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RICO (not Suave): Accessibility News Roundup, May 11, 2018

C.P. Hoffman 05/11/18

Accessibility News Roundup IconWelcome back to our Accessibility News Roundup, where we bring together the best recent stories from the web about accessibility.

We start off with some sad news, as we’ve recently lost a few major figures in the disability rights movement:

  • “In 1975 Sue Ammeter was first person with a disability to work for the Washington State Human Rights Commission. The only non-lawyer on that agency’s hearing tribunal, the first decision she participated in was overturned on the grounds that a blind person not qualified to be a fact finder.  Not one to accept a civil rights injustice, Sue appealed that ruling and got it overturned.” — Law Office of Lainey Feingold: Sue Ammeter, Blind Disability Rights Champion, Dies at 69
  • “[Barbara Greenlee] Toomer, a former Army nurse, contracted polio after the birth of her first child in the 1950s. From then on, she used a wheelchair for mobility, which was decades before federal laws that require accessible entrances to public buildings, curb cuts on sidewalks or accessible forms of public transportation. Throughout a long career of paid and unpaid advocacy, Toomer lobbied for laws and public accommodations to enable people with disabilities to participate fully in their communities.” — Deseret News: Disability rights advocate Barbara Toomer dies at 88 

As you might recall from our tale of the emotional support duck Daniel Turducken Stinkerbutt, emotional support and service animals have been all over the news in recent weeks. As a result, we’re starting to see the issue get legislative attention:

  • “Without comment, Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday signed legislation that makes it illegal to ‘fraudulently misrepresent’ any animal as a service animal to someone who operates a public place or business. Judges can impose fines of up to $250 for each violation. The legislation is the culmination of efforts by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, to keep family pets out of where they don’t belong. And he doesn’t care whether they’re well behaved or not.” — Tucson.com: Arizona makes misrepresenting pets as service animals illegal 
  • “Congress will consider tightening the rules on service animals allowed to accompany passengers on airliners under legislation introduced this week. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has introduced an airline bill that would align the definition of a service animal to fit the stricter regulations in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Burr, noting that things have gotten out of hand when people try bringing support kangaroos onto a plane, said in a news release that the proposed rule would also establish a criminal penalty for falsely asserting that the family pet is a service animal.” — Washington Post: Senator wants to put a tighter leash on airline rules for service animals

A group of Senators are also considering legislative action to prohibit paying individuals with disabilities less than minimum wage, after a Department of Labor investigation found major violations at one firm:

  • “A Department of Labor investigation found that Rock River Valley Self Help Enterprises, based in Sterling, Illinois, had violated employment law, unlawfully paying workers with gift cards instead of money. In response, the department revoked Self Help’s right to use a waiver that allows employers to pay employees with disabilities less than their non-disabled counterparts. Thanks to a clause in the 80-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act, Self Help could direct cheap, disabled workers to local factories on less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, Voxreported. U.S. companies retained this power despite the historic Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.” Newsweek: Dollar-a-day Wages Loophole for Disabled Workers Must End, Says Bernie Sanders

Also on the legal front, the defendants in a recent ADA physical accessibility case are fighting back by suing the plaintiff under the federal RICO Act:

  • “In 2017, the ADA actions against Zlfred’s were dropped. Moji says it’s because her parents had promptly fixed the issues listed in the lawsuit. But her mother wanted to fight the basis of the claims, and her daughter, a lawyer, was ready to represent her. So a few months later, they filed a lawsuit against the man who claimed his civil rights were violated when he visited Zlfred’s. The counter-lawsuit is based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO.” — ABC 30 Fresno: Closed Fresno restaurant files counter-suit against former ADA plaintiff

Meanwhile, despite the ADA’s requirements, people with limited mobility have been finding themselves with limited housing options:

  • “Every so often, Korrie Johnson closes her eyes and tries to forget that she is a healthy 25-year-old living in a nursing home surrounded by older people with dementia and other debilitating conditions….
    ‘This is no place for someone my age,’ said Johnson, who has cerebral palsy and limited mobility of her limbs. ‘I love these people, but I feel like I’m missing out on life every day that I’m stuck here.’” — Star Tribune: Shortage of home health workers forcing young Minnesotans with disabilities into institutions
  • “By phone, the woman explained that her mother-in-law had used a chair for decades and could transfer in and out without assistance. The coordinator wouldn’t budge. ‘We could not accept anyone in a wheelchair,’ she said.” — New York Times: Wheelchairs Prohibited in the Last Place You’d Expect
  • “The Alberta-bred architecture student took a flight from Chicago into La Guardia Airport on Wednesday and hopped an Uber to Brooklyn. He planned to meet his brother and some pals to ‘do touristy things’ like take in a Broadway show and catch a Yankees game.
    But when Madell, carrying a backpack and a duffel bag on his lap, rolled his wheelchair up to the front desk, the woman behind the counter ‘looked confused.’ She told Madell he could not stay at the hostel because it wasn’t wheelchair-accessible.” — New York Post: Wheelchair-using athlete turned away from Brooklyn hostel

But, it’s not all bad news on the accessibility front!

  • “UCLA law students are starting a new journal that showcases scholarship on disability law.

The Disability Law Journalat UCLA will be the only disability law journal in the country after it publishes its first issue in spring 2019. Law students who created the journal said they hope to inform more people about disability law in the United States and issues that disproportionately affect people with disabilities, such as employment discrimination, police violence and sexual abuse.” — Daily Bruin: UCLA law students to publish first disability law journal in the nation

And, finally:

  • “The U.S. Access Board has launched its own channel on YouTube to further share and disseminate information. It features a message from Executive Director David M. Capozzi on the Board’s mission and the services it provides to the public. Animations on accessibility that the Board has developed as part of its online guide to the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards are also available on the channel.” YouTube: U.S. Access Board

See anything cool in the news lately? Tweet us at @LevelAccessA11y!

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