Disability Dispatch: What You Need to Know

 Back by popular demand! Take a look at these highlights to catch up on special education and disability news over the past few weeks. 

Proposed changes to put Americans with Disabilities Act at Risk

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is our country’s civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The act protects people in areas including jobs, public services, and access to restaurants, retail stores, doctor’s offices, businesses, and more.The U.S. House of Representatives has proposed a law that puts the burden on people with disabilities  to notify business owners of their need to provide accommodations. This relieves business owners of their duty to make their offices and stores accessible to people with disabilities. This is problematic because business owners will no longer need to proactively make their buildings and businesses accessible.Want to share your opinion? Contact your local Representative. Call the Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and connect to your representatives by entering your zip code.Here are some ideas on what to say from the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys:

  • I am your constituent.
  • I have a disability/I am the parent of a child with a disability/I am a family member of someone with a disability/or I represent the rights of people with disabilities.
  • I/My child/family/my clients benefit under the Americans with Disabilities Act by having access to restaurants, retail stores, doctor’s offices and more!
  • This bill would set a dangerous precedent and roll back rights.
  • Vote NO on HR 620 – a bill that negatively amends the ADA.
  • The changes proposed by HR 620 place the burden on children and adults to notify the business owner of the need for accommodation rather than ensuring that our communities are accessible to everyone.
  • The ADA was carefully crafted in 1990 and updated in 2008 – with the input of both people with disabilities and business owners. The law works and should not be amended in ways that discriminate against the people it was designed to include in our communities and everyday lives.

Edit: The House passed this legislation on 2/16. Stay tuned for updates.

Illinois denies qualification for para-ambulatory teen runner 

A high-school runner who has cerebral palsy and who runs in the Paralympics has asked the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to create a category for para-ambulatory runners in their championships. This request is similar to the accommodation provided for wheelchair track athletes and swimmers with disabilities. The accommodation would allow him and other students who have cerebral palsy to qualify and compete in state meets. Cerebral palsy affects balance, coordination and muscle control.The IHSA denied the accommodation request, claiming “it could lead to unlimited requests for new competitive categories.” The U.S. District Court and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the student “failed to prove he would have qualified for the meet” if he didn’t have a disability, therefore claiming the new category would be an unreasonable accommodation.The case may not end here. The family may challenge the decision again. Stay tuned! To read more, click here

Now Available: List of Schools Under Investigation for Disability Discrimination 

The U.S. Department of Education has made available a public list of all open investigations from the Office of Civil Rights, which addresses discrimination on the basis of disability, race, national origin, sex, age, and equal access.The list is updated monthly and includes the name of the academic institution, location, type of alleged discrimination, and date an investigation was opened. To view the listing, click here

Boston Public Schools Protect Students with Sickle Cell Disease. 

Boston Public Schools (BPS) has recognized sickle cell disease (SCD) as “a disability that interferes with a student’s education.” As such, BPS will update its policies to ensure students with SCD receive appropriate accommodations to address  health problems that may interfere with their education. More available from the Boston Globe here

Further Clarification on Endrew F.

Remember the Endrew F. case? Here’s a refresher. The U.S. District Court determined that IEP goals must be “appropriately ambitious”. In short, an appropriately ambitious IEP should allow the student to meet challenging objectives given his or her unique circumstances.For those interested, you can find the full decision here

Federal Funds Continue for the Nurse-Family Partnership

As part of last week’s spending bill, Congress reauthorized funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. This program serves pregnant women and vulnerable families in poverty. It works to improve maternal and newborn health, reduce child injuries, child abuse, and neglect or maltreatment. It also seeks to improve school readiness, reduce crime and domestic violence, improve economic self-sufficiency, and improve coordination among community resources. Learn more about MIECHV here.