Disability News Update – February 6, 2012

 The Weekly Disability News Update is a product of the Lead On Update — your point for the weekly news made by and affecting the disability community. For archived news and more links to disability information, visit the Lead on Update at http://leadonupdate.wordpress.com.

Upcoming Events


February 9, 2012

Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC)

9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. 

FCC Headquarters,445 12th Street, SW, Washington,DC 20554 (closest Metro: Smithsonian). Additional accommodation requests can be made to fcc504@fcc.gov.   The meeting will also be web-cast with open captions at www.fcc.gov/live.  


March 4 – 7, 2012

SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference


From the White House:     

Federal Support for the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program Memorandum For the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

THE WHITE HOUSE – Office of the Press Secretary For Immediate Release January 20, 2012 

Thousands of Americans who are blind have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit that helps define our Nation as a land of opportunity. Through the Federal Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program administered by the Department of Education, talented and creative individuals who are blind have acquired the management training and business skills necessary to realize the American dream — a lifetime of economic opportunity, independence, and self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.

For 75 years, blind business managers have successfully operated food services and commercial ventures at Federal, State, and private buildings and locations nationwide. We honor and celebrate this program’s historic achievements. We also trust that the Randolph-Sheppard Program will continue to be a leading model for providing high-quality entrepreneurial opportunities for blind individuals. From a simple snack shop, to tourist services at the Hoover Dam, to full food-services operations at military installations, blind entrepreneurs have provided exceptional customer service to Federal and State employees, the Armed Forces, and the general public. With proven ability, they have challenged preconceived notions about disability.

The Randolph-Sheppard Act (20 U.S.C. 107 et seq.) created the Vending Facility Program requiring qualified blind individuals be given a priority to operate vending facilities on Federal properties. This program is responsible today for providing entrepreneurial opportunities for over 2,500 individuals who are blind. In turn, these business managers have hired thousands of workers, many of whom are individuals with disabilities. Every American, including persons with disabilities, deserves the opportunity to succeed without limits, earn equal pay for equal jobs, and aspire to full-time, career-oriented employment.

Continued support and cooperation are needed from executive departments, agencies, and offices (agencies) to extend the Randolph-Sheppard priority to qualified blind managers through the State licensing agencies that implement the program. Therefore, I direct all agencies that have property management responsibilities to ensure that agency officials, when pursuing the establishment and operation of vending facilities (including cafeterias and military dining facilities) as defined in 20 U.S.C. 107e, issue permits and contracts in compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Program and consistent with existing regulations and law. I further direct the Secretary of Education, through the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, to submit a report to the President on agencies’ implementation of the Randolph-Sheppard Program not later than 1 year from the date of this memorandum.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

The Secretary of Education is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


Full Text


Blogs & Social Media: 

The Voice™, the Official Newsletter of SNA

January, 2012 – Vol 6, Issue 2 



New Definition of Autism Will Exclude Many, Study Suggests

via the New York Times (01.19.12):

Full Post


Feds Crack Down On Schools Skirting Disabilities Act

By Michelle Diament

January 20, 2012

Full Post

Disability Rights: Sheltered Workshops Are Today’s Institutions

by Kristina Chew

January 26, 2012

1:11 pm

Full Post


DOT slaps Spirit Airlines with $100,000 fine for disability violations

by: Arlene Satchell January 27th, 2012 | 2:06 PM

Full Post


Teens With Autism Avoid Email, Social Media

By Shaun Heasley

January 27, 2012

Full Post


The Need to Believe in the Ability of Disability

Posted: 02/ 1/2012 4:49 pm

Full Post


White House Plans Nine-City Disability Tour

By Michelle Diament

February 2, 2012

Full Post


Sheltered Workshops for Developmentally Disabled Should be Revisited

New Jersey Newsroom | January 30, 2012

By Salvatore Pizzuro

Full Article



Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis Announces Proposed Rule-making to Implement Statutory Amendments to Family and Medical Leave Act

U.S. Department of Labor | January 30, 2012

 The proposed language would extend the entitlement of military caregiver leave to family members of veterans for up to five years after leaving the military. At this time, the law only covers family members of “currently serving” service members. Additionally, the proposal expands the military family leave provisions of the FMLA by extending qualifying exigency leave to employees whose family members serve in the regular armed forces. Currently, the law only covers families of National Guard members and reservists.

Read the article: Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis Announces Proposed Rulemaking to Implement Statutory Amendments to Family and Medical Leave Act


Assistant Secretary Martinez Meets With Disability Employment Leaders at Kessler Foundation

U.S. Politics Today | January 28, 2012

Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), came to Kessler Foundation on Friday to learn more about employment programs supported by the Foundation and share her view on strategies for optimal employment policies for individuals with disabilities. Her visit follows Kessler Foundation’s announcement of $2.7 million in grant funding to disability employment initiatives across the nation.

Read the article: Assistant Secretary Martinez Meets With Disability Employment Leaders at Kessler Foundation


UNH research: US hospitality industry often reluctant to hire people with disabilities

DURHAM, N.H. – People with disabilities trying to find employment in the U.S. hospitality industry face employers who are often reluctant to hire them because of preconceived notions that they cannot do the job and that they are more costly to employ that people without disabilities, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.

UNH researchers Andrew Houtenville, associate professor of economics and research director of the UNH Institute on Disability, and Valentini Kalargyrou, assistant professor of hospitality management, analyzed data from 320 hospitality companies in the United States, and found similar concerns and challenges regarding employment of people with disabilities. The researchers used the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Employer’s Survey as their data source.

Full Article


Director of Administration Position Opening at NCD

Job Title: Director of Administration

Agency: National Council on Disability

Job Announcement Number: WA-583331-MJ

SALARY RANGE: $105,211.00 to $155,500.00 / Per Year

OPEN PERIOD: Monday, January 30, 2012 to Monday, February 13, 2012 SERIES & GRADE:




DUTY LOCATIONS: 1 vacancy(s) – Washington DC Metro Area, DC United States WHO MAY BE CONSIDERED: United States Citizens

JOB SUMMARY: The Director of Administration is the supervisory administrative officer for the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent Federal agency, subject to the provisions of Title 5 U.S.C. and established by the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, as amended in 1978, and the Rehabilitation Amendments of 1984 (PL 221), dated February 22, 1984. The NCD staff supports the Council, which is comprised of 15 members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Council’s principal purpose is to develop recommendations to use in advising the President, the Congress, federal entities, the states, and occasionally international entities on policies and programs that promote full inclusion, independence, and equal opportunity for people with disabilities.



•           U.S. Citizenship Required

•           A one-year supervisory/managerial probationary period may be required.

•           Must successfully complete a background investigation prior to employment

•           Travel and Relocation expenses will not be paid.

•           Must provide latest SF-50 if applicable

DUTIES: As the Supervisory Administrative Officer you will:

• Provide, secure and/or negotiate for the services needed to manage and run the administrative operations of an independent Federal agency.  These services may include budget preparation and funds management, human resources, management analysis, procurement, contract administration, property management, space management, security administration, travel, meeting management, reports management, data base management and data mining. 

• Develop budget estimates and justifications; assure that funds, either appropriated or gifted in accordance with the NCD authorizing statute, are tracked and that expenditures are appropriate and align with Council goals and priorities as well as NCD by-laws and the annual operating budget.

• Serve as a liaison with the servicing human resource specialist to find solutions to management problems arising from changes in organizational workload or priorities which impact jobs and employees. 

• Advise on and negotiate contracts, agreements and cooperative arrangements with other government agencies at the Federal and State levels, universities or private organizations.

• Supervise a permanent staff, in addition to contractor personnel and staff members on temporary assignment to meet short-term program needs and exercises a full range of supervisory responsibilities including, but not limited to, planning and assigning work, evaluating work performance and recommending performance awards; advising and instructing employees on work methods and strategies; overseeing and approving the hiring of personnel; hearing and resolving complaints; and creating and implementing ways to eliminate or reduce significant bottlenecks and barriers to production, promote team building, or improve business practices. 

• Recommend selections for subordinate supervisory positions and for work leader, group leader, or project director positions responsible for coordinating the work of others. 

• Provide oversight to assure that Council member meetings; NCD staff meetings; and, meetings between Council members, stakeholders and NCD staff, as applicable, meet all Federal, state and local requirements for accessibility and support the specific needs of attendees with disabilities.  Also perform special assignments, studies or projects that are of a confidential or sensitive nature for the Executive Director that involve changes in managerial policies, practices, methods, procedures and/or organizational structures.

About the National Council on Disability: NCD is a small, independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities. NCD is comprised of a team of fifteen Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees, an Executive Director appointed by the Chairman, and eleven, full-time professional staff members.  Staff members work on a wide array of interesting subjects.  We offer both flexible work schedules and an opportunity for challenging and interesting work.

Link to full description: http://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/307529400

 ODEP News Brief – January 27, 2012


 ODEP News Brief – February 3, 2012


JAN e-News: Volume 10, Issue 1, First Quarter 2012




NASA to hire more STEM students with disabilities

To Prospective NASA Student Interns with Disabilities,

NASA is looking to increase the number of students with disabilities pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers through our internship programs. We have a two-percent hiring goal. Students can apply for summer internships now! The deadline for submitting applications is February 1, 2012. They can register for an account and look for internships anytime at the One Stop Shopping Initiative (OSSI): Student On-Line Application for Recruiting interns, fellows and scholars (SOLAR) at http://intern.nasa.gov/ . Summer 2012 internships run for ten weeks from early June through early/mid August. NASA internships are also offered during Spring, Fall and Year Long Sessions.

In order to be eligible to apply, students must be accepted as freshmen at an accredited institution of higher learning, i.e., a college or university at the time of the internship. This is what we call a rising freshman. NASA has internships for rising freshmen through doctoral students in STEM fields. A minimum GPA of 2.8 is required to apply; however, applicants must understand that the competition for internships is keen. The age limits for interns are eighteen years and up.

Internships are available at all NASA centers nationwide. Students can submit a completed application whether they apply to an opportunity or not. However, applying to opportunities has the advantage of allowing applicants to be considered by mentors who work in disciplines of interest and at a particular center. For example, an opportunity having to do with the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will be at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland because SDO is located there. Not applying to an opportunity means that prospective interns will be hoping that a mentor happens to read their applications rather than directing their applications to mentors in fields and at centers of interest.

Students, who are selected for summer internships will receive an offer letter by E-mail sometime after February 1, 2012. They will then have five days to either accept or reject the offer through their OSSI:SOLAR account. The offer will automatically expire after five days if no action is taken.

Please see the below attached recruitment letter, the recruitment flier, and the instructions for how to use the on-line application system.  Also, please feel free to contact me for more information or help with applying.

Please feel free to contact me for more information or help with applying.

Kenneth A. Silberman, Esq.

U.S. Supreme Court, Maryland, & Patent Bars B.A., M.Eng., J.D.

NASA Engineer & Registered Patent Attorney Education Office Code 160 NASA/GSFC Mailstop 160 Bldg. 28 Rm. N165 Greenbelt, MD  20771, USA

More Info



TSA Helpline for Travelers with Disabilities

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced the launch of TSA Cares today, a new helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical
conditions, prior to getting to the airport. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787 2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint.

“TSA Cares provides passengers with disabilities and medical needs another resource to use before they fly, so they know what to expect when going through the screening process,” said TSA Administrator John Pistole. “This additional level of personal communication helps ensure that even those who do not travel often are aware of our screening policies before they arrive at the airport.”

Since its inception, TSA has provided information to all travelers through its TSA Contact Center and Customer Service Managers in airports nationwide. TSA Cares will serve as an additional, dedicated resource for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying.

When a passenger with a disability or medical condition calls TSA Cares, a representative will provide assistance, either with information about screening that is relevant to the passenger’s specific disability or medical condition, or the passenger may be referred to disability experts at TSA. TSA recommends that passengers call approximately 72 hours ahead of travel so that TSA Cares has the opportunity to coordinate checkpoint support with a TSA Customer Service Manager located at the airport when necessary.

Every person and item must be screened before entering the secure area of an airport and the manner in which the screening is conducted will depend on the passenger’s abilities and any specific equipment brought to the security checkpoint.

TSA strives to provide the highest level of security while ensuring that all passengers are treated with dignity and respect. The agency works regularly with a broad coalition of disability and medical condition advocacy groups to help understand their needs and adapt screening procedures accordingly. TSA holds quarterly meetings with this coalition to inform them about current training and screening procedures used in airports. TSA recently hosted a teleconference with members of these groups to announce the long-standing plans to implement TSA Cares for travelers and inform them of the upcoming launch.

All travelers may ask to speak to a TSA supervisor if questions about screening procedures arise while at the security checkpoint. The hours of operation for the TSA Cares helpline are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST, excluding federal holidays. After hours, travelers can find information about traveling with disabilities and medical needs on TSA’s website.

All travelers can contact TSA using Talk To TSA, a web-based tool that allows passengers to reach out to an airport Customer Service Manager directly, and the TSA Contact Center, 1 866-289-9673 and TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov, where travelers can ask questions, provide suggestions and file complaints. Travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to contact TSA Cares or can e-mail TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov

Please see the below links and press release regarding a new service from the TSA for travel.



Effective Communication Before, During, and After Emergencies

The National Council on Disability is interested in evaluating effective communication for Americans with disabilities before, during, and after emergencies. Effective communication throughout all phases of emergency management (preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation) must be fully accessible to all people with disabilities.  NCD will document successful practices and identify facilitators and barriers to providing effective emergency-related communication.  A key piece of this research will include a thorough examination of the current state of affairs concerning the accessibility of emergency-related communication.  This analysis must address all phases of emergency management and be cross-disability and demonstrate sensitivity to diversity matters/issues that can impact outreach and response.  The research must include what is occurring in this area on both the national and state level. The estimated contract period is 10 months. 

NCD will distribute its Effective Communication study Notice of Funding Opportunity to interested parties on February 8, 2012.  NCD will expect interested parties to submit their responses by March 7, 2012.  Copies of the Notice of Funding Opportunity will be available on grants.gov and ncd.gov and may be requested by mail or picked up at NCD on or after the issue date of February 8, 2012.

For more information, contact Robyn Powell, rpowell@ncd.gov, 1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850, Washington, D.C. 20004; 202 272-2004 or 202-272-2074 TTY.

Direct Link 

Assessment: What It Is…What It’s Not…and Why to Use It

February 16, 2012 2:00 p.m. Eastern

Presenter: Lisa Stern, Lisa Stern Consulting


Job Accommodation Network (JAN) Webcast: Best Practices in the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Government

March 7, 2012

More Info



Department of Education Issues ADA Amendments Act Dear Colleague Letter to Provide Guidance Under Amended Legal Standards

January 19, 2012

Contact:  Press Office, (202) 401-1576, press@ed.gov

 The Department of Education’s (Department) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued a Dear Colleague letter concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (Amendments Act). The letter and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ) provide additional guidance on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) in elementary and secondary schools, given the changes to those laws made by the Amendments Act.

 “We must continue to take steps to enable every child, regardless of disability, to reach their full potential,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “This guidance reiterates the Department’s commitment to ensure that educational opportunity is provided free from disability discrimination.”

 The Amendments Act, effective Jan. 1, 2009, amends the ADA, as well as the Rehabilitation Act. The Amendments Act broadened the meaning of disability and, in most cases, shifts the inquiry away from the question of whether a student has a disability as defined by the ADA and Section 504, and toward school districts’ actions and obligations to ensure equal education opportunities.

 Full Article


Department of Education Issues ADA Amendments Act Dear Colleague Letter to Provide Guidance Under Amended Legal Standards

From REFERENCE POINTS — an activity of TATRA, a project of PACER Center

 The Department of Education’s (Department) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague letter concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (Amendments Act) yesterday, January 19th.  The letter and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ) provide additional guidance on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) in elementary and secondary schools, given the changes to those laws made by the Amendments Act.

The Dear Colleague letter and FAQ discuss the obligations of school districts, such as the requirement to evaluate students for disability and provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities, as well as the changes made by the Amendments Act.

 To review the Dear Colleague Letter

The FAQs




VA struggling with disability backlog

By Steve Vogel, Published: January 29 | Updated: Monday, January 30, 12:00 AM

 The Department of Veterans Affairs is facing a growing backlog of disability claims, fueled by veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and a policy change making it easier for Vietnam veterans to file Agent Orange-related claims.

The number of pending claims before the VA stood at 853,831 on Friday, an increase of nearly 100,000 from last year and nearly 500,000 from three years ago.

“Nearly 1 million veterans today are stuck in the backlog and more than half wait at least half a year to find out if their claim has been processed,” said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Although the VA has processed nearly a million claims over the past year, another 1.3 million new claims were filed during the same period.

Of the approximately 2.2 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 624,000 have filed disability claims and many more are expected. In addition, more than 200,000 Vietnam War veterans have filed claims based on new regulations adopted in 2010 making it easier to get compensation for health problems caused by exposure to defoliants such as Agent Orange.

Full Article


CLASS Act Repeal Passes House

Politico | February 1, 2012

The Republican-led House on Wednesday voted to repeal a financially troubled part of the 2010 health care law that was designed to provide affordable long-term care insurance. The House vote comes months after the Obama administration suspended the Community Living Assistance Services and Support program, known as the CLASS Act.

Read the article: CLASS Act Repeal Passes House 

Virginia to transform system of caring for developmentally disabled

By Anita Kumar, Thursday, January 26, 10:06 AM

RICHMOND — Virginia will close four state institutions for the developmentally disabled and move thousands of people to their own homes, their family’s houses or group homes as part of a massive settlement announced Thursday with the U.S. Justice Department.

The agreement follows a scathing federal report of the training centers, which found the state harmed residents by keeping them in large institutions instead of providing smaller, community-based homes.

Full Article


On the Hill:

H.R. 1173, The Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011

Detailed Summary: H.R. 1173 would repeal the CLASS program.

Status of the Legislation: Latest Major Action: 1/24/2012: Rules Committee Resolution H. Res. 522 Reported to House. Rule provides for consideration of H.R. 1173 with 1 hour of general debate. Motion to recommit with or without installowed. Measure will be considered read. Specified amendments are in order. The resolution makes in order the amendment in the nature of a substitute recommended by the Committee on Energy and Commerce now printed in the bill for the purpose of amendment.

Full Bill


From the Federal Register: 

Presidential Documents
Randolph–Sheppard Vending Facility Program; Federal Support (Memorandum of January 20, 2012) ,  
3915–3918 [2012–1750]


Special Observances:  
  American Heart Month (Proc. 8775) ,  
  5373–5374 [2012–2592]


  National African American History Month (Proc. 8776) ,  
  5375–5376 [2012–2616]


  National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (Proc. 8777) ,  
  5377–5378 [2012–2634]



Just for Fun:

 Eye Controlled Arcade Game



Requiring Closed Captioning on the Internet!

CaptioningbyGoogleLast week, the Federal Communicatons Commission released a Report and Order adopting rules to implement certain closed captioning provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).

The details and why this is a big deal? They’re requiring that all video programming that is shown on television with closed captions be closed captioned when delivered on the Internet. These rules will be phased in over a two-year period.  As more and more media is making the transition to not only digital format, but digital distribution and playback (via the web), it is critical that these accessibility options are not stripped from them.

Related to that is an additional part of the new rule.  The above paragraph is talking about content and keeping the captioning attached.  This second part addresses the physical equipment – set-top boxes, tablets, televisions etc.  This “hardware” have to include built-in closed caption decoder circuitry or capability to display closed-captioned video programming.  Granted, there is the “readily achievable” caveat included for devices with screens smaller than 13 inches.  But what I think is positive, is that once this is standard practice, I think we’ll see it on many more devices regardles of size. The “no more excuses” date? January 1, 2014. So any new devices created or imported after that date must allow for playback that includes closed captioning.

Closed captioning has been around for so long I think we have forgotten how pervasive it is, and don’t really think of it so much as a disability accommodation.  English language learners use it; we see it in bars and airports and doctors’ offices; even the gym. However, closed captioning is, at its heart, an access issue – access to information. In the last few years, the lack of captioning online has had a significant impact on access for individuals with disabilities to videos played on the Internet. It was painfully obvious to see programming transferred to this new medium, but the accessibility did not.   The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act addressed this in the law.  This FCC report and rule for implementation is the first step of taking this from paper to practice.  So, as a community, it’s a great week to take a moment and celebrate the promise of the future.  Have no doubt, there’ll be more battles relating to implementation, but for today, it’s a wonderful win.

For those of you who would like to read it (and I encourage you to do so), the full Report and Order:

Word – http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2012/db0113/FCC-12-9A1.doc

PDF – http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2012/db0113/FCC-12-9A1.pdf

Post State of the Union Presidential Conversation Today at 5:30pm EST

Today’s the day, January 30th and at 5:30 pm EST the President will answer the public’s questions in a conversation – “Hang out with the President” streamed live on WhiteHouse.gov, YouTube.com/WhiteHouse and on the White House Google+ page.

There were a lot of issues brought up in the President’s State of the Union speech and a number that weren’t, disability being one of them.  The response from the community of advocates here in Washington, DC has been mixed and it is difficult to guage what the Administration’s response has been from the outside.  As such, I anticipate a significant disability presence that will be paying very close attention to:  1.  the questions chosen for the President, 2. the answers given and 3. any promises made.

From the White House website, so far, they have received more than 133,000 questions and more than 227,000 people have cast over 1.6 million votes.  What are the final issues that are at the forefront of the public consciousness?  We shall simply have to wait and see.


What would you ask President Obama? – This is your Opportunity to be Heard

PresidentObamaDeliversStateoftheUnioninHouseChamber-OfficialWhiteHousePhotobyPeteSouzaJust a quick update for Day in Washington readers.  In the wake of the State of the Union there was some heartburn over a visible lack of presence of a disability discussion (as well as a lack of closed captioning on the web video – I was told)

 Now that the State of the Union is over, what comes next?  Well, there’s an answer.  The White House has made available its advisors for interactive discussions with the public.  “Office Hours” if you will, although I imagine them quite different than those held by my undergraduate Chemistry professor.  Looking at the initial schedule, Disability didn’t seem to be on the agenda at all.  See below.   However, I did just receive an additional notice that yes there WOULD be a disability discussion on Friday, January 27, at 9:00 a.m. Eastern with Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy.  Just a few quick notes:

  • Ask your question on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat
  • Kareem Dale will respond to your questions in real-time via Twitter
  • Follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account
  • If you miss the live session, the full Q&A will be posted on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/WhiteHouse

If you have disability questions that fit within one of the other areas such as Education, Women, or Small Business, it has been advised that you bring up your question in those specific sections.  Again, hours below.  Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity and share your thoughts and questions.

Wednesday Office Hours Schedule

  • All Day: Josh Earnest, Principal Deputy Press Secretary, answers your questions on Twitter (@jearnest44)
  • 1:00 p.m.: Office Hours with Mark Zuckerman, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council
  • 3:00 p.m.: Office Hours with Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44), White House Communications Director

Thursday Office Hours Schedule

  • 10:00 a.m. Veterans: Matt Flavin, White House Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy
  • 11:00 a.m. LGBT: Miriam Vogel, White House Senior Policy Advisor and Gautam Raghavan, White House Associate Director for Public Engagement
  • 12:00 p.m. Women: Racquel Russell, Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity and Avra Siegel, White House Deputy Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls
  • 1:00 p.m. Seniors: Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy and Nick Papas, Assistant Press Secretary
  • 2:00 p.m. Latinos: Felicia Escobar, White House Senior Policy Advisor, Julie Rodriguez, White House Associate Director of Public Engagement and Luis Miranda, White House Director of Hispanic Media
  • 4:00 p.m. Small Business Owners: Christine Koronides, Senior Advisor for Economic Policy, National Economic Council
  • 5:00 p.m. African Americans: Danielle Gray, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
  • 6:00 p.m. Asian American Pacific Islanders: Chris Lu, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary
  • TBD Youth: Administration official to be announced

Friday Office Hours Schedule

  • 11:00 a.m. Foreign Policy: Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting
  • 12:00 p.m. Education: Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy
  • 1:00 p.m. Health: Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy and Nick Papas, Assistant Press Secretary
  • 2:00 p.m. Energy: Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and Dan Utech, Deputy Director for Energy Policy
  • 3:00 p.m. Consumer Protections: Brian Deese, Deputy Director National Economic Council
  • 4:00 pm The Economy: Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director National Economic Council
  • 5:00 p.m. Job Opportunities: Portia Wu, Senior Policy Advisor for Mobility and Opportunity Policy
  • 6:00 p.m. Urban Issues: Racquel Russell, Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity

Monday January 30

  • President Obama participates in a Google+ Hangout from the White House


Educational Testing, Students with Disabilities, and a Letter from the EEOC

Cross-Posted at Tales of the Angry Negro

2012 is here and not to be outdone by the ever-lengthening parade of Holiday foods, gift giving, and the lighting of candles, 2011 managed to pack in a few last minute surprises for us all. One of these gifts has come from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and is raising the ire of some vocal employment bloggers.

In December, the EEOC posted an informal discussion letter responding to a question from the State of Tennessee about students with learning disabilities taking “Gateway tests” or “end-of-course assessments” to receive a high school diploma. The informal discussion letter is a means that the EEOC uses to give guidance without making formal statements, reprimands or orders – in essence allowing us to ask honest questions and decide on our owPencil and Standardized Testn to do the right thing. Issues related to these “exit exams” and their application to students with disabilities has had a history of contention and the EEOC rightly pointed the inquirer to the Department of Education. In an interesting point of clarification, the EEOC also included a reminder that any requirement or hiring including a test, certification or experience, must be related to the skills required to compete the task. (This would include credentials such as high school diplomas or advanced degrees.) So in essence if a person did not have a high school diploma and did not receive a position they may be able to seek support under the ADA.

According to the conservative blogosphere the EEOC is again coddling slackers and lay-abouts and telling them that rather than work to achieve they can simply sue employers that do not hire them. Now some members of the blogosphere are already beginning to yell about employer rights and the ability of any person who does not receive a job to be able to sue the employer for restitution. Some of the even more classy bloggers have gone as far as to write that EEOC is suggesting that being a “slacker, stupid or just plain lazy” is equivalent to having a disability.

Though these contributors have proven that they have the capacity to read a five paragraph document and take it out of context, none of them have proven that they actually understand the implications of this guidance and why it may have come about.

This vocal contingent says that they are standing on a crossroads — a line between government mandating how much an individuals may earn and the free market system that our framers intended, and in this they are correct, but unfortunately they are not on the side of righteousness and American values. To understand why they are wrong we have to delve into why individuals with disabilities may not have a high school diploma in the first place.

For those Americans born after the mid-70s “gateway tests,”  “exit-exams” or “end-of-course assessments” are a mainstay of their secondary school experience. At one point during the Clinton Administration, passage of the Exit exam – in some states – not only determined if you were eligible for graduation from high school, but also if you were eligible to receive a driver’s permit (if you were under 18).  These tests were created not only to gauge what or young people were learning but also address the students that were “falling through the cracks,” or in some cases, “failing-up” and being promoted out of age rather than academic achievement. Like any assessment or standardized test, these exams opened a Pandora’s Box once data started being collected.

As students we understand that standardized testing is used to determine what we have learned over the course of the year. After 12 years of regular assessment, the average student is fully invested in the idea that standardized tests are required in order to graduate. The reality, however is that standardized tests are also tied to the Federal funding that a school can receive from the government. High scores generally get high funding. This “secret” of standardized tests gained quite a bit of publicity during the passage of No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. Though the NCLB legislation in no way created new policy for standardized testing, the controversy of NCLB brought a well-known practice to the forefront: In order to receive and maintain their funding schools will do whatever is necessary to maintain as high standardized test scores as possible.

The implications of this fact became very obvious in the first decade of the 21st Century. Schools that lacked the resources, or served a significant number of students were found to have been preparing students for testing rather than just basic learning. In some cases certain students were only taught how to pass the standardized test rather than focus on the greater intricacies of a quality education. NCLB had significantly upped the anty for schools on standardized testing – schools that did not perform would not only be ineligible for funding, but could lose additional programs in arts and sports that were currently taking place at their schools.

Like many American’s I have mixed feelings about what happened next. On one hand I could say that a unique mix of paternalism and genuine concern created an anomaly in the process whereby students with disabilities and the data related to their achievement were not to be included in the data for NCLB. On the other hand I could also identify this as the traditional behavior that has poisoned the well of inclusion of any minority or non-mainstream population in the United States – a systematic disenfranchisement of certain groups of American citizens.

By allowing schools to not be responsible for the learning of individuals with disabilities we set a dangerous precedent. Not only does this let schools off the hook for serving a population it has found difficult to educate, it also created a feeder group in which to install any students deemed unteachable or unable to learn. Suddenly disability is merged into a group considered “at-risk” and suddenly that “at-risk” group has a significant number of Brown, Black, ELL and students with disabilities. In many school districts these “at-risk “ students were removed from data contention entirely and instead of a diploma, offered a certificate of completion. Additional allowances were made for students that attended school but would “never receive a high school diploma,”  and before America had time to notice we had created an additional education system. In one system we prepared students to be valuable contributing members of society and in the other system we disenfranchised young people and decided that they would never have a future.

Who are these students who have certificates instead of diplomas, and what happens to a student with a certificate after they leave high school?

The point that the conservative bloggers get right is that the High School diploma has indeed served as the marker for basic workplace readiness in our country. Without one you are not eligible for work at most jobs in the country. Additionally you may even be barred from military service, and in some cases even enter food or factory service – positions that have been traditionally set aside for citizens that have little to no education. And speaking of citizens you can forget working with them as well, because the jobs in our country that we leave to those without high school education are those that we have relegated to illegal and migrant worker populations. That’s right without a high school diploma you have the work qualifications and ability for advancement of an undocumented worker.

The part the bloggers get wrong however is the fact that these individuals did not choose this fate. We are not discussing a group of people who decided that high school was not for them or made a decision to follow Phish around for the past decade. These are citizens that have completed their requirements with their peers, but have effectively been disenfranchised by the state. It used to be that if you graduated from high school you got a diploma and were then eligible to enter the workforce, however for many students with disabilities a high school diploma is not an option because of their participation in Special Education programs or use of accommodations on the exit exam. Because many students with disabilities have been forced to accept Certificates of Completion rather than Diplomas, they have now been rendered unhireable for most jobs. It is not due to laziness, a desire to be a slacker or not work, it is specifically because of disenfranchisement that took place before many of them were even eligible to vote.

As the EEOC mentions in the text:

Under the ADA, a qualification standard, test, or other selection criterion, such as a high school diploma requirement, that screens out an individual or a class of individuals on the basis of a disability must be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. A qualification standard is job related and consistent with business necessity if it accurately measures the ability to perform the job’s essential functions (i.e. its fundamental duties). Even where a challenged qualification standard, test, or other selection criterion is job related and consistent with business necessity, if it screens out an individual on the basis of disability, an employer must also demonstrate that the standard or criterion cannot be met, and the job cannot be performed, with a reasonable accommodation.

Thus, if an employer adopts a high school diploma requirement for a job, and that requirement “screens out” an individual who is unable to graduate because of a learning disability that meets the ADA’s definition of “disability,” the employer may not apply the standard unless it can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity. The employer will not be able to make this showing, for example, if the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma.

Sad Graduate with DiplomaWithout this guidance, the average person could still re-enter the education system at any time and earn a GED whereas these young people have been told that though you completed high school and did your time, and passed your classes you still do not get to receive a diploma. Instead you get a certificate. A certificate that shows you passed and along with that certificate you get no credit for your education, little opportunity for advancement and a starting point significantly behind your similar aged peers. The suggested guidance from the EEOC is a last line of defense between our proud American tradition of everyone doing their share and  the creation of a state sanctioned underclass.

So what does this mean for employers?

Certain so-called employer advocates would have you believe that this is bad for employers and that employers would have to hire any person that applies to a position  — no matter what — and if they decline an applicant they could get sued. This is not the case. For one thing no matter how often we hear that the ADA is going to cause a barrage of lawsuits from able-bodied folk claiming ADA protection that still has not happened. If anything there still seems to be a huge number of Americans with Disabilities that were still hesitant to even admit their disability to themselves (and no, stupidity still does not count.) Secondly this guidance like all parts of the ADA is a This is actually a benefit for the employer community.  First it gives a greater pool of people from which an employer may hire. As a general no-brainer anything that increases the possible employee pool is great because it gives employers more opportunities to hire i.e. more clay means the ability to make more pots. In addition it means that employers have to actually hire people who are qualified to fill their positions. Rather than be held back by a traditional requirement, employers can then focus on the actual skills necessary to complete a job and hire based on that. Lastly, and this is perhaps the most important point — it provides employers with a choice — the option to hire whom they like based on their experiences and talent even if they have been failed by the educational system.

Imagine if all jobs were given to people that were qualified to do them rather than based on trends and perceptions. Then again if it came to sheer qualifications I may not be able to write this blog.

The Angry Negro is also able to read and misinterpret a five paragraph letter.  Patrick Cokley is a disability advocate based in Washington, DC. For more of his acerbic wit, visit his blog, Tales of the Angry Negro at talesoftheangrynegro.wordpress.com.