Protesters arrested during congressional hearing on ADA reform (H.R. 620)

Disability rights activists were arrested by Capitol Hill police on Tuesday during a House Rules Committee hearing on H.R. 620. The protesters oppose policy reforms that would change ADA regulations regarding complaint waiting periods. Click here to read Cristina Marcos’s full report on TheHill.com.

Advocates condemn House Bill #620 aka ‘ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017’

Numerous disability rights advocates are livid over proposed congressional legislation aiming to change enforcement timelines for ADA compliance. The bill is titled “H.R. 620 – ADA Education and Reform Act 2017” and sponsored by Texas Representative Ted Poe. The House Judiciary Committee approved the amended version of the bill earlier this month. The legislation currently has 108 bipartisan co-sponsors and is predicted to come to a vote in the House of Representatives this week.

In October 2017 Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth wrote an opinion column for the Chicago Tribune condemning H.R. 620. She accused the retail and hospitality industries of shifting the burden of ADA compliance to individuals with disabilities.

Members of the Judiciary Committee who dissented from the majority opinion stated, “Both individually and cumulatively, H.R. 620’s notice and cure provisions will have the effect of inappropriately shifting the burden of enforcing compliance with a federal civil rights statute from the alleged wrongdoer onto the discrimination victim. Moreover, it would undermine the carefully calibrated voluntary compliance regime that is one of the hallmarks of the ADA, a regime formed through negotiations between the disability rights community and the business community when the ADA was drafted 28 years ago.”

Disability rights activist S.E. Smith also wrote a column for Teen Vogue outlining the key points of the legislation’s proposed changes to ADA and why they are unnecessary. Smith argues that the businesses concerned about “bogus lawsuits” are underestimating how expensive legal action is for the complainant.

2018Jan30_House Judiciary Cmtee Report on HR 620

Schneider Family Book Awards honor authors of kids books with disability themes

Fiction is an engaging way to introduce children to the topic of disability. The annual Schneider Family Book Awards are chosen by the American Library Association and honor exceptional books about disabilities targeted at kids and teens. This year’s award-winning books  include characters who are deaf, have autism and use sign language. Check out the full list by clicking here to read Disability Scoop’s report.

Insurers denying disability coverage to users of Truvada, drug that prevents H.I.V.

The New York Times is reporting on a common practice by disability insurance providers to deny coverage to users of Truvada, a medication also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), that prevents H.I.V. infection. Reporter Donald G. McNeil interviewed healthcare providers, H.I.V. awareness advocates and Truvada users about the medication and why its increasingly popular as an effective strategy for preventing infection. As McNeil points out, the insurance strategy appears to contradict policies towards other preventive medications like birth control and HPV vaccines. Click here to read McNeil’s full report in NYT.

Baby with Down syndrome wins Gerber photo contest, making history

For the first time in its 91-year history the Gerber Baby Photo Contest chose a baby with Down syndrome. The winner is Lucas Warren of Dalton, GA and his prize includes a $50,000 paycheck and Gerber advertising contract. Click here to see more photos of adorable Lucas and watch an interview on The Today Show with him and his parents.

Check out the National Down Syndrome Society’s “Preferred Language Guide” for a quick and helpful tutorial on communicating about DS.

Photo of 1 year old Lucas Warren, the winner of Gerber's annual baby photo contest. Lucas has Down syndrome. Lucas wears a light green shirt, white pants, and a blue bowtie. He smiles cheerfully into the camera.
Lucas Warren, Gerber’s 2018 Spokesbaby and winner of their annual photo contest. Lucas is the first contest winner to have Down syndrome. Credit: Cortney Warren, Lucas’ mom

Paralympic Committee adds mixed gender relays and likely more sports for Tokyo 2020

The International Paralympic Committee announced some interesting changes for the Tokyo 2020 Games. They’ve added two mixed gender relays and are considering adding four new sports: CP Football, Golf, Powerchair Football and Sailing. Click HERE to read more details in the full story from Swimmers World Magazine.

Self-driving shuttle “Accessible Olli” debuts at CES 2018

CNET.com covered this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas from many angles. One of the featured products was “Accessible Olli,” a self-driving, electric shuttle designed by and for people with disabilities. As CNET reports, the vehicle has a retractable wheelchair ramp, software that can read sign language and a computer powered by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence. Read the full CNET article here.

George Washington University creates disability discrimination task force following federal investigation

George Washington University is creating a special task force to address complaints of digital inaccessibility. Their concern was prompted by a federal investigation headed by the Department of Education into possible disability discrimination. According to the story by GW’s independent student newspaper, The Hatchet, the university previously tried solving the problem using accessibility software but students with disabilities reported the services were still inadequate. Click here to read the full report and learn more about GW’s efforts to improve digital accessibility.