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Hot Off the Press! News Archives

National and Around the World - 2011 Archives

The contents of this page are now dated and will not be moderated. If you experience obsolete information or links, please contact us.

For the Most Recent News Hot Off the Press! National and Around the World

December 2011 - Benefits eligibility extended for Persian Gulf war vets with undiagnosed illnesses

Many veterans of the conflict in Southwest Asia have attributed a range of undiagnosed or poorly understood medical problems to their military services. Chemical weapons, environmental hazards and vaccinations are among the possible causes. At issue is the eligibility of Veterans to claim VA disability compensation based upon those undiagnosed illnesses, and the ability of survivors to qualify for VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. Under long-standing VA rules, any undiagnosed illnesses used to establish eligibility for VA benefits must become apparent by Dec. 31, 2011. The new change pushes the date back to Dec. 31, 2016. Veterans or survivors who believe they qualify for these benefits should contact VA at 1-800-827-1000.

Further information about undiagnosed illnesses is available online at publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar and publichealth.va.gov/exposures/oefoif/index.asp.

December 2011 - Report highlights success of Money Follows the Person demonstration

The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured has recently published their report, Money Follows the Person: A 2011 Survey of Transitions, Services and Costs. The Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration grant program was authorized by Congress as part of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act (DRA). The demonstration is designed to reduce states' reliance on long term institutional care and expand options for individuals with disabilities and the elderly who wish to receive services in the community. To date, a total of 44 states, including the District of Columbia, have received federal grant money to transition Medicaid beneficiaries out of institutions and back to their homes or the community. As of August 2011, nearly 17,000 individuals have transitioned back to the community and another 5,700 transitions are currently in progress. The majority of MFP transitions to date have been individuals with physical disabilities (36%) and seniors (33%). Individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities are less likely to be candidates for transition due to their extensive health and long-term services needs.When asked to compare the cost of serving Medicaid beneficiaries who reside in institutions with MFP participants, the majority of states said MFP per capita costs were lower. For more on the progress of MFP, read the report.

December 2011 - New smart phone app to improve access to accessibility information in local communities

Access Together is a new smart phone app (iPhone, Android or Blackberry) that relies on "crowd-sourcing" to identify accessible venues, such as grocery stores, shops, restaurants, movie theaters, and more in local communities. The app relies on input from you! Smartphone users can log into the Access Together website and answer questions about a venue, such as "Is the entrance wheelchair accessible?" That information will then be organized into a searchable database that can be accessed via the app. While the app is currently providing access information in New York neighborhoods, more cities and neighborhoods will be added in 2012. If you want to see your city included in this app, spread the word and log in today to share your accessibility experience with venues in your area. Visit accesstogether.org on your smartphone to get started!

December 2011 - New federal rule could improve employment prospects for people with disabilities

The US Department of Labor has proposed a new rule that would require federal contractors and subcontractors to set a hiring goal of having 7 percent of their workforces be people with disabilities. The proposed regulatory changes detail specific actions contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping and policy dissemination. Despite the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which requires equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities, unemployment rates for this group as a whole are considerably higher than than those of people without disabiliites. This rule would hold employers accountable by requiring data collection and record-keeping practices that documents their efforts in hiring people with disabilities and processing of requests for reasonable accommodation.The Department will welcome public comment through February 7, 2012. For more on this proposed rule, read the press release.

October 2011 - Department of Labor joins forces with Facebook to put people back to work

If you are looking for work and haven't yet tapped into the power of Facebook, now is the time! Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has announced Social Jobs Partnership, an innovative partnership between Facebook, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, DirectEmployers Association, and the National Association of Colleges and Employers, designed to connect jobless Americans to the resources and employers that can put them to work. "Linking American job seekers with the resources they need to get back to work is a top priority of the Obama Administration and my department," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "By leveraging the power of the social web, this initiative will provide immediate, meaningful and ready-to-use information for job seekers and employers, and a modern platform to better connect them." Check out Social Jobs Partnership on Facebook.

October 2011 - Kathy Martinez: High expectations key in future success

In a recent Department of Labor Blog post, Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of the US Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), reflects on her childhood and the role her parents' expectations played in her success. Following are a few excerpts from her blog.

"I was born blind, and not surprisingly, my life has been profoundly impacted by my disability. Yet, it's only one of the many factors that shape my identity and the person I am today. And an investment in my future has been critical...Fortunately, my parents were savvy investors...[and] understood the concept of multiplying returns. And my sister Peggy and I are living proof. Peggy and I were the middle of six children. She was also born blind. From day one, our parents invested belief in our capabilities. They fought hard for us—first for me and then for Peggy—to attend our local public school and be woven into the fabric of our community. They instilled in us a love of learning and, perhaps most importantly, an expectation of employment. This all required significant effort on their part, both in terms of energy and ardor..."

Read the remainder of Ms. Martinez's blog post.

October 2011 - PBS Documentary chronicles life of reknowned disability advocate Fred Fay

Lives Worth Living is a documentary produced by Eric Neudel. The film highlights the work of the tireless, pioneering disability activists of the 1960s. "This film is an oral history, told by the movement's mythical heroes themselves, and illustrated through the use of rare archival footage. The story features Fred Fay, who suffered a spinal cord injury at age 17 in 1961, and simply refused to be relegated to life’s sidelines just because he couldn’t walk. He fought tirelessly for decades for equal rights, access, and opportunity for the disabled, including advocating for programs allowing the disabled to live independently. (Fred died August 20, 2011; the film is dedicated to him.) Also featured is Ed Roberts, who founded the independent living movement in Berkeley and is also considered a father of the disability rights movement." The film will air on PBS stations during the week of October 24th. Clips are available on the PBS website.

October 2011 - Social Security Administration announces 2012 cost of living adjustment

Social Security and SSI beneficiaries can expect a 3.6 percent cost of living adjustment in 2012. Nearly 55 million Social Security beneficiaries will receive the adjustment in January 2012, while increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2011. For someone collecting $600 per month, they can expect to see an additional $22 on their monthly checks in 2012. The increase will accumulate to approximately $260 over the course of the year. The purpose of the COLA is to ensure that the purchasing power of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is not eroded by inflation. Read more on COLA.

October 2011 - FCC adopts rules to improve access to advanced communications for people with disabilities

Smartphones, tablets, and broadband, will soon be more accessible and user friendly for people with disabilities, thanks to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The FCC recently implemented rules within the Act that require "providers of advanced communications services and manufacturers of equipment used for advanced communications services, to make their services and products accessible to people with disabilities...Where it is not achievable to do so, these covered entities must make their services and equipment compatible with commonly used assistive technologies." The CVAA represents the most significant accessibility legislation since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") in 1990. Read the FCC Press Release.

October 2011 - Report finds economic downturn disproportionately affecting people with disabilities

According to the National Council on Disability (NCD) people with disabilities have seen a decline in many aspects of their quality of life since the economic downturn. The NCD's annual report, National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, goes on to say that "people with disabilities have lower rates of employment, lower annual earnings, lower educational attainment and achievement; lack adequate access to housing, transportation, technology, and health care; and are more likely to live in poverty, [compared to those without disabilities]." There is hope however that recent legislative enactments will improve some areas, including:

Read the NCD Progress Report.

October 2011 - October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

With the unemployment rate of people with disabilities nearly double that of people without disabilities, we must take time to reflect on how we can improve the employment prospects of people with disabilities. In his annual Proclamation, the President noted the value and necessity of workers with disabilities: "To win the future, we must harness the power of our Nation's richest resource -- our people. Americans with disabilities, like all Americans, are entitled to not only full participation in our society, but also full opportunity in our society. Their talents and contributions are vital to the strength of our Nation's workforce and our future prosperity. Together, we can ensure persons living with disabilities have equal access to employment, and to inclusive, supportive workplaces."

To make this happen, employers must overcome the largely unfounded fears and myths surrounding the hiring of people with disabilities. There are numerous incentives (such as tax credits) and supports available for hiring workers with disabilities. Find out how you can open your doors to workers with disabilities, check out NHU's Employer Resources.

September 2011 - Don't miss the Work Incentive Seminar Event in your area

Just another reminder that if you are an SSI or SSDI beneficiary and would like to investigate the possibility of returning to work, a WISE seminar is a must attend event. The Social Security Administration will be hosting Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) throughout the United States this fall. If you are unable to attend a local event, you can also register for a free 1.5 hour webinar. The local seminars are informal community events held by local organizations for beneficiaries to learn about the Ticket to Work Program and other Work Incentives. Register for a WISE event today!

September 2011 - $100 Million in HUD grants to improve employability, self-sufficiency and independent living of HUD-assisted residents

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently awarded nearly $100 million in grants to help public and assisted housing residents find employment, connect with needed services, and help the elderly and people with disabilities maintain independent living. Residents will be connected with education opportunities, job training and placement programs and/or computer and financial literacy services.

Funding is provided via three programs, including:

  • Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency – Service Coordinators Program (ROSS-SC) Program
  • Public Housing – Family Self-Sufficiency Program (PH-FSS)
  • Multifamily Housing Service Coordinator Program (MHSC).

    Contact your local Public Housing Authority, seek out your resident service coordinator, or find a grant recipient in your area to learn more. Read the HUD press release.

    September 2011 - Implementation of CLASS on hold

    The Class Act, a health care provision championed by disability advocates that would have established a long term care insurance program for working Americans with disabilities, has been put on hold indefinitely. With numerous bipartisan reviews deeming this program unsustainable and inadequate for addressing the long term care needs of people with disabilities, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has asked the Senate appropriators to strike $120 million that had been planned next fiscal year to implement the benefit. According to an HHS statement, "We are continuing our analysis of this program. As we have said in the past, it is an open question whether the program will be implemented. A CLASS program will only be implemented if it is fiscally solvent, self-sustaining and consistent with the statute." For more on this issue, read Dem lawmakers to fight for CLASS health program's survival.

    September 2011 - Poverty levels of people with disabilities higher in 2010

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau's report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010, poverty levels reached an all time high; with the number of people in poverty in 2010 (46.2 million) being the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published. It is no surprise then that people with disabilities are dispropotianely affected. According to the report, between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate and number in poverty for people aged 18 to 64 with a disability rose from 25.0 percent (3.7 million) to 27.9 percent (4.2 million). Poverty rates for the same age group without disabiliites, rose just 0.5 percent, from 12.0 to 12.5 percent over that same time period.

    For more, read the report online.

    September 2011 - September is National Preparedness Month

    Have you thought about what you would do if a disaster hit your hometown? It can be easy to slip into "it will never happen to me" mode, but, what if it does? Are you prepared? In light of last month's unprecedented East Coast hurricane, now is a good time to ensure you have the plan, support network, and supplies in place in the event of an emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a great deal of information tailored to people with disabilities. Check out Ready.gov and Disability.gov to learn how to prepare a supply kit and develop and execute your disaster plan.

    September 2011 - New smartphone app connects users to disability organizations and resources

    The National Dissemmination Center for Children with Disabilities has recently made available DisAbilityConnect, a new android app that provides instant access to disability resources in your state. An iPhone app is expected shortly. To download the android app, visit Android Market.

    August 2011 - Seminars help Social Security beneficiaries understand available work incentives

    Did you know that in most cases you can keep your SSI/SSDI/Medicaid benefits for a time while attempting employment? Don't let fear of losing your benefits deter you from working! The Social Security Administration will be hosting a series of FREE Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) in each state through the end of summer and into fall. If you are unable to attend a local event, you can also register for a free 1.5 hour webinar. The local seminars are informal community events held by local organizations for beneficiaries to learn about the Ticket to Work Program and other Work Incentives. Register for a WISE event today!

    August 2011 - New insurance plan available to people with pre-existing conditions

    The Affordable Cart Act requires that all health insurance providers offer coverage for pre-existing medical conditions by 2014. Until then, individuals whose disability or medical condition had prevented them from securing health insurance, can purchase insurance via the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP). PCIP covers a broad range of health benefits, including primary and specialty care, hospital care, and prescription drugs. You will not pay a higher premium due to your medical condition and eligibility is not based on income. The program is only open to those who have been without insurance coverage for the last six months. PCIP is a federally funded program that is either administered by your state or the federal government. To learn more, visit pcip.gov or call 1-866-717-5826 or 1-866-561-1604(TTY).

    July 2011 - Social Security's BOND program could help you keep more of your SSDI benefits while working

    One of the biggest fears among Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries who wish to return to work is exceeding the annual earnings threshold of $12,0000. Once a beneficiary earns $12,000 in a year, their entire SSDI benefit is erased, leaving them with little opportunity to dig themselves out of poverty and therefore little incentive to work. In recognition of this issue, the Social Security Administration has introduced the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND). This program provides incentive to randomly selected beneficiaries by providing a benefit offset, rather than an abrupt end to benefits. The offset will offer beneficiaries a gradual reduction of benefits (a loss of $1 for each additional $2 earned over the annual threshold of $12,000.)

    The demonstration program, which will run from 2011 through 2022 will test whether this incentive will encourage a greater number of workers with disabilities to return to gainful employment. The program is currently available in the following states/regions: Alabama, Arizona, Southern California, Colorado, Southern Florida, Michigan (Greater Detroit only), Northern New England, Western New York, Texas (Greater Houston), Washington, D.C. (metropolitan area), Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    If you are selected to participate, you will receive a letter with a red stripe at the top, telling you that the offset is available for you to use (and how to do that). For more on BOND, visit http://bondssa.org.

    July 2011 - White House virtual town hall on disability policy available for viewing on Disability.gov

    On July 14th, the White House hosted its first ever virtual town hall targeted at Americans with disabilities. The White House's top advisors on disability policy, including Kareem Dale, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, Jeff Crowley, M.P.H., Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy & Senior Advisor on Disability Policy at the White House, and Rebecca Cokley, Director of Priority Placement for Public Engagement, White House Presidential Personnel Office, were available to answer questions submitted by individuals concerning such topics as potential Medicaid cuts, Autism rates in America, disability hiring resources for small business owners, ADA compliance and efforts, federal employment of people with disabilities and much more.

    The 1-hour town hall is now available for viewing on the Disability.gov website.

    July 2011 - Senator Tom Harkin a champion for improving employment results of Americans with disabilities

    In his April 2011 address to attendees of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Corporate Disability Employment Summit, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), promised that "making a real impact on disability employment numbers is one of my top priorities and will remain so as long as I am in the Senate." During his address he called on business leaders to commit to increasing the number of adults with disabilities in the labor force, to 6 million by 2015; that's 1.1 million more people with disabilities in the workforce! Read the Senator's address in its entirety.

    True to his word, Harkin has begun to hold Senate hearings to consider ways in which this goal can be accomplished. Not necessarily tied to any particular legislation, the hearings are designed to bring individuals, business leaders and legislators together to discuss plausible ways in which employment outcomes may be improved. In the first hearing, held on Thursday, July 14th, titled "Lessons from the Field: Learning from What Works for Employment for Persons with Disabilities," the committee heard testimony from Governor Tom Ridge, Chairman, National Organization on Disability; Deborah Dagit, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Merck; and Amelia Wallrich, Law Student (with a disability).

    A video and transcripts of the hearing are available on the Senate HELP website.

    July 2011 - Lawmakers call for Bipartisan Medicaid Reform

    In the article "Modernize Medicaid to better support people with disabilities," published on The Hill, an online legislative news source, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) suggest improving Medicaid to better serve people with disabilities in the community. The legislators believe that "our continued heavy reliance on outdated and expensive institutions to serve people with disabilities reflects inertia and politics rather than the needs of people with disabilities."

    Despite the significant cost savings, community services are often the first to be cut, as states work to reign in their budgets. The authors acknowledged this trend by stating, "these cuts have typically been short-sighted. Rather than taking steps to reduce wasteful spending on institutional settings, many states have cut the services that keep people with disabilities in their own homes and communities." Based on a recent lawsuit brought under the Olmstead Decision, it was found that Illinois and the federal government were spending approximately $192,000 per year in Medicaid dollars to serve an individual in an institution, compared to an average of $32,000 to serve a similar individual in a community setting.  

    At a time when Medicaid is facing intense scrutiny, this bipartisan call for thoughtful, cost-effective reform is a welcome change from politics as usual.

    Contact your Legislators and encourage them to work with Senator Harkin and Representative McMorris in designing a Medicaid program that will deliver cost-effective community-based care!

    To locate your elected officials, visit the House of Representatives online at www.house.gov/ and the United States Senate at www.senate.gov/.

    July 2011 - Senate bill to improve Independent Living Program in US

    The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) has been working with legislators over the past several years on the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). After much planning and coordination, the Senate has introduced a bill for the reauthorization of these Acts. The bill will provide solutions to problems that have nagged Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs) for years. In particular, the bill:

  • Calls for the creation of an Independent Living Association (ILA), within the Department of Education
  • Adds transitioning people with disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions to home and community-based residences to the roster of Core Services provided by CILs
  • Requires one-stop centers to be physically and programmatically accessible for people with all types of disabilities.

    For more, read the press release issued by the National Council on Independent Living.

    June 2011 - New program available to homeowners at risk of foreclosure

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in conjunction with NeighborWorks America, has launched the Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program (EHLP), which provides mortgage payment relief to eligible homeowners. The program provides an interest free loan that pays a portion of the homeowner's monthly mortgage for up to two years (up to $50,000). The program is open to homeowners who are experiencing a drop in income of at least 15 percent over their 2009 income, that directly results from involuntary unemployment or underemployment due to adverse economic conditions and/or a medical emergency. Additionally, homeowners must be at least 90 days past due and have received a written notice from their lender concerning their delinquency. Additional eligibility criteri will apply. At this time, only 27 states are participating. Pre-applicant screening wil end on July 22, 2011. To learn more, visit the EHLP NeighborWorks America website - ehlp.nw.org.

    June 2011 - DOJ issues new website and Q&A document on Olmstead Decision

    On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court confirmed the rights of people with disabilities to live in the community, via their historic decision in the Olmstead v. L.C. case. The decision held that the ADA requires public entities (ie. State Medicaide Programs) to provide access to the "most integrated [long term care] setting. Twelve yers later, people with disabilities continue to find themselves in nursing homes, despite their desire to receive services in their own homes. In an effort to ensure this decision is upheld, the Department of Justice, has issued the document, Statement of the Department of Justice on Enforcement of the Integration Mandate of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead v. L.C.. The document presents a series of questions and answers concerning the decision itself and an individual's rights under the decision.

    The DOJ has also developed a new website, Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone which tracks recent litigation and provides information on how to file a complaint.

    June 2011 - Report finds an uncertain future for people with Intellectual/Developmental disabilities

    The newly issued Report on Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS), 2011, published by The ARC, found that America is falling short on providing services that enable our citizens with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) to lead independent lives. In turn, families are being faced with signigicant financial and emotional hardships as they attempt to meet the needs of their family members with disabilities. Among the findings, which were based on the srurvey responses of nearly 5,000 family caregivers across the United States:

    The report concludes with a New Call to Action, imploring families and individuals with I/DD to join The Arc, legislators, and business and community leaders in advocating for a more level playing field. Time and again we have seen the importance of voice. We must speak up and demand equality!

    June 2011 - Report brings to light the ongoing housing crisis for people with disabilities

    In the newly issued report, Priced Out: The Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities, published by the Technical Assistance Collaborative and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Housing Task Force, it is found that there are now 218 markets across 42 states where rents for modestly priced units exceed 100% of monthly SSI benefits. Over the past 12 years since the first Priced Out study, the housing affordability gap for people with disabilities has almost doubled as the cost of a modestly priced rental unit has increased from 69% of SSI in 1998 to 112% in 2010. Despite this dire news, there is hope that the newly enacted Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act will help states develop permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities via the HUD Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities program. To see how your state fares, check out the report as linked above.

    June 2011 - Report validates importance of Medicaid

    In a new bi-partisan report entitled Medicaid Works: A Review of How Public Insurance Protects the Health and Finances of Children and Other Vulnerable Populations, the authors Leighton Ku and Christine Ferguson, of the Department of Health Policy, School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University, conclude that Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are effective at meeting the needs of vulnerable children and adults. At a time when legislators are considering an end to Medicaid as we know it, this report serves as a bold reminder as to the cost-effectiveness and necessity of Medicaid. Among the report's key findings:

    May 2011 - Action Alert! Tell Your Senators to Oppose Medicaid Block Grants

    The United States Senate will soon consider the Federal Budget Proposal, which recently passed the House of Representatives. Your immediate advocacy efforts are needed.

    The following is an excerpt from an action alert issued by Center for Disability Rights.

    The recent budget proposal passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would seriously undermine Medicaid, cutting the program by a total of $772 billion from the current funding level. That's a 35 percent reduction. In addition, the proposal would cap the reduced amount of funding as a block grant. While block grants are described as giving states "flexibility", it really means that states will have no accountability for their Medicaid programs...Too many states have already demonstrated that they will bow to local pressure from institutional facilities, and ignore the Supreme Court affirmed civil rights of Americans to choose to receive long term services in their homes and community. Additional flexibility is NOT the answer.

    If enacted, States would have to implement additional cuts or provide additional state funding to make up for the lost federal funds. States are faced with significant budget shortfalls now, so it is clear that this approach would mean that states would eliminate Medicaid services, cap enrollment, and impose high premiums and co-payments for Medicaid beneficiaries.

    The battle over cuts to Medicaid is likely to involve a series of critical decisions and votes. Medicaid pays for vital health care as well as services and supports for people with disabilities. It's important that we let Congress know that we oppose block granting and cutting Medicaid.

    Take Action!

    For more on the Budget Proposal, visit NHU's National Legislation page.

    May 2011 - UCP's The Case for Inclusion highlights best and worst states for people with intelectual and developmental disabilities

    United Cerebral Palsy's 2011 The Case for Inclusion shows that many states are making progress in providing inclusive community care options for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since 2010, across the United States, a total of six state institutions closed, moving more than 2,000 people into more integrated, community-based settings. The three states that top the list for inclusive community services this year are Vermont, Arizona and Michigan. Rounding out the bottom three are Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. Rankings were based upon how well each state promoted independence, tracked quality and safety, worked to keep families together, promoted productivity (ie supported employment), and reached those in need.

    While notable progress has been made, the report cautions that significant work remains to ensure that the promise of full integration is realized. For more, check out The Case for Inclusion online.

    April 2011 - PBS NewsHour's Autism Now series examines the state of Autism in America

    Robert MacNeil has returned to PBS NewsHour with his indepth series, Autism Now. The series sheds light on the growing prevelance of Autism in America and how families are managing with inadequate resources and support. The series begins with a look at MacNeil's own grandson, a 6 year old diagnosed with Autism. It goes on to examine where we are at in identifying potential causes and cures and also touches on the often lacking availability of support throughout the life stages. This is a must see series for any individual that has been touched by Autism. Check out Autism Now online to view the series' episodes and read articles related to Autism.

    *NOTE: This series has received mixed reviews from the Autism Community. In particular, concern has been raised about the reporters broad assessment that individuals with Autism are prone to violence and tend to lack empathy. While PBS addressed some of the community's concerns during the series wrap up on Tuesday, April 26th, you may still wish to share your thoughts with PBS Newshour.

    URGENT ACTION ALERT! - April 2011 - Federal House budget proposal threatens to slash Medicaid, Contact your Representatives and Senators

    The following is an excerpt from an action alert issued by AAPD.

    The recent budget proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives would seriously undermine the Medicaid program. Medicaid provides critical health coverage to 8 million Americans with disabilities who rely upon Medicaid for long term services and support, including prescription drug coverage, durable medical equipment, and facilities and services which permit them to live and work in the community, avoiding costly institutional care.

    This proposal would reduce Medicaid funding for the next ten years by a total of $772 billion below the level of a status quo program. This is a reduction of about 35%. In addition, the proposal would make the reduced funding a cap on the program (the so-called block grant)...If enacted, the States would have the burden of limiting their programs to deal with the reduced federal support. The reductions made by the state could take the form of curtailing covered services, capping enrollment, and imposing high premiums and co-payments for beneficiaries.

    The battle over cuts in Medicaid is likely to be prolonged, and involve a series of critical decisions and votes. It is important that the opponents of Medicaid cut proposals express opposition early and often. At all times, Members of Congress need to be aware of the serious consequences to people with disabilities of drastic cuts in Medicaid.

    The Congressional recess, beginning the week of Monday April 18 to Friday April 29, is a good time for advocates to educate their Congressman and Senators who will be in their home districts and states during the recess.

    Visit the AAPD Action Alert in its entirety to learn more and for suggested talking points.

    April 19, 2011 - Don't miss McDonald's National Hiring Day

    McDonald's corporation, a corporate leader in the active recruitment and hiring of people with disabilities, will be hosting a National Hiring Day at restaurant locations throught the United States on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. During this event they hope to fill more than 50,000 crew and management positions. McDonald's boasts a great track record of promoting from within, with more than 75% of their store managers starting behind the counter and working their way up. If you are looking for a job with growth potential, don't miss this event. Simply stop in your local McDonald's on April 19th. For more information on available positions and benefits, check out McDonald's Careers.

    April 2011 - FCC Proposes to Update Rules Allowing Accessibility to Advanced Communications to 54 Million Consumers with Disabilities - Comment Deadline April 13

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is asking for input on three Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs). These NPRMs address the accessibility of video programming and advanced communications services (text messaging, video chat and making voice calls over the Internet) and devices.

    Another proposal discusses expanding contributions to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund. For more information read the statement from FCC Chairman Julius Chenachowski. This link opens a PDF document and is also available in Word format.

    April 2011 - Corporate Disability Employment Summit: Leading Practices on Disability Inclusion

    On April 12, 2011 the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the Corporate Disability Employment Summit: Leading Practices on Disability Inclusion from 8:00 am - 12:30 pm EST at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C. The focus of the summit is to educate Senior Managers on the how and why of diversifying their workplaces and targeting consumers with disabilities. To learn more, check out the Summit Agenda.

    March 2011 - New ADA regulations in effect

    For the first time in 20 years, the United States Department of Justice has implemented major revisions on the American's With Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements. "The new rules usher in a new day for the more than 50 million individuals with disabilities in this country," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "The rules will expand accessibility in a number of areas and, for the first time, provide detailed guidance on how to make recreation facilities, including parks and swimming pools, accessible." The regulations apply to the activities of more than 80,000 units of state and local government and more than seven million places of public accommodation. Entities covered by the ADA have until March 15, 2012 to comply with the 2010 Standards.

    The amended regulations also contain many new or expanded provisions on general nondiscrimination policies, including the use of service animals, the use of wheelchairs and other power-driven mobility devices, selling tickets for wheelchair-accessible seating at sports and performance venues, reserving and guaranteeing accessible rooms at hotels, providing interpreter services through video conferencing, and the effect of the new regulations on existing facilities. The compliance date for the all the new nondiscrimination provisions, except for those on hotel reservations, is March 15, 2011.

    To help businesses comply with the new regulations the DOJ has issued a new document, "ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business."

    March 2011 - Providing Assistance for People with Disabilities - Survivors of the Earthquake Tsunami in Japan

    The American Association of People with Disabilities Newsletter is reporting that People with Disabilities in Japan are suffering from the earthquake and tsunami disaster. Japan has set up an emergency disaster relief headquarters at Japan Council on Independent Living Center(JIL). Shortages of fuel and electricity, food and shelter are being reported. Giving to disaster relief needs careful consideration. You will want to consider the options and please see our guide on Providing Assistance for People with Disabilities -Survivors of the Earthquake Tsunami in Japan. As we learn of organizations that are assisting in this effort, we will make the information on organizations available in this guide, as well as safe giving to disaster relief, how to give through charitable organizations and tips on donating to disaster relief.

    March 2011 - Report sets out to identify reasons for employment gap affecting people with disabilities

    Two in ten working age Americans with disabilities are employed, compared with roughly six in ten people without disabilities. In April 2010, the National Organization on Disability conducted a study to pinpoint why employment continues to elude the majority of people with disabilities. Following are a few key findings of the The Kessler Foundation/NOD Survey of Employment of Americans with Disabilities:

  • Companies are not including people with disabilities in their hiring diversity initiatives. Only three in ten companies reported having a disability hiring policy or program as part of their diversity initiatives

  • Hiring Managers do not see a high value in their company's Disability Programs

  • Companies report difficulty in finding qualified candidates with disabilities. Two of three hiring managers cited the unavailability of qualified candidates as a barrier to hiring more individuals with disabilities

    It appears as though the biggest barrier to employment among people with disabilities continues to be misguided attitudes as well as a shear lack of effort on the part of corporate America. The report goes on to provide data that supports the value of hiring people with disabilities and also provides five steps to help corporations with the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities.

    March 2011 - Man with CP wins show on Oprah's network

    Zach Anner, a 26 year old Austin, Texas filmmaker with Cerebral Palsy will soon debut his new show on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. The show, "Rollin' Around the World with Zach Anner," will follow Zach as he travels to destinations throughout the United States. When asked why a travel show, Zach responded, "I think that the best way to get a broader perspective on your life is to travel and to just take life as it comes. Some of the best adventures that I've had have been traveling with my dad." Zach plans to take a light and humurous approach on the show and hopes that others with disabilities will be inspired to travel despite their physical limitations. To learn more about Anner, visit his webpage - The Real Zach Anner. To stay on top of news regarding his show, which is currently in pre-production, visit Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

    February 2011 - Federal employment program targets college students with disabilities

    The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), in cooperation with the Department of Defense and many other Federal agencies, has developed the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities (WRP). WRP is a recruitment and referral program that connects federal sector employers nationwide with highly motivated postsecondary students and recent graduates with disabilities. The program creates an annual database of prescreened candidates that can be accessed by federal offices and private sector employers. Employment candidates must be interviewed to be included in the annual database. The next round of interviews will take place in the fall of 2011. If you are a current student or recent graduate, and wish to be included in the 2012 database, you must speak with your disability coordinator. WRP only deals with college coordinators and is unable to respond to students directly. Ask your disability coordinator to check out the WRP website - wrp.gov.

    If you are an employer in the private sector, you can take advantage of the WRP program through the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) at askEARN.org or call (855) 275-3276.

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