Sunday, December 4, 2016

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.

In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009. The ADAAA made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.” The changes in the definition of disability in the ADAAA apply to all titles of the ADA, including Title I (employment practices of private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, agents of the employer and joint management labor committees); Title II (programs and activities of state and local government entities); and Title III (private entities that are considered places of public accommodation).

More About the ADA

Glossary of ADA TermsADA Acronyms and AbbreviationsRead ADA Publications/Fact SheetsFrequently Asked Questions About the ADA

Title I (Employment)

Equal Employment Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities

This title is designed to help people with disabilities access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.  

This portion of the law is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(link is external). Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with this law. The regulations for Title I define disability, establish guidelines for the reasonable accommodation process, address medical examinations and inquiries, and define “direct threat” when there is significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual employee with a disability or others.  

More information and events related to ADA Title I (Employment).

Title II (State and Local Government)

Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services  

Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all programs, activities, and services of public entities. It applies to all state and local governments, their departments and agencies, and any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts of state or local governments. It clarifies the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, for public transportation systems that receive federal financial assistance, and extends coverage to all public entities that provide public transportation, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance. It establishes detailed standards for the operation of public transit systems, including commuter and intercity rail (e.g., AMTRAK).

This title outlines the administrative processes to be followed, including requirements for self-evaluation and planning; requirements for making reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination; architectural barriers to be identified; and the need for effective communication with people with hearing, vision and speech disabilities. This title is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice.

More information and events related to ADA Title II (State and Local Government).

Title III (Public Accommodations)

Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities 

This title prohibits private places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Examples of public accommodations include privately-owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, day care centers, health clubs, sports stadiums, movie theaters, and so on.  This title sets the minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction of facilities. It also requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense.  This title directs businesses to make "reasonable modifications" to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities. It also requires that they take steps necessary to communicate effectively with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities.  This title is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

More information and events related to ADA Title III (Public Accommodations).

Title IV (Telecommunications)

This title requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system of interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services that allows individuals with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone. This title also requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements.  This title is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission. 

More information and events related to ADA Title IV (Telecommunications).

Title V (Miscellaneous Provisions)

The final title contains a variety of provisions relating to the ADA as a whole, including its relationship to other laws, state immunity, its impact on insurance providers and benefits, prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal use of drugs, and attorney’s fees.  This title also provides a list of certain conditions that are not to be considered as disabilities.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Tenant Troubles: Can My Landlord Refuse To Allow Me A Service Animal? by Dave Crow

Can a landlord legally refuse to rent to a tenant who owns a dog, if the prospective tenant is disabled and the dog helps his disability?

If not, what if the disability is only psychiatric in nature?

And if not, how would the prospective tenant be able to prove to the landlord that his dog is for his disability?

If your lease prohibits pets (and many of them do) a landlord can in initially refuse to allow a tenant to get a pet. Note that I said initially. If you are disabled and you need a pet to provide service or emotional support, you have the right to ask your landlord to allow a pet in the premises regardless of the language in the lease.

A guide dog for a blind person is a classic service animal. A landlord who refused a request for such an animal is clearly discriminating against the tenant based upon disability.

A request to allow an emotional support animal is a little more tricky, but your rights are still clearly defined under the law.

Asking your landlord to add a pet based upon your disability is called a request for a reasonable accommodation. Your request must be reasonable. For example, you cannot request that the landlord, to accommodate your disability, purchase Malachy, the pekinese best in show winner at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show and add him to your lease. That would be unreasonable.

It might also be unreasonable to get a big, untrained, vicious dog because the landlord could be liable if the dog bit someone in the building.

You must also be prepared to prove to the landlord that you are disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If your disability is psychiatric your are absolutely entitled to request a reasonable accommodation that could include owning a pet. Take a look at this link from the the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

The Bazelon site is the “go to” resource for any questions about the law pertaining to mental disability and your rights under the various laws that prohibit discrimination based upon mental disability.

Usually you can get a letter from your treating doctor describing your disability and that having a pet would mitigate your, say, your anxiety disorder. The Bazelon link above provides a sample doctor’s letter that briefly describes the patient’s mental disability and “prescribes” a pet to provide some alleviation of the symptoms.

If you are planning to request a reasonable accommodation to get a pet, you should also check out PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support). Their site provides a step-by-step procedure to request a reasonable accommodation to get a support animal. The PAWS suggestions about a health provider’s letter are simple, accurate descriptions of the legal requirements for such a letter:

In order to prove that a dog is a service or support animal, you may be asked to have documentation from a licensed professional (doctor, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, other mental-health professional or social worker) stating that the animal is an essential part of treatment for a disability. A doctor’s letter must have two essential components.

1. It must state that you have a disability. The disability does not need to be identified.
2. It must state that it is the professional opinion of the provider that is it essential for you to have a service/support animal.

From my point of view, the biggest mistake a tenant can make is getting a pet first and then attempting to justify the need for the animal later–after the landlord, during his annual, unannounced, illegal inspection, discovers Fluffy hiding in a closet.

If your lease prohibits pets, ask first, in writing. If your landlord accepts your request, get it in writing. If your landlord refuses and you can demonstrate your need based on disability, go through the steps as outlined above.

If you are not disabled and your landlord refuses your request, forget it. I’ve seen too many instances in which long-term tenants are forced to choose between their beloved dog and living in the streets.

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Have you seen this child? GABRIEL JOHNSON

Have you seen this child? GABRIEL JOHNSON: Missing From: TEMPE, AZ. Missing Date: 12/27/2009. Gabriel's photo is shown age-progressed to 6 years-old. He was last believed to be with his mother. They may have been seen in San Antonio, Texas after leaving Arizona. His mother has since been located, but Gabriel remains missing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My family and I need some help. For: Nate Lesher Apex, NC Organizer: Nate Lesher


Hey everyone. We need a little help, if you don't mind. My wife and I have five kids (three of which are my step-children), and we are all packed in our three bedroom rental house. As you can imagine, everything started to become expensive (i.e. we became poorer). So my wife and I made the decision that the long-term solution to our financial problems would be for me to go to college. Let me tell you, it has been a wild ride but we've been giving it our all. Between the child support, the student aid, my military benefits, some help from family, and working when we can, we are still unable to pinch enough pennies to get by. We are up to our eyeballs in bills and debt, we've been to the food pantry, we've been on food stamps... we've been on everything but welfare (which I'm pretty sure we don't qualify for). I would consult the bank but, with our credit, that is just not an option. For those of you who know me, you know that reaching out like this does not suit my character. Those that don't know me... you're missing out! If you still don't feel comfortable giving because you're skeptical, I understand. That's why I encourage you to reach out to me for any clarification Thank you for serving those who have served.

To help please click the link below

Please help a fellow Army Veteran. For: Cindy and Art Olsen Houston, TX Organizer: Cindy Ann Olsen


My name is Cindy Olsen and I am asking for Help in paying rent. We are $5000.00 behind in our rent. I am an Army Veteran and 20 year nurse. I have spent a large portion of my life helping others. In June 2015, I could not breath, I had palpitations and my pulse was 125. I went to the VA Hospital ER. I was hospitalized. It was discovered that I had fluid on my lungs. They drained 750ml of fluid off my right lung. I was told I could not work and was on oxygen. I have not been able to work. I was Diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, which I am unable able to get Air into my lungs.  As a result of my illness, We are severely behind in the rent.  I have recently returned to work, part-time.  I went to the Management office today (saturday 11/12/16). I was told that either I come up with at Least $1500.00
or we will be kicked out. 

To help please click the link below

Help The Dooley Family get back into their own home For: The Dooley Family Trinity, TX Organizer: Tifani Dooley


Hi, We are the Dooley family. My name is Tifani (26) and there is my husband Jeff (27), together we have 4 kids! Johnathan  (11), Makayla (9), Raelynn (7), and Jackson (5). To make an excruciatingly long story short, my husband is a US Military vet. When he left service in 2014 after serving a tour in Afghanistan, he went back to truck driving. He was buying his own rig and building him a small trucking business but due to technicalities he lost his truck. When he did we lost our house and we had to move in with family. Our financial situation has somewhat stabilized where we can afford to be out on our own again but not the expenses to get out on our own. I am asking today for a lot, I understand, but I need help. I just need moving expenses and a deposit (this amount may not even cover everything). If you can hel Pl it would be greatly appreciated! If not please just share and pray or send positive thoughts. 

Thank you! 

To help please click the link below

CONLEY SCOTT, KOREAN VET NEEDS YOUR HELP WITH NEW ROOF For: Conley Scott Des Moines, IA Organizer: Sue Dilks


Hi! My name is Sue Dilks, my dad is Conley Scott who is a 83 year old Navy Veteran who served on the USS Boxer during the Korean War as Airman. I am his only family / and sole caregiver.
When my dad discharged from the Navy in 1955 he met my mom and they got married later that year. They had three children ,  

When mom passed away dadand i was totally at a loss it was like a big part was missing but no matter what we do we can’t find the missing piece.  

September 2015, I was involved in a car accident. My car was totaled and I was admitted in the  hospital for several days. I bought another car after accident and the tie rod went i have not been able to build up a lot of financial stability. The repair bill along with the bills from my accident, have caused a very troubling financial setback for me, and I am just trying to get a new roof before it starts leaking and makes my home unfit to live in.I just want. provide a secure home for my daughter & myself.

I am asking for Help with the new roof, I have been trying to catch up with everything, but I could not cover everything at once.Our homeowners insurance has been cancelled and home is ready to be classified as unsafe., and I need to find a way to prevent this from happening.

If you can assist me with this one bill, I will be able to get back on track again, and more importantly, not have my roof leak during summer months. This would take a lot of worry from me and allow me to be get back to my life. I would be so grateful for your help!

To help please go to the link below

Veteran Needs Your Help For: Vanessa Silva Denver, CO Organizer: Vanessa Silva



My name is Vanessa. I am 26yrs old and a disabled veteran. I recently relocated to Denver, CO after a very abusive relationship and unfortunately I have hit a financial brick wall. I thought moving to get away from my abusive partner would be better in terms of getting myself on my feet, and even though I no longer have the burden of someone constantly beating me down, I still have financial obligations that I currently cannot meet. I am on the verge of being homeless and need all the help I can get. I have asked around for help, but most of the organizations in the area don't have funds, so I have been put on a waiting list. have asked the VA for help, but there isn't much they can offer. This is my last resort and I am hopeful to get some results and help from the wider community. Any help is welcome. Thank you!

To help please go to the link below

Help Support Justice for Deployment For: Justice O'Neal San Diego, CA Organizer: Justice O'Neal


Hello my name is Justice and I'm an Aviation Handler in United States Navy. I am raising money to financially clear my debt so I may be a stress free sailor before I go on deployment. I would love  to see how much help I can receive by any monetary donations; I proudly honor and serve my country to the best of my abilities.

Please support my fundraising and let Justice be served! God Bless

To help please go to the link below

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Coroner: Autopsy contradicts foster parent’s account of baby’s death

Six-week-old Macey Wilson died last month in a Sacramento foster-care home. Relatives are seeking answers. Submitted by Tracey Rhodd

The results of an autopsy of 1-month-old Macey Wilson contradict her foster parents’ account of the baby’s death in May, the Sacramento County Coroner said.

Before the autopsy was completed, the girl’s foster parents said she was found unresponsive in a toddler car seat at the foster home in the 5200 block of Crystal Hill Way in the Valley Hi area of Sacramento, Coroner Kimberly Gin said.

The baby’s lividity pattern, where her blood settled after death, was on the front of her body, the autopsy found. That pattern indicates she died lying down, Gin said.

“A person that dies while sitting, especially in something like a car seat, shouldn’t have much or any anterior (frontal) lividity,” Gin said.

The inconsistency between what coroners found and what the foster parents said led Gin to ask the Sacramento Police Department to investigate the case, she said.

Sgt. Bryce Heinlein, a department spokesman, said the major crimes unit is investigating the case. He said he could not provide any further details because the case is pending.

Sacramento County Child Protective Services, which placed Macey in foster care, removed foster children from the home “as soon as we learned about Macey’s death, again out of an abundance of caution,” said agency spokeswoman Samantha Mott.

Because the foster home is managed by a third-party agency, the investigation was done by the state’s Community Care Licensing office, not CPS, Mott said. The state would not provide details about its investigation to CPS, she said.

Michael Weston, a spokesman at the state Department of Social Services, said confidentiality laws prevent the agency from commenting about its investigation.

The Coroner’s Office has ruled Macey’s cause of death as inconclusive, saying there were no obvious physical signs to explain it.

The report suggests that the foster parents moved Macey from where she died into the toddler seat, said Tracy Rhodd, the baby’s paternal grandmother.

“Why did they move her?” she said. “They lied about where they found her.”

She said the Coroner’s Office told her that the foster parents had not checked on Macey for 12 hours when they found her dead. She said that’s too long to leave a baby unobserved, and might explain why Macey died.

Sacramento police have said Macey was already dead when they arrived at the foster home.

CPS records provided by Rhodd earlier this year show she was given custody of Macey four days after the girl’s March 21 birth. The records cite problems with Macey’s parents, including the mother’s mental health and homelessness, as reasons for giving the grandmother custody.

CPS completed a safety plan for Macey that said she would be released from the hospital into the custody of Rhodd “until parents are able to address the concerns of the department.”

After Macey had stayed with Rhodd for about a week, a CPS social worker said the child was being placed in foster care while CPS investigated Rhodd’s background, Rhodd said.

While CPS will not comment on that decision because of confidentiality laws, Rhodd believes the agency was concerned about a 2001 Sonoma County case in which Rhodd pleaded no contest to a charge of violating a restraining order.

She disputes the charge but said she didn’t fight it to avoid complicating her divorce proceedings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dr Ian Hyslop: New child protection laws a regressive move

Dr Ian Hyslop is a lecturer in counselling, human services and social work at the University of Auckland

The Government's proposed reforms to our child protection laws are regressive, myopic and likely to have unfortunate outcomes for children who have been ill-treated in stressed families.

They have been narrowly conceived and signal a return to rescue-based fostercare. This, in my opinion, is a huge step backwards for child protection in New Zealand, particularly for Maori.

Cabinet papers released by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley set out these law changes to support a new "operating model" for statutory social work services within the new Ministry of Vulnerable Children.

But these reforms have involved minimal real consultation with the sector. They are the result of an expert panel review which began in April 2015. I was involved in a practice reference group which provided advice to this panel, nominally.

The outcome, I believe, was largely predetermined.

I worked in state social work for 20 years and witnessed the genesis of the ground-breaking Children, Young Persons and their Families' Act, 1989. This legislation addressed institutional racism (identified in the Puao Te Ata Tu Ministerial Advisory Committee Report of 1988) by making an understanding of Maori values and social structures central to working with Maori children.

The 1989 Act responded to the cultural alienation of Maori children in the care of the state by bringing Maori concepts of whakapapa and whanaungatanga into mainstream statutory social work legislation.

It required that placement of children outside of immediate family be with a member of their whanau, hapu, iwi, or at the very least with someone from the same cultural background. This vision has never been adequately supported or resourced and now, under these proposed reforms, it is abandoned.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

State leaders order Child Protective Services overhaul

Fort Worth Star-Telegram2016-10-12 18:25

Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services Wednesday to ramp up efforts to protect endangered foster children and curb the backlog of ones waiting for homes.

Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus released a joint letter to department Commissioner Hank Whitman directing him to immediately develop a plan to hire and train more special investigators to take up the backlog of at-risk kids who have not had a face-to-face interaction with Child Protective Services. The lawmakers are also calling on the agency to create a hiring and training schedule to get more caseworkers out into the field and to continue working closely with community organizations. The lawmakers also called recent news of children sleeping in hotels and CPS offices “unacceptable."

The letter comes just eight days after DFPS publicly released numbers showing nearly a thousand at-risk children under CPS care were not checked on once over the course of six months. That report also found that caseworkers did not see 1,800 children within 24-hours of hearing reports of alleged abuse or mistreatment.

“The state’s residential providers must be held to the highest standards while caring for our most vulnerable or no longer operate in our system.” The state leaders wrote in a letter

“We also will not tolerate inferior residential foster care operations,” the state leaders wrote in the letter. “The state’s residential providers must be held to the highest standards while caring for our most vulnerable or no longer operate in our system.”

While Abbott and other state leaders are calling on the agency to move forward on a plan regardless of budget concerns, it's unclear how soon the department will step up its efforts with a looming $40 million budget shortfall and already overworked caseworkers.

State leaders also directed Whitman to “reinforce the culture of accountability” by making sure staffers “rise to the challenge” ahead. The lawmakers gave a nod to the department's financial constraints but stressed "we have a responsibility to find and protect these vulnerable Texans as soon as possible."

Whitman said in an emailed statement that he appreciates lawmakers' "acknowledgement of the many difficult issues we face" but added that "protecting children is our highest priority."

"We have to do better," Whitman said. "All of our energies are focused on making this right and putting the safety and welfare of children first, no matter what."

Hours after the letter was released, Patrick called on the Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to receive the department's plans. Nelson quickly scheduled an Oct. 26 hearing of her committee to take up the issue.

"We need to better understand what investments are working and what improvements are needed," Nelson said in a statement. "We need an action plan that will keep children safe."

"We need to better understand what investments are working and what improvements are needed. We need an action plan that will keep children safe." Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound

State Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee for health and human services, said lawmakers will be watching for the agency to make improvements related to caseworker working conditions and retention alongside easing case load burdens. He said "it's premature to speculate" but providing the department with supplemental funding during next year's legislative session is "not out of the realm of possibility."

"I fully believe that the House and the Senate will prioritize the protection of children this upcoming session and if additional funds are absolutely necessary that will be considered by both groups," Price said. "I don't believe for a second either chamber will jeopardize the safety of children at the expense of the budget."

State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, thinks the situation at CPS is too dire to wait until next session. He wrote a letter to Abbott on October 5 asking the governor call a special session as "the scope of the problem has eclipsed the agency's ability to adequately remedy the situation without legislative assistance."

Kate Murphy, senior policy associate for child protection for Texans Care for Children, said in an emailed statement that "caseworker turnover and kids bouncing from one placement to another are challenges the state can overcome." She said while it was good to see state leaders alarmed about the department's challenges, it's also important to look at increasing caseworker pay and foster children access to health services.

"We're glad to see a bipartisan consensus that CPS needs additional funding starting in September of next year," Murphy said. "The Commissioner and state leaders should evaluate whether CPS needs more funding in the next 11 months to boost salaries and hire more caseworkers to start addressing the crisis right away."

Some advocates say workforce education is also going to be critical to fixing the department's problems.

Miriam Nisenbaum, executive director for the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said CPS needs a strong workforce with a variety of backgrounds in areas like behavioral health and social work. Yet a recent decision to scale back the agency's caseworker education requirements has undermined that goal.

The letter from state leaders released Wednesday ordered the department to hire more investigators with law enforcement backgrounds.

“I’m not sure a law enforcement background will give you the too

ls you need to work with the families a lot of the CPS workers end up dealing with,” Nisenbaum said.