order, if finalized and signed by the President, would discriminate against immigrants with disabilities, making it harder to legally enter or remain in the country. To deport individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in our country legally or prevent them from immigrating, goes against the values of our nation.”

Read the full statement on The Arc’s blog.

Rights – Senate Committee Approves Nominee for Attorney General

On February 1, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to favorably report the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be Attorney General. The Attorney General is a cabinet level position in charge of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to view archived video of the hearing.

Education – Senate Committee Schedules Vote on DeVos Nomination

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for Attorney General on January 31. The Attorney General is a cabinet level position in charge of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video the day of the hearing.

On December 28, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education released three new sets of guidance packages to assist the public in understanding how the Department interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities:

Employment/Rights – Final Affirmative Action Rule for People with Disabilities Issued

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its final rule to amend the regulations that require federal agencies to engage in affirmative action for individuals with disabilities. These changes clarify the obligations that the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 imposes on federal agencies as employers that are over and above the obligation to not discriminate on the basis of disability. The regulation does not apply to the private sector or to state or local governments. This final rule will be effective on March 6, 2017.