Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released a Final Statement of Enforcement Priorities Regarding Service Animals that clarifies rules governing service animals on flights for passengers, airlines, and other stakeholders involved in commercial air travel. The statement also specifies the department’s enforcement priorities, clarifies service animal species limitations, and lists the specific situations in which it is required for handlers to provide official documentation to the airline before boarding.
E.P.A. Won’t Ban Chlorpyrifos, Pesticide Tied to Children’s Health Problems
By Lisa Friedman
Originally published in the July 18, 2019 edition of the New York Times
In a New York Times article published this week, Lisa Friedman reports that the Trump administration took a major step to weaken the regulation of toxic chemicals on Thursday when the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) announced that it will not ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to developmental delays in children. It has also been linked to lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease in adults.
The decision, which was made by E.P.A. administrator Andrew R. Wheeler, represents a win for the chemical industry and for farmers who have lobbied to continue using the toxic chemical despite its potential to cause serious harm.
Although the Obama administration announced in 2015 that it would ban chlorpyrifos after scientific studies produced by the E.P.A. showed the pesticide had the potential to damage brain development in children, the prohibition had not yet been carried out when, in 2017, then-E.P.A. administrator Scott Pruitt reversed Obama’s decision and provoked a wave of lawsuits.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.