law

Olmstead decision turns 20

[Video courtesy of EquipforEquality / YouTube]

Twenty years have passed since the Olmstead decision by the Supreme Court, which found that people with disabilities have a right to receive services outside of institutions, and to be fully integrated in their communities.

Background

The 1999 Olmstead v. L.C. decision fundamentally changed the lives of Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, who had both been institutionalized and living in isolation for an extended period of time after they had been voluntarily admitted into a state-run psychiatric unit for treatment. Even after mental healthcare providers approved their release, Curtis and Wilson were, essentially, stuck in the institution.

The Case

In a first-of-its-kind use of the ADA–which was less than a decade old–Curtis and Wilson filed a lawsuit. The result was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court, which found that confining individuals “greatly diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.”

Olmstead Impact

Since the Olmstead decision in 1999, many people have been freed from institutions and have a legal right to live where they want to live.

Listen to Ruth Bader Ginsburg deliver the majority opinion for the court:

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issues executive order to improve protections for people with disabilities

Page two of Gov. Ducey's Executive Order 2019-03, showing his signature and the Arizona state seal
Page two of Gov. Ducey’s Executive Order 2019-03, showing his signature and the Arizona state seal. (Image: azgovernor.gov)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is ordering three state agencies to do a better job protecting Arizona’s most vulnerable residents. The executive order he issued on Wednesday comes one week after the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council issued a report calling for the state to implement stronger protections for its residents with disabilities.

Some say the governor’s executive order is a good “first step,” but more work is needed to create policies that adequately protect Arizonans with disabilities who reside in long-term care facilities.

Read more on azcentral.com, or click here to access a PDF of the news story.

Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council releases report on sexual abuse of Arizonans with disabilities

 

2019 ADDPC recommendations on preventing abuse
Cover page of the report produced by the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

The Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (ADDPC) has released a special report with recommendations for the Arizona State Legislature and Arizona state agencies to prevent sexual abuse of Arizonans with developmental disabilities.

While the recent crisis at Hacienda HealthCare continues to draw attention to problems within Arizona’s current system of monitoring and reporting sexual abuse of people with disabilities, almost no formal policies designed to recognize and prevent such abuse exist. The Council’s report is called “Sexual Abuse of Arizonans with Developmental and Other Disabilities” and it contains specific actions that state agencies and care providers can take to prevent the sexual abuse of vulnerable adults.

Read the ADDPC report: Sexual Abuse of Arizonans with Developmental and Other Disabilities

 

Domino’s Website Required to Comply With ADA Accessibility Rules

A close up photo of the Domino's Pizza app interface.
A photo of the Domino’s app interface on a smartphone. There’s a lack of clarity about how the ADA applies to the modern internet.

On January 15, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Domino’s Pizza website and mobile app must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and be made fully accessible to people with visual impairments. The court reasoned that the ADA applies to Domino’s digital properties because their inaccessibility “impedes access to goods and services of its physical pizza franchises—which are places of public accommodation.”

A blind customer first sued the pizza chain in 2016, saying he couldn’t order a pizza through its website or app, since neither were compatible with standard screen reading software. And while the legal landscape regarding online accessibility is still uncertain, the Domino’s case may set an important legal precedent regarding the scope of the ADA.

Read more about the case here, or click here to download a PDF of the ruling.

City of San Diego and scooter companies sued by disability rights group

A class-action lawsuit claims dockless scooters violate the ADA because they obstruct sidewalks and other public access areas. This photo shows two Bird scooters parked on a sidewalk.
A class-action lawsuit claims dockless scooters violate the ADA because they obstruct sidewalks and other public access areas. This photo shows two Bird scooters parked on a sidewalk.

Disability Rights California (DCA), a non-profit disabilities rights group, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of San Diego and three dockless scooter companies. The lawsuit names San Diego and scooter companies Bird, Lime, and Razor as violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by obstructing the city’s sidewalks, crosswalks, transit stops, and curb ramps. Put more simply, the plaintiffs say the scooters render San Diego’s public walkways inaccessible for people with visual and mobility impairments.

You can read more about the lawsuit online, or download a PDF of this NBC 7 San Diego news article.

New law requires airlines to disclose how many wheelchairs they break

wheelchair at airport

Beginning in January 2019, airline passengers can search the U.S. Department of Transportation website to determine an airlines’ track record of handling wheelchairs and other mobility devices. A new law sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., requires air carriers to be more transparent, obliging them to provide monthly reports that are publicly accessible and which detail the number of wheelchairs, checked bags, and motorized scooters lost, broke, or mishandled during flights.

The law was actually passed two years ago, but the Department of Transportation delayed its implementation until Duckworth–a veteran and wheelchair user herself–urged U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to force airlines to make the data — which they already collect each month — available to the public.

Click here to access the article on the Chicago Tribune’s website.

Class-Action Lawsuit Claims Stanford University Forces Suicidal Students to Leave School

According to an article published in the New York Times on August 28, the lawsuit accuses Stanford of “discriminating against students with mental health issues by coercing them into taking leaves of absences.” The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal cases challenging mental health leave policies at schools like Princeton, George Washington University, Quinnipiac, and Hunter College. Read the New York Times story by Anemona Hartocollis here.

College Mental Health
By Colby Mariam – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Op-Ed by Alice Wong about importance of Net Neutrality

Acclaimed national journalist Alice Wong penned an enlightening commentary for The Center for Media Justice about the importance of Net Neutrality to disability rights communicators like herself. The controversy around Net Neutrality gained traction this week after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai proposed deregulating internet service providers (ISPs). Pai’s announcement says deregulating ISPs will “Restore Internet Freedom And Eliminate Heavy-Handed Internet Regulations” but advocates of Net Neutrality fear deregulation could empower ISPs to become gatekeepers of content by controlling the price of how information flows across the Internet.

SCOTUS Tightens Rules on Intellectual Disability, Death Penalty

The Supreme Court rules that the state of Texas cannot rely on a dated definition of intellectual disability in deciding who receives the death penalty. In the opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “Adjudications of intellectual disability should be ‘informed by the views of medical experts.” Read more