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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

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.

Massachusetts urges hospitals to better prepare for dementia patients

Hospitals frighten many patients but they can be especially confusing and traumatic for people with dementia. According to a story for the Boston Globe by Felice J. Freyer, hospitals in Massachusetts are making an effort to better accommodate patients with memory loss. Freyer reports that the loud, high-tech hospital environment is disorienting to patients with “fragile minds,” and staff frequently rely on sedatives to calm confused patients. Freyer interviewed family caregivers, Alzheimer’s advocacy groups and hospital executives to learn more about the problem and how hospitals are making improvements.

Ruderman Family Foundation Launches Journalism Awards for Excellence in Disability Reporting

The Ruderman Family Foundation announced today a major new journalism awards program to recognize the best disability reporting produced each year by media organizations around the world.

The new Ruderman Foundation Awards for Excellence in Reporting on Disability will recognize work done by large-market digital, broadcast and print media outlets, with prizes of $10,000, $2,500 and $1,000 for first-, second- and third-place winners, respectively. The first Ruderman Foundation awards will be presented in fall 2018 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., featuring a keynote address on disability journalism as well as a workshop for journalists on how to improve disability coverage.

The program will be administered by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University, which has directed a smaller disability awards program since 2013.

At the same time, the NCDJ has created an honor recognizing disability journalism by small media outlets. That contest continues the work of Katherine Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist, who launched the first NCDJ awards program. The Katherine Schneider Medal will honor local journalists in small markets who produce outstanding disability reporting.

The Ruderman Family Foundation is a philanthropic organization that advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities into society.

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing society.

“All too often people with disabilities are conveyed as charity cases or objects of pity,” Ruderman said. “We hope that this award will change the landscape of journalism so that reporters will portray people with disabilities as active and contributing members of society. This coverage will reach millions of Americans, and the public perception of disability will shift, leading to more meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities throughout all sectors of society.”

The NCDJ has been part of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication since 2008. The organization provides support and guidance for journalists as they cover people with disabilities, including a popular style guide that offers advice on the use of disability-related words and terms.

Cronkite Senior Associate Dean Kristin Gilger, who directs the NCDJ, said people with disabilities make up at least 19 percent of the U.S. population – 54.4 million people, yet important disability issues still don’t get the attention they deserve, and, too often, the coverage that does exist portrays people with disabilities in stereotypical or inaccurate ways.

“The support from the Ruderman Family Foundation and Katherine Schneider is an important step in helping journalists and the general public better understand people with disabilities and disability issues,” she said.

Entries for the Ruderman Foundation Awards for Excellence in Reporting on Disability and Katherine Schneider Medal will be accepted beginning in May 2018 at http://ncdj.org.

About the Ruderman Family Foundation

The Ruderman Family Foundation is an internationally recognized organization, which advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society. The Foundation supports effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the United States and the world.

The Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community and imposes these values within its leadership and funding.

For more information, please visit www.rudermanfoundation.org.

About the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

The Cronkite School at Arizona State University is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier professional journalism programs. The School’s 1,800 students regularly lead the country in national journalism competitions. They are guided by faculty comprised of award-winning professional journalists and world-class media scholars. Cronkite’s full-immersion professional programs give students opportunities to practice what they’ve learned in a real-world setting under the guidance of professionals.