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On Target  eNews                                                  July 2016

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www.disabilityrightsnc.org



On Target eNews comes to you the first Tuesday of each month with updates on our clients, our organization, and our work. We also publish a full newsletter three times a year.


Target survey now open

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Each year, Disability Rights NC seeks public input on what areas of disability advocacy it should focus. With limited resources, it's impossible to address every violation of rights experienced by a person with a disability. But we try to make as big an impact as possible and improve systemic problems.


The Proposed 2017 Targets were approved by the board of directors on June 17, 2016. An online survey is now open to receive input on our proposed targets. In addition, the survey offers an opportunity for the public to tell us about other issues that are important to people with disabilities in North Carolina. The survey will be open until 6:00 pm on August 4, 2016. Contact our office at 877-235-4210 if you need a copy of the survey mailed to you or you need assistance completing the survey.


Disability Rights NC settles lawsuit with Duke for failing to accommodate student with learning disabilities

Disability Rights North Carolina recently resolved a lawsuit against Duke University for discriminating against a student with dyslexia in its Master of Divinity program. Under the settlement, Duke agreed to provide additional training to its disability services staff and liaisons to enhance the effectiveness of student accommodations, to forge a connection between the disability services office and IT staff to ensure that technical issues related to the provision of accommodations are resolved quickly, and to publicize the student ombudsman's contact information on the accessibility services website. Also, though not a component of the resolution of the case, Duke invested in an online program called SensusAccess that rapidly converts inaccessible reading material to an accessible format to provide more timely access to alternative formats of educational materials.


The lawsuit was prompted by plaintiff Bradley Elmendorf’s experience in the Master of Divinity program. Mr. Elmendorf chose to attend Duke because the disability services staff assured him that Duke had experience accommodating students with Dyslexia, and they were very confident about their ability to provide him with alternative formats of all of his reading assignments. Unfortunately, once he arrived on campus, Mr. Elmendorf did not receive the accommodations he required and had to drop, withdraw from, and take incompletes in many of his courses. When Mr. Elmendorf filed a complaint with Duke’s internal Office of Institutional Equity about the discrimination he had experienced, the Divinity School told him he would lose his tuition scholarship if he did not withdraw his grievance. Ultimately, Mr. Elmendorf changed degree programs and worked closely with professors who were better equipped to address the challenges he was experiencing with accommodations, and graduated with a Master of Arts in Christian Studies in 2014. 


Despite all the obstacles Duke placed in his way, Mr. Elmendorf never wavered in his belief in himself and his ability to obtain academic and professional success when properly accommodated for his disability. We congratulate Mr. Elmendorf on this hard-won victory, and look forward to his future accomplishments and contributions to the disability community.


If you have experienced similar barriers as a college or university student, learn about your legal rights through the higher education self-advocacy resources on our website at http://www.disabilityrightsnc.org/education-postsecondary-self-advocacy-resources. 


North Carolina Department of Public Instruction clarifies policy on feeding therapy

Thanks to a complaint filed by a parent with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) has clarified its policy on feeding therapy in schools.


The parent was told by the school district when her son started school that the NCDPI prohibited the provision of feeding therapy, and was told by a consultant for the NCDPI that the schools do not employ certified feeding therapists because certain therapies are medical issues.


As a result of the investigation by OCR, the NCDPI agreed to issue a memo to directors of Exceptional Children Programs in NC public schools and Lead Administrators of Charter Schools clarifying its policy on feeding therapy.


The memo states that the NCDPI does not have a specific policy on feeding therapy, and that the NC Policies Governing Services for Children with Disabilities requires that schools “consider the unique needs of students with disabilities when developing individualized education programs (IEPs). An IEP Team may consider feeding therapy for a student based on their unique needs.”


The memo offers resources and guidance for schools as they develop programs for students with these needs.


Read the NCDPI’s memo clarifying feeding therapy policy.


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NC DMV will reform Medical Review Program to end discrimination against drivers with disabilities 


Thousands of drivers with disabilities will be relieved of unnecessary restrictions and of repeated road testing and medical examinations based on the resolution of a lawsuit filed by Disability Rights North Carolina in 2014.


Before filing the lawsuit, Disability Rights NC received numerous calls from people with disabilities whose driving privileges had been restricted and were constantly under review by the NC Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) even though their doctors had sent the DMV a report explaining that they were capable of safely driving. One plaintiff had part of her leg amputated years ago, but the DMV required her to be continually reexamined to prove that her condition had not changed. Another had a spinal cord injury as a result of a surgery. She learned to drive with hand controls and passed the road test, but it was not enough. Every couple of years she had to pay out-of-pocket to have her doctor fill out a long medical questionnaire saying her condition was stable. A young driver with cerebral palsy had a graduated license that did not allow him to drive at night. His eye doctor did not recommend this restriction, and the effect of having it meant that he would never log enough nighttime driving hours to obtain his adult driver's license. Each plaintiff’s story was unique, but each faced the same scary prospect of losing their license if they did not provide the information the DMV required of them.  


U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle approved a Consent Judgment in the case on June 10, 2016, requiring reform of the DMV’s Medical Review Program, which Disability Rights NC argued discriminated against people with disabilities who are stable, safe drivers.


“We’re thrilled,” Disability Rights NC attorney Holly Stiles told North Carolina Health News. “Going forward, the DMV has committed to reforming itself in a way that assures that people with disabilities will not be discriminated against. We could not have done this without the cooperation of the DMV and their commitment to this process.”


The DMV Medical Review Program was intended to monitor drivers who have conditions that may deteriorate, causing them to be unsafe on the roads. But the lawsuit alleged that the restrictions and reviews were based on inaccurate assumptions about the driving abilities of people with disabilities.


The Consent Judgment resolves the complaints of seven individuals with disabilities and Disability Rights NC. It is enforceable by the Court and requires that the DMV:

  • End repeated medical reviews of individuals with a non-degenerative condition, such as cerebral palsy, a spinal cord injury, or a missing limb. 
  • End the use of assistive technology, such as hand controls or a walker, as an automatic basis for being road tested or undergoing a medical review.
  • Provide avenues to appeal and challenge requests for medical review and driving restrictions.
  • Improve access to information about the basis for the DMV’s actions and give drivers access to copies of their Medical Review Program records.
  • Remove drivers who have a non-degenerative condition and request removal from the Medical Review Program. The DMV has committed to removing drivers proactively in some cases. 
  • Provide information about how to appeal and challenge requests for medical review and driving restrictions, and request removal from the program.

If you believe you have been discriminated against by the DMV Medical Review Program, please be on the lookout for information about the steps you can take to advocate for your rights, coming soon to the Disability Rights NC website. In a limited number of cases, Disability Rights NC will provide direct assistance to drivers with non-degenerative (stable or unchanging) disabilities seeking to be removed from the Medical Review Program. To find out if your case is eligible, you may contact our office and request assistance.


Disability Rights NC welcomes summer interns

interns 2016 2

Left to right: Keir Morton-Manley, Rachel Cane, Travis White, Zoie Forster, and Beth Hutchens.

It’s summertime, which means Disability Rights NC is enjoying the collaboration of our interns. This year we have five rising second- and third-year law students who are hard at work, contributing their passion and skills to projects that advance our work in several areas.

 

Rachel Cane is a rising third-year student at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) School of Law. She worked on Deaf and Hard of Hearing legislation issues in Michigan before starting law school.


“After earning my bachelor's in social work,” said Rachel, “I decided to pursue a career in the legal profession in order to be able to advocate for more permanent solutions when people's rights are being violated. Interning with Disability Rights North Carolina will allow me to learn exactly what people's rights are in different areas of the law and how to create systemic changes that provide long-term solutions.”


Before she began studying law, rising second-year NCCU School of Law student Zoie Forster served as a residential counselor for individuals with disabilities.

 

I have been exposed to injustice, stereotypical perceptions, and the barriers faced by people with disabilities my entire life,” said Zoie. “Deciding to intern here is allowing me to gain insight and is systematically edifying me in order to advocate for those who may need the support.”

 

Rising third-year UNC School of Law student Beth Hutchens was a behavior therapist for children with autism for five years.

 

The disparity between the services of children whose parents had attorneys at IEP meetings and those that did not was clear,” she said of her experience. “Having an attorney determined the amount and quality of the services those children received, regardless of their need. I decided I wanted to be that attorney.”

 

Keir Morton-Manley, a rising third-year student at Campbell Law School, has sixteen years of experience with the NC Housing Finance Agency. She earned a bachelor's degree from Duke University as a child advocacy major in 1994 and a Master of Regional Planning degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2004.


“Law is a second career for me,” said Keir. “I am interested in pursuing education law after graduation. Working at Disability Rights NC will give me the opportunity to get a better understanding of both the educational and other rights of students with disabilities and the issues and outcomes that arise in a school setting.”


Finally, Travis White will begin his second year at UNC School of Law this fall. Travis graduated from UNC in 2010 with a degree in biology and worked for about a year as an EMT before deciding to attend law school.

 

“As an EMT,” he said, “we dealt frequently and seemingly disproportionately with homeless patients, many of whom had physical and mental disabilities. I realized that a legal career would be a better way for me to help individuals such as these, who are not always in a position to help themselves. I hope that working with Disability Rights NC this summer will allow me to do just that -- advocate for individuals who too often do not have a voice.”

 

We are pleased to have these five individuals, with their unique perspectives and their common commitment to the cause, working with us this summer.

Tel: (919) 856-2195        Toll Free: (877) 235-4210        Email: info@disabilityrightsnc.org




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