public policy

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:

Washington Post food critic to add accessibility to restaurant reviews

A screenshot of "Why I will start including accessibility information in my restaurant reviews," Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's article that was published on May 22.
“Why I will start including accessibility information in my restaurant reviews,” the article by Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema that was published on May 22. Image: a screenshot of Sietsema’s article, which depicts an illustration of a man in a wheelchair superimposed over an architectural blueprint.

Tom Sietsema, a well-known food critic for the Washington Post, has announced that he will add accessibility information to his restaurant reviews. His decision, as Sietsema explains in a post published earlier this week, was prompted by feedback he’s received from readers, who frequently contact Sietsema to ask about restaurants’ accommodations for people who use wheelchairs, or people who are blind. Sietsema said he initially had concerns about remaining under-the-radar as a restaurant critic “while measuring doorways with a tape measure.” But, upon considering that more than 70,000 Washingtonians live with a disability, Sietsema realized the importance of his obligation to serve his audience.

Click here to read Sietsema’s announcement in the Washington Post.

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

 

“Accessibility Is Not A Partisan Issue”

In an article for the Arizona Capitol Times, Katie Campbell details changes that are underway to make the Arizona State Capitol building more accessible for not just one new elected official, but all Arizonans. Jennifer Longdon, a presumptive state representative from Legislative District 24, uses a wheelchair and has drawn lawmakers’ attention to areas of the Capitol that are not easily accessible for people who use wheelchairs.

According to Longdon, Campbell writes, “this is just the first step toward making the Capitol more inclusive to everyone, both physically and in the policies that lawmakers craft.” Read the Arizona Capitol Times story here.

Jennifer Longdon Accessibility
Jennifer Longdon, a presumptive state representative from Legislative District 24, poses before a set of stairs to the speaker’s desk. “It’s more than our numbers that keep me from being speaker,” she said. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

The U.S. Census Bureau releases updated disability data

Anniversary of Americans With Disabilities Act: July 26, 2018
On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, commercial facilities, telecommunications, and state and local government services.
This Facts for Features provides a demographic snapshot of the U.S. population with a disability and examines various services available to them. U.S. Census Report

April 25 NCDJ workshop trains Arizona PIOs about basics of #DisabilityComm

On Wednesday, April 25 the National Center for Disability and Journalism partnered with Ability 360 and the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council to host a workshop titled “Improving Disability Communication” for local public information officers.

The goal of the workshop was to introduce public service employees to disability communication topics, styles and perspectives.

Activities included tutorials about disability language style and tips on making digital media accessible. Participants heard insightful testimonies from people with a variety of disabilities as well as local reporters who shape mass media stories.

Agency representatives at the workshop came from Department of Economic Security, Department of Transportation, State Parks and Trails, Department of Health Services and many others. A similar workshop is planned for September 21 at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix and host local journalists and public relations executives.

NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger introduces participants and event coordinators at the start of the April 25, 2018 "Improving Disability Communication" workshop at Ability 360. About 30 workshop attendees sit around a horseshoe-shaped table facing three large projection screens.
NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger introduces participants and event coordinators at the start of the April 25, 2018 “Improving Disability Communication” workshop at Ability 360.
30 participants in the "Improving Disability Communication" workshop sit around a large horseshoe table listening to NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger, a petite blonde executive, explain the upcoming activities.
Attendees of the “Improving Disability Communication” workshop on April 25, 2018.
Tessa Ringo, a brunette woman in a blue dress, and her adolescent son Aiden, who has brunette hair and glasses and uses a wheelchair, describe their experiences discussing disabilities with acquaintances and reporters. They sit amongst a row of panelists and Tessa holds a portable microphone near her mouth.
Tessa Ringo and her son Aiden, who uses a wheelchair, describe their experiences discussing disabilities with acquaintances and reporters.
NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger stands in front of 3 project screens leading a tutorial about disability language styles.
NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger leads a workshop tutorial about disability language styles. A complete list of preferred language is available on the NCDJ’s website.
Loren Worthington (left) and Jennifer Longdon lead a tutorial on digital media accessibility and appropriate visual elements for disability stories.
Loren Worthington (left) and Jennifer Longdon lead a tutorial on digital media accessibility and appropriate visual elements for disability stories.
Local reporters sit together behind a large table speaking towards the workshop participants. Panelists include including Maria Polletta, Amy Silverman, Kathy Ritchie and Morgan Loew.
Local reporters (left to right) Maria Polletta, Amy Silverman, Kathy Ritchie and Morgan Loew share their experiences covering disability stories. Taken April 25, 2018 at the “Improving Disability Communication” workshop hosted by NCDJ, Ability 360 and Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

Dorm residents at Columbia clash with officials over assistance animals

Students at Columbia are seeking help from disability rights lawyers to convince university housing officials that multiple assistance animals are a medically required disability accommodation. Olivia Deloian of the Columbia Chronicle interviewed business major Lindsey Barrett who says her therapist prescribed dog companionship to treat symptoms of adjustment disorder. The problem is, Barrett already has an emotional support cat for her severe anxiety disorder, which means she needs new approval from Columbia to house the second animal. Deloian carefully describes her journalism process in contacting Columbia officials to request their side of the disagreement. With Barrett’s help, Deloian also provides a useful explanation of the distinction between emotional support animals and other service animals.

U.N. report highlights disability issues in Africa are neglected as economies develop

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) published a report analyzing disability issues in Kenya, Zambia, Uganda and Sierra Leone. The report is titled “Bridging the Gap: Examining disability and development in four African countries.” The report was published on www.ReliefWeb.int, UNOCHA’s online news source for humanitarian experts. The report examines how disability accommodations are frequently neglected as other community services develop.

Medicaid providing subsidies for health services in public schools

Many American public schools rely on Medicaid to subsidize the cost of school psychiatrists and therapeutic services, but some critics suggest the funding is misused and expanding too quickly. Anna Gorman and Carmen Heredia Rodriguez wrote a special report for CNN and Kaiser Health News outlining the numerous ways Medicaid is utilized by schools to provide health services to low-income students, but also to cover general budget shortfalls. As the story reports, pubic policy think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, oppose Medicaid expansion and advocate for closer oversight.