Important Survey from the Disability and Abuse Project of Spectrum Institute
Major Recent Events
Civil Rights – House passes bill that includes provisions targeting the ADA
The House passed H.R. 5326, The Commerce/Justice/Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013 on May 10. The bill would fund the Departments of Commerce and Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) among other agencies. Two amendments that threaten the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also passed. One amendment would prohibit the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using any appropriated funds to enforce the existing requirement for public entities, places of public accommodation, and commercial facilities to provide a permanent means of accessible entry to pools and spas under Titles II and III of the ADA, even when it is readily achievable to do so. The other would prohibit DOJ from using funds to implement a section of the ADA which allows miniature horses to be used as service animals. As troubling as these amendments are, the real threat is picking apart the ADA piece by piece by taking away DOJ’s enforcement ability. Several Members made strong statements in support of the ADA during House floor debate on the bill, including Representatives Hoyer (D-MD), Nadler (D-NY), Farr (D-CA), Holt (D-NJ), Langevin (D-RI), Miller (D-CA), Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Rothman(D-NJ).
During the deliberations on the bill, an amendment was introduced that would have limited DOJ’s ability to enforce a portion of the Voting Rights Act. The portion in question was Section 5 which requires certain states to obtain permission from DOJ prior to implementing or changing voting practices. The purpose of Section 5 is to ensure that proposed changes do not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. After an impassioned defense of the Act by Representative John Lewis, in which he called the amendment “shameful,” the sponsor withdrew the amendment. The Arc is concerned that there may be an attempt by some members of Congress to erode important civil rights that afford citizens with disabilities and other minorities the ability to participate in society as full citizens of this country. The Arc is working to ensure that similar language does not pass in the Senate when it considers its version of the CJS Appropriations bill.
Civil Rights – Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sent to Senate
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CRPD) has been transmitted from the White House to the Senate for its advice and consent. Due to the Senate procedure for treaties, the treaty documents have not yet been made public. Neither the White House nor the Senate can release the documents until the Senate completes the transmittal process. When that happens, The Arc and coalition partners will immediately review them. We anticipate this process will move quickly.
Social Security/Employment – Rebuild America Act Introduced in House
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced H.R. 5727, the Rebuild America Act of 2012. This is a companion to S. 2252, introduced in April by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). The bill seeks to improve the employment and economic security of America’s middle class. Among its many provisions, the bill proposes to strengthen Social Security through a balanced approach that advances solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds while also enhancing the benefit calculation formula and annual cost-of-living adjustments for all Social Security programs, including Supplemental Security Income. The bill also proposes to extend the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program through 2015 and to expand and increase the WOTC for workers with disabilities. The Arc supports these two provisions. The bill was referred to multiple House Committees.
Social Security – Senate holds oversight hearing
The U.S. Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on “The Social Security Administration: Is it Meeting its Responsibilities to Save Taxpayer Dollars and Serve the Public?” The hearing featured Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue. Visit the Finance Committee websiteto view testimony and video.
Education – Department of Education releases restraint and seclusion guidance document
The Department of Education released a resource documentthat addresses restraint and seclusion in public schools. The document urges schools to avoid using restraint and seclusion except in emergency situations when a student’s behavior threatens serious physical harm to self or others. It outlines 15 principles that should guide schools in development of policies and procedures relating to restraint and seclusion. The document describes what states have in place currently – policies, regulations, statutes, or guidelines or are silent on covering the use of restraint and seclusion – and provides an annotated list of documents concerning restraint and seclusion. The Arc and many other national organizations had urged the Department to issue strong formal guidance to schools about the use of these dangerous practices. Since the document is not official guidance, it is not enforceable and the Department will not actively distribute it to all school districts.
Data Collection – Disability data at risk as House votes to eliminate the American Community Survey
The House approved the Commerce, Science, Justice Appropriations bill earlier this month which included amendments to eliminate funding for the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey(ACS) and to make the survey voluntary. The ACS provides vital economic, social, and housing data on many of our counties, cities, Congressional districts, towns, and communities that are not provided anywhere else. The ACS is particularly critical to the disability community because it was the first reliable measure of disability in the general population. The ACS replaced the long form used in the decennial census. The loss of this survey would be devastating to the national data collected about people with disabilities. This data is critical to gathering a clearer picture of the lives of individuals with disabilities and measuring our success at achieving integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in mainstream society. It is unclear if the Senate will consider its version of the bill before the Memorial Day recess or after. The Arc is joining with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) to urge the Senate to fully fund the ACS.
Civil Rights – Justice Department Extends Deadline for Existing Pools to Comply with 2010 ADA Standards
The Justice Department announced an extension for existing swimming pools to comply with the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design: existing pools now have until January 31, 2013 to comply with the standards. These standards were developed to ensure that buildings and facilities, including swimming pools, are accessible to more than 54 million Americans with disabilities. The department will be issuing a technical assistance document to help pool owners understand and comply with the accessibility requirements.
Housing – Federal Agency Makes Available $85 Million for New Integrated Housing for People with Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced that it is making available $85 million to state housing agencies to provide affordable, inclusive, supportive housing for extremely low-income people with disabilities. This historic announcement marks the first time that Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program funding will be offered to state housing agencies that meet new eligibility criteria, including having a partnership with a state health and human services and Medicaid agency to provide essential supports and services. HUD estimates that this funding will provide 2,800 new Section 811 supporting housing units for people with disabilities. These units will be set within larger housing developments in the community. The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) is posted on Grants.gov (Funding Opportunity Number FR-5600-N-28). The deadline for applications is July 31, 2012. Additional details on this opportunity will be made available in the coming days by the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) Resource Center on Supportive Housing at http://811resourcecenter.tacinc.org.
Civil Rights / Employment – Court Issues Ruling in Oregon Employment Case
Last week, the U.S. District Court in Oregon issued a ruling in Lane v. Kitzhaber (3:12-cv-00138-ST). The case alleges that Oregon is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide employment services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated settings appropriate. The Court granted a motion to dismiss the complaint, but without prejudice and with leave to amend, while directing the Plaintiffs how to correct the wording of the complaint. Additionally, the Court determined that the plaintiffs have valid cognizable claims under Title II of the ADA and that the ADA’s integration mandate applies to the provision of employment-related services. As of Capitol Insider publication time, the Court’s Opinion and Order is not yet widely available. However, Disability Rights Oregon, representing the plaintiffs, has provided a summary (the state of Oregon has not released a summary of its own, as of publication time).
Social Security – Brookings event highlights children with disabilities
On May 8, the Brookings Institute and Princeton University hosted an event on “Children with Disabilities” and released the latest issue of The Future of Children—a journal focusing on research and practice on vital children’s issues—examining the increasing impact of childhood disability. The release event included an overview of the journal issue’s contents, findings from an accompanying policy brief, a keynote speech by Kenneth Apfel of the University of Maryland, and a panel discussion on the SSI program for children. The Arc’s Marty Ford participated in the panel and spoke about the importance of SSI benefits for low-income children with significant disabilities and their families. Audio and a transcript are available on the Brookings Institute web site.
Major Events Ahead
Congress – Schedule
The Senate is in session this week and will hold its next district work period from May 28 to June 1. The House begins a district work period this week and will reconvene on May 30.
News in Our Community
The Arc Mourns the Death of Katie Beckett
Mary Katherine “Katie” Beckett, 34, died on May 18, 2012 at the same hospital in Cedar Rapids, IA, where she spent 3 years of her life. Severely disabled by encephalitis at age 6 months, Katie was unable to breathe on her own and needed some breathing assistance throughout her life. However, she had exceeded the $1 million benefit limit on her parents’ health insurance and could only be covered by Medicaid as long as she remained in the hospital. Through untiring advocacy by her mother Julie Beckett and the support of then-Representative Tom Tauke, Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Charles Grassley, and ultimately President Ronald Reagan, a new Medicaid waiver was created to allow Katie and children like her to be served at home. Through various Medicaid provisions referred to as the Katie Beckett waiver, many individuals have enjoyed the benefits of services at home rather than in institutions. While The Arc mourns her death, we celebrate Katie’s life and the contributions that she and her family have made to so many.