Webinar January 27 2-4PM ET – National Plan Increase Competitive Integrated Employment of People with Disabilities

The Employment First Community of Practice webinar “NEON National Plan to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment” will be held on January 27 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. ET.

Register for “NEON National Plan to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment”

In the webinar, Dr. David Mank and Dr. Richard Luecking will discuss the National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network’s national plan to increase Competitive Integrated Employment.

Joining them will be leaders from the five NEON national provider organizations: ACCSES, ANCOR, APSE, The Arc US and SourceAmerica.

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/initiatives/neon

Breaking News… Blackberry Devices, Long Presumed Dead, Are Dead

According to USA Today, Blackberry Devices will cease to function correctly after Tuesday, January 4, 2022. In related news, I didn’t know Blackberry devices still existed anywhere in the universe. As of Wednesday, apparently, I will be correct.

There is a strange melancholy feeling that accompanies the news that someone (or some thing) you assumed was long gone has just now met their demise. There is a brief flash of happiness upon learning they have been alive all this time, a feeling washed away by the stark reality that it is no longer the case.

In the late 1980s, MTV ran a game show called “Remote Control,” which was very much a Jeopardy-based style show focusing on popular culture. One of the categories that recurred on the show was called “Dead or Canadian.” In this category, the show would reveal the name of a once-famous person, long past his or her prime. The person correctly fit into one of two categories… they were either dead (and not Canadian) or Canadian (and not dead). It was torture, because when they threw out the name “Steve McQueen,” you found yourself rooting for him to be Canadian. Tragically, as I was to learn, Mr. McQeen was born in Beech Grove, Indiana. Not that it’s bad to be from Beech Grove, but, in this narrow case, it’s not the preferred option.

We have a museum of sorts at our home office the west campus of Ohio State University. It is a display of assistive technology devices that have been put out to pasture. We have a 100-year old hearing aid called an Acousticon. We have a Darcy II, an device that translates tapped Morse code messages into text on the computer screen. We have a occupational therapy device called a Smart Pen, which dates back to the 70s, where a user hears a loud noise if they trace outside the lines — not unlike the board game “Operation” from my youth. This is where I have long assumed the Blackberry should be, and as of this month, we will make a space for her, right next to pagers, MySpace, and Netscape Navigator.

“Mrs. Cratchit, the two young Cratchits & Tiny Tim”

DECEMBER 2021 – Mark E. Seifarth

Many of you know this is the third year of my growing tradition of relating a particular musing from Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” with the hope that we can see one of my favorite pieces of literature in a slightly different light.

TO PONDER – In a year of great triumph and great tragedy, Dickens may give us an opportunity to look at people who don’t often come into view or see them in a different light. Perhaps this is like many of the emergency folks, charity workers, volunteers, neighbors, first responders and many, many folks we may not think of until we need them – or folks for whom we may not give a second or even a first thought. Let’s talk this year of “Mrs. Cratchit, the two young Cratchits, & Tiny Tim”

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail…”

Anyone who has read “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens – or watched any of the myriad the movie or television adaptations knows this is how the story begins. Most of us know the main characters well. In fact, the name Ebenezer Scrooge has become so well known that the term Scrooge defines any miser or one who values money above all else or hoards money because he fears the world. Other characters that are recalled easily include Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, Tim Tim and the Three Spirits – Past, Present, and Future.

Authors develop their main characters in such a way so that they will be memorable. Of course, it would be an understatement that Charles Dickens has done such a masterful job so that once we meet them, we will never forget such characters.

Dickens goes on to weave in additional individuals – Scrooge’s lost love known in the book at first as “a fair young girl” and then Belle, mentor & former apprenticeship boss Fezziwig, and son of Scrooge’s deceased sister, nephew Fred – into our memory as well.

As we read and watch the many additional characters in numerous renditions of “A Christmas Carol” during the holiday season, let’s visit with what we know and maybe what little we actually know of Tiny Tim, Mrs. Cratchit, and the Cratchit children.

We meet Mrs. Cratchit in this way, “…Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes…”

Even though we meet Mrs. Cratchit a number of times throughout this book and she has several memorable lines – such as “…It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,” said she, “on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge…” – she is given no first name. And we all know Mr. Cratchit’s first name – Bob.

Bob and Mrs. Cratchit have six children, Martha, Peter, Belinda, Tiny Tim, and two more known only as “the two young Cratchits.”

Here’s some of the book’s description of each of the children:

•             “…Martha, who was a poor apprentice at a milliner’s, then told them what kind of work she had to do, and how many hours she worked at a stretch…”

•             “…Bob Cratchit told them how he had a situation in his eye for Master Peter, which would bring in, if obtained, full five-and-sixpence weekly. The two young Cratchits laughed tremendously at the idea of Peter’s being a man of business…”

•             “…and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons…

•             “…in came little Bob, the father… and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!… And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit… As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see… His active little crutch was heard upon the floor…”

•             There are numerous references to the other two children only as “the two young Cratchits.”

Have our mothers and women shouldered much more of the burden during Covid, given up more employment, and been more strongly impacted with more responsibility? Perhaps a Mrs. Cratchit comes to mind.

Are our unnamed “two young Cratchit” an opportunity to see the impact on children that may go unrecognized in a time when political discussions of education and back in the classroom may blur the actual needs of so many children?

Further I may ask us to have a chat about Tiny Tim and just maybe we spend too much time defining people with disabilities as heroic or as Britannica.com writes “…the lame but ever-cheerful Tiny Tim.”

Okay, let’s ponder for a moment, each of Dickens three characters that we may not focus on as often and allow me to put forward what they may teach us even today. Allow me, as Charles Dickens wrote in the preface to “A Christmas Carol,” “…haunt their (and your) houses pleasantly…”

MRS. CRATCHIT – While all authors decide how much information to provide as to their characters, I submit, it’s not okay that we do not know her first name. She has her own identity, and we should know it. As Bob Cratchit worked his backside off for only “fifteen shillings a week,” Mrs. Cratchit was keeping a home together with six children including a child with a disability. With almost no money and absolutely no public support, Mrs. Cratchit persevered. This may give us an opportunity for discussion about the treatment of women in our society, such as wage parity, paid childcare, and full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act so needed education & services are available.

Further, this is a time to remember women in your life without whom you would not be where you are today because they cared for and supported you without reward or recognition – even to their own detriment. Maybe now is the time to pick up the telephone, smartphone, computer – or dare I say – pen, and communicate and say thank you.

Perhaps this is the moment to advocate for equal pay for women, who earn on average 82 cents for every $1.00 a white man earns (year-round fulltime employment 2021 – Business.org) – not to mention all the unpaid support they provide. Women of color earn on average just 52-63 cents for every $1.00 a white man earns (National Partnership for Women and Families).

TWO YOUNG CRATCHITS – In “A Christmas Carol,” the Cratchit children we know are either already working or about to go to work very young. But the “two young Cratchits” remind us that many times children are forgotten, an afterthought, or used in a policy discussion to bolster a particular point of view and not seen or consulted to fulfill their actual needs or development. Maybe this gives us a moment to ask what do my kids/our kids really need to succeed and how can I/we support them.

In this season of the year when perhaps giving is focused on more than receiving, in addition to giving our children shelter and sustenance, perhaps now is the time to express out loud how much we love and support them – how much we treasure our children and listen to them.

TINY TIM – Full Disclosure, I am a mature white man with a lifelong disability. So perhaps I don the mantle the Tiny Tim as I was a child with a disability and ask you to think deeply about what could be long held assumptions and even beliefs.

As part of the debate on the Americans with Disabilities Act that became law in 1990, Congress declared that having a disability is a natural part of the human experience. In fact, in the disability community we say that we are the only minority group that anyone can join and everyone usually does with at least a temporary disability at some point in their lives.

So I submit to you that we should not use “A Christmas Carol” to perpetuate the myth of “…poor Tiny Tim…” because “…he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!…” He was and is simply a child who has a disability and needs medical and perhaps educational supports.

Unfortunately, he only receives those supports because the wealthy Ebenezer Scrooge finally assists him due in large part to the Ghost of Christmas Present’s admonition “…if these shadows remain unaltered, by the future, the child will die…” Perhaps this is moment to realize that at some point in our lives we will all need help and support, and those supports should be available to all not just those with a wealthy benefactor.

 Finally, I ask to think for a moment about “…And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit… As good as gold…” and again as Britannica.com writes “…the lame but ever-cheerful Tiny Tim…” As having a disability is a normal part of the human experience, people with disabilities are just like everyone else in that we have good days and bad days, are happy some days and sad others.

My spouse would tell you I am rarely as good as gold and not always cheerful. In my opinion, perhaps most particularly, I am not heroic or to be admired. I’ve had more surgeries and physical therapy than some others and that is part of my experience. Just like there are parts of who you are and your experiences that make you unique. We are all part of a great mosaic. I have the same feelings as most people. I also have a disability.

I would put forward that perhaps when someone encounters people with supports they are not accustomed to – crutches, wheelchair, power wheelchair, white cane, ventilator, talking technology to help us speak, hearing aids and supports, and many, many, many more – you may be surprised and even a little fearful that you may say or do something that is not appropriate or helpful.

At first, that is understandable as with anything new. Remember to see the person first and not the supporting technology that assists that person.

That’s the beauty and genius of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As we are all treated equally and have equal access, we learn from each other, grow, and understand each other’s experiences a bit more. As technology grows and improves, we all have better access and can learn together. Look how technology has helped us communicate and support each other in new ways in a time of pandemic.

Each year I will submit to you things that “A Christmas Carol” can continue to teach us.

It can teach us not to cling to antiquated and outmoded ways of thinking that treat people differently due to gender, age, disability, or many, many others I have not addressed specifically today. If the Three Spirits have taught us anything it is that we are all indeed equal – none greater, none lesser.

As the Ghost of Christmas Present admonished Scrooge “…If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

“Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.”

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child…”

EEOC Adds New Section Clarifying When COVID-19 May Be a Disability, Updating Technical Assistance

Press Release 12-14-2021

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 technical assistance today adding a new section to clarify under what circumstances COVID-19 may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

EEOC’s new questions and answers focus broadly on COVID-19 and the definition of disability under Title I of the ADA and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which both address employment discrimination. The updates also provide examples illustrating how an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 or a post-COVID condition could be considered to have a disability under the laws the EEOC enforces.   

“This update to our COVID-19 information provides an additional resource for employees and employers facing the varied manifestations of COVID-19,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “Like effects from other diseases, effects from COVID-19 can lead to a disability protected under the laws the EEOC enforces. Workers with disabilities stemming from COVID-19 are protected from employment discrimination and may be eligible for reasonable accommodations.”

Key information includes:

  • In some cases, an applicant’s or employee’s COVID-19 may cause impairments that are themselves disabilities under the ADA, regardless of whether the initial case of COVID-19 itself constituted an actual disability.
  • An applicant or employee whose COVID-19 results in mild symptoms that resolve in a few weeks—with no other consequences—will not have an ADA disability that could make someone eligible to receive a reasonable accommodation.
  • Applicants or employees with disabilities are not automatically entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA. They are entitled to a reasonable accommodation when their disability requires it, and the accommodation is not an undue hardship for the employer. But, employers can choose to do more than the ADA requires.
  • An employer risks violating the ADA if it relies on myths, fears, or stereotypes about a condition and prevents an employee’s return to work once the employee is no longer infectious and, therefore, medically able to return without posing a direct threat to others.

On July 26, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued Guidance on ‘Long COVID’ as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557. The DOJ/HHS Guidance focuses solely on long COVID. This new EEOC technical assistance focuses more broadly on COVID-19 and does so in the context of Title I of the ADA and section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which cover employment.

To assist the public, the EEOC has updated its guidance on employment and COVID-19 approximately 20 times throughout the pandemic.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employ­ment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3rd

https://www.un.org/en/observances/day-of-persons-with-disabilities

Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world

Disability inclusion is an essential condition to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security. It is also central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind. The commitment to realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in a common future.

The global crisis of COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is imperative. People with disabilities—one billion people— are one of the most excluded groups in our society and are among the hardest hit in this crisis in terms of fatalities.

Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access health care, education, employment and to participate in the community. An integrated approach is required to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind.

Disability inclusion will result in a COVID19 response and recovery that better serves everyone, more fully suppressing the virus, as well as building back better. It will provide for more agile systems capable of responding to complex situations, reaching the furthest behind first.

The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy

When launching the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy in June 2019, the Secretary-General stated that the United Nations should lead by example and raise the Organization’s standards and performance on disability inclusion—across all pillars of work, from headquarters to the field.  

The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy provides the foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion through all pillars of the work of the United Nations. Through the Strategy, the United Nations system reaffirms that the full and complete realization of the human rights of all persons with disabilities is an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In October 2021, the Secretary-General submitted his second report on steps taken by the UN system to implement the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy in 2020.  Given the impact of the COVID-19 on persons with disabilities, the report also contains a brief reflection on disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery.

Register for 11/30: How Disability Drives Innovation with Sinéad Burke, Wesley Hamilton and Jeff Mansfield

The Washington Post LIVE

DISABILITY IN AMERICA

Tuesday, November 30th

1:30 p.m. ET

in partnership with Ford Foundation

REGISTER

Society was created for individuals with specific physical abilities. Some disability advocates would argue that this reality has bred ingenuity and adaptability among disabled people that drives innovative, technological change.

Join Washington Post Live on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 1:30 p.m. ET for a conversation that explores how disability drives innovation featuring:

Founder and CEO of Tilting the Lens Sinéad Burke

Entrepreneur Wesley Hamilton

Architect Jeffrey Mansfield

REGISTER: https://disabilitynov2021.splashthat.com/

ASL and closed captioning will be available throughout the program. Please email postlive@washpost.com as soon as possible if another accommodation would be useful.

Stream here: wapo.st/disabilitynov2021

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Kevin Leonard

Today would have been Kevin Leonard’s 59th birthday. I just wanted to acknowledge that.

Kevin Leonard was a colleague of mine for a very long time. He worked for Goodwill / Miami Valley Easter Seals in Dayton, and ran a program that was similar to ours in many ways. His program, Assistive Technology Services, allowed citizens of the greater Miami Valley have access to the types of technologies they needed to go to school, succeed in the workplace, and live more independent and inter-connected lives. Hundreds of people with disabilities got their first computer from Kevin Leonard. We were proud to support his program with an annual grant for the better part of 10 years. I learned a lot from him.

Kevin spent most of his adult life in a wheelchair. It is an understatement to say that it is not good for one’s health to spend most of your life in a wheelchair. He frequently battled health issues and would have to temporarily leave the store in the capable hands of his wife, Diana. It is amazing he lived this long, but Kevin Leonard had uncommon strength and perseverance. He was an incredibly hard worker and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone with Kevin’s physical challenges who had a more productive life. He was a marvel to me. He accomplished more than I would have ever thought possible for him.

Rest in peace, Mr. Leonard. Well done. Thank you for everything you did in this life to help Ohioans with disabilities.

Federal judge rules Texas school mask ban violates Americans with Disabilities Act

By Raja Razek and Christina Maxouris, CNN

Updated 1:04 AM ET, Thu November 11, 2021

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/10/us/federal-judge-texas-mask-ban-americans-with-disabilities-act/index.html

(CNN)A federal judge has ruled that Texas’ ban on mask mandates in schools violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to court documents filed Wednesday in US District Court for the Western District of Texas. 

The ruling follows months of clashes between state and local leaders over mask mandates in schools — not just in Texas, but across the country. Similar mandates became the topic of heated debates earlier this year as the Delta variant sent Covid-19 case numbers surging once again and schools across the United States began to reopen while many students were still ineligible for a vaccine. 

According to the court documents filed Wednesday, Texas independent school districts could choose whether to implement mask mandates for in-person instruction during the 2020-2021 school year. But before the new school year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order which, among other things, prohibited public schools from requiring students, staff and visitors to wear masks in their facilities. 

“Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities,” Abbott had said in May. “We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.” 

But as the state grappled amid a nationwide spike in cases and hospitalizations over the summer, some school districts sought out ways around the ban or chose to ignore the governor’s order in hopes of curbing the spread of the virus. 

Disability Rights Texas, an advocacy group, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of several Texas families against the governor, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, claiming the spread of the virus was posing “an even greater risk for children with special health needs.” 

“Children with certain underlying conditions who contract COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to a hospital and the hospital’s intensive-care unit,” the lawsuit said. “This includes children with conditions including, Down syndrome, organ transplants, lung conditions, heart conditions, and weakened immune systems.” 

The ruling signed by US District Court Judge Lee Yeakel says that “at issue is whether Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.” 

“The evidence presented by Plaintiffs establishes that Plaintiffs are being denied the benefits of in-person learning on an equal basis as their peers without disabilities. The court concludes that GA-38 violates the ADA,” the ruling said. 

Following the judge’s decision, the Texas attorney general wrote on Twitter, “I strongly disagree with Judge Yeakel’s opinion barring my office from giving effect to GA-38, which prohibits mask mandates imposed by government entities like school districts.” 

“My agency is considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision,” the attorney general wrote. 

The ruling also follows a September announcement from the US Education Department’s civil rights enforcement arm that it was opening an investigation to determine whether the state’s school mask mandate ban was preventing school districts from “considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities.” 

At the time, the department said in a letter to Morath it was “concerned that Texas’s restriction on schools and school districts from putting masking requirements in place may be preventing schools in Texas from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.” 

Ohio Tech Ambassador Network hiring new Tech Ambassadors

The Ohio Tech Ambassador Network announces that the Ohio Tech Ambassador program is ready to grow. The grant funding the program has been renewed for an additional two years. The Network will continue encouraging people with developmental disabilities to use technology until June 2023.

The Ohio Tech Ambassador Network intends to hire two to three new Tech Ambassadors this fall and is reaching out for help spreading the work about this employment opportunity.

Do you, or does anyone you know, use technology to live more independently and enjoy sharing your experiences with others? If so, please read the Position Description, fill out the Application at ohiotechambassadors.org and send it to: info@ohiotechambassadors.org

The Ohio Tech Ambassador Network looks forward to adding some new tech stories to the great ones already being told by their current Tech Ambassadors.

Additional contact information is below:

George W. Myers
Grant Director
Ohio Tech Ambassador Network
614.354.2870
www.ohiotechambassadors.org