Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Archive for March, 2010

Study: U.S. lags in hiring, supporting workers with disabilities

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

From the Washington Post, Federal Times, Government Executive.com:

Despite a federal commitment to hiring employees with disabilities, federal managers are “not prepared” to hire and supervise workers with disabilities in the workplace, according to a new survey by the Federal Managers Association and Telework Exchange.

Of 513 employees who were surveyed, the study found nearly half reported they had not received adequate training to effectively manage or retain employees with disabilities. Some 58 percent were not aware of an federal mandate issued ten years ago that ordered agencies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“On the surface, I think people thought, ‘Our agency really is committed to hiring people with disabilities,’ ” said Cindy Auten, general manager of the Telework Exchange. “But looking at what they’re actually implementing, there is a gap in terms of providing reasonable accommodations …”

… The percentage of the federal workforce with targeted disabilities – deafness, blindness, missing limbs, partial or complete paralysis, convulsive disorders, mental retardation, mental illness and limb or spine distortions – dropped from 0.96 percent in fiscal 1998 to 0.92 percent in fiscal 2007, according to a report issued last year by the government’s National Council on Disability. The number of those employees declined by more than 14 percent over that period, from 28,035 to 23,993.

Special education overhaul promised in Chicago

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

From the Chicago Tribune:

The Chicago Public Schools has announced plans for a “major reorganization” of the district’s special education program, promising to eliminate problems that critics say are preventing the city’s most vulnerable children from getting the educational services they are entitled to receive. “A special need should not prevent a child from learning,” said a district spokeswoman.

Among the changes that have been promised for the 45,000-student system: a system to track student progress and parent complaints. Officials also promised to make the $850-million-a-year system more “parent-friendly.”

“They are systemically preventing kids from getting services,” said Peter J. Smith, assistant professor of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the University of Chicago. “I could give you story after story after story. It’s so ridiculously off the reservation that there’s just no question that they’re not doing what they should do. It’s not even close.”

Insurance industry backs off on pre-existing condition coverage

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

From CBS News:

In a letter released yesterday, the insurance industry’s top lobbyist said the industry will not fight a provision in the new health care law that guarantees coverage to children with pre-existing medical conditions. The Obama administration had promised that the coverage would start later this year.

Earlier press reports, including this one in the New York Times, had said the insurance industry was challenging that portion of the measure and arguing that its language was not precise.

The White House sent a letter to the insurance industry to clarify the bill. “We don’t want to leave any ambiguity,” says Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “This won’t be up to insurance companies to interpret. Parents can rest assured.”

Related stories from AP/Washington Post, National Public Radio.

Earlier report from CBS: Language in health care law may prevent kids with pre-existing conditions from getting coverage until 2014. The video is here.

‘Class Act’ expands options for long-term care

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

From the New York Times:

“A little-remarked but potentially transformational provision” of the new health care law is the Class Act, which provides for people with long-term disabilities, writes Paula Span.

The measure sets up the first national government-run long-term care insurance program, allowing workers to pay into a fund that would pay a stipend if they need care. Because the program is set up to provide cash payments, it will allow recipients to choose the kind of assistance that best suits their needs.

Advocates for seniors and people with disabilities lobbied for the measure, which they say will help people stay in their own homes instead of being forced into nursing facilities. The private insurance industry opposed it, saying it will be too costly to be supported by premiums.

Earlier posts here.

Pre-existing condition coverage in jeopardy

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Robert Pear, writing in the New York Times, says architects of the new health care law had intended that the measure ban discrimination against children with certain pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, birth defects, orthopedic issues, leukemia, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease, requiring that insurance coverage be extended to them.

But days after the bill’s signing, he says, insurance companies are already arguing that they do not have to provide such coverage, at least for now. Congressional Democrats reacted angrily to statements by insurers. An excerpt:

Insurers agree that if they provide insurance for a child, they must cover pre-existing conditions. But, they say, the law does not require them to write insurance for the child and it does not guarantee the “availability of coverage” for all until 2014.

William G. Schiffbauer, a lawyer whose clients include employers and insurance companies, said: “The fine print differs from the larger political message. If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost.”

Opinion: Coverage of pre-existing condition ‘sets daughter free’

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Columnist Dan Kennedy, writing in the [UK] Guardian, says the health care bill liberates tens of millions of Americans like his daughter who have what insurance companies call pre-existing conditions. Kennedy’s 17-year-old daughter Becky was diagnosed at birth with achondroplasia, a genetic condition that is the most common form of dwarfism.

The bill, he writes, will prohibit insurance companies from denying benefits to people with pre-existing conditions. The effect of those regulations, Kennedy says, will be to “release … pent-up entrepreneurialism,” allowing people to launch businesses or join start-up companies without fear of losing their insurance coverage. An excerpt:

Maybe an accountant who’s recovered from cancer wants to try his hand at consulting. Maybe a mother with an autistic child has a killer idea for a restaurant. Maybe a wheelchair-using lawyer at a large firm would like to hang out her own shingle. Now there’s nothing to stop them.

Related column by Dan Kennedy: Wiping out human variation. Kennedy worries that a new test allowing people to see if they have “preventable genetic diseases” encourages the elimination of human diversity. An excerpt:

… what if we had been told we were at risk of having a child with a “preventable genetic disease”? What would we have done? I’d like to think the answer would have been “nothing”, but who knows? In 1992, we could at least feel secure in the knowledge that there wasn’t anything to be done.

In 2010, and in the years and decades to come, we will not only be able to do something, but I fear we will be expected to do something as well. It’s a chilling prospect, and one we haven’t even begun to talk about. The time to start talking is now.

Dan Kennedy is an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston.

Ne’eman nomination blocked; Autism views spark controversy

Monday, March 29th, 2010

From the New York Times:

A parliamentary hold has been placed on the nomination of autism self-advocate Ari Ne’eman to the National Council on Disability amid a growing controversy about his views. President Obama’s seven other nominees to the council were confirmed by the Senate this month.

Ne’eman, 22, has a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome and is the founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. He has said that autism is a naturally occurring form of “neurodiversity” that should be embraced and accommodated, not cured. Critics, including the co-founder of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, say Ne’eman’s view fails to represent individuals on the autism spectrum who lack basic communication and self-care skills.

Historically, the kind of genetic research supported by many parents of children with autism, Mr. Ne’eman has said, has been used to create prenatal tests that give parents the ability to detect a fetus affected by a particular condition, like Down syndrome, so that they can choose whether to terminate the pregnancy.

“We just think it makes more sense to orient research to addressing health problems or helping people communicate rather than creating a mouse model of autism or finding a new gene,” Mr. Ne’eman has said.

Earlier posts here.

(Photo from “No Myths” PSA)

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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