Presidential Proclamation — International Day of Persons With Disabilities, 2013
December 6th, 2013
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES, December 2, 2013
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Nearly a quarter century has gone by since our Nation passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark civil rights bill that enshrined the principles of inclusion, access, and equal opportunity into law. The ADA was born out of a movement sparked by those who understood their disabilities should not be an obstacle to success and took up the mission of tearing down physical and social barriers that stood in their way. On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we celebrate the enormous progress made at home and abroad and we strengthen our resolve to realize a world free of prejudice.
Every child deserves a decent education, every adult deserves equal access to the workplace, and every nation that allows injustice to stand denies itself the full talents and contributions of individuals with disabilities. I was proud that under my Administration the United States signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international convention based on the principles of the ADA, and I urge the Senate to provide its advice and consent to ratification. By joining the 138 parties to this convention, the United States would carry forward its legacy of global leadership on disability rights, enhance our ability to bring other countries up to our own high standards of access and inclusion, and expand opportunities for Americans with disabilities — including our 5.5 million disabled veterans — to work, study, and travel abroad.
My Administration remains committed to leading by example. This year, as we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act, we updated rules to improve hiring of veterans and people with disabilities, especially among Federal contractors and subcontractors. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurers can no longer put lifetime dollar limits on essential health benefits for Americans with disabilities. And in January, it will be illegal to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
The changes achieved in the last two decades speak to what people can accomplish when they refuse to accept the world as it is. Today let us once again reach for the world that should be — one where all people, regardless of country or disability, enjoy equal access, equal opportunity, and the freedom to realize their limitless potential.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 3, 2013, as International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I call on all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this second day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
Does a jurisdiction have to provide curb ramps at every intersection on existing streets?
November 21st, 2013
No. To promote both efficiency and accessibility, public entities may choose to construct curb ramps at every point where a pedestrian walkway intersects a curb, but they are not necessarily required to do so. Alternative routes to buildings that make use of existing curb cuts may be acceptable under the concept of program accessibility in the limited circumstances where individuals with disabilities need only travel a marginally longer route.
To achieve or maintain program accessibility, it may be appropriate to establish an ongoing procedure for installing curb ramps upon request in areas frequented by individuals with disabilities as residents, employees, or visitors.
However, when streets, roads, or highways are newly built or altered, they must have ramps or sloped areas wherever there are curbs or other barriers to entry from a sidewalk or path. Likewise, when new sidewalks or paths are built or are altered, they must contain curb ramps or sloped areas wherever they intersect with streets, roads, or highways. Resurfacing beyond normal maintenance is an alteration.
New App allows those with disabilities to rate businesses
November 19th, 2013
The App, AbleRoad, informs people about accessible places and gives people with disabilities and their families an online destination to rate and review businesses.
AbleRoad offers reviews of restaurants, stores, hotels, medical practices and facilities, churches, educational institutions, and entertainment venues.
AbleRoad has teamed with Yelp so users see both Yelp ratings that include such things as quality of food and the AbleRoad ratings.
Registered users can achieve badge ranking based on the number of reviews they post, number of likes received on their reviews and how others’ experiences compare to theirs.
Even if a Yelp rating is not available for a business, comments can be submitted on AbleRoad.
Businesses can respond to ratings and report how negative issues were remedied.
The AbleRoad app is free and available for both iphone and Android.
For more information see www.ableroad.com
How many companion seats at a concert venue can a person with a disability purchase for their guests in the accessible seating area?
November 18th, 2013
People purchasing a ticket for an accessible seat may purchase up to three additional seats for their companions in the same row and these seats must be contiguous with the accessible seat.
If contiguous seats have already been sold and are not available, the venue must offer other seats as close as possible to the accessible seat.
If those seats are in a different price category, the venue is not required to modify the price and may charge the same price as it charges others for those seats.
Where a venue limits ticket sales to fewer than four tickets, those limits also apply to tickets for accessible seats.
Similarly, when a venue allows the purchase of more than four tickets, that policy also applies to tickets for accessible seats, but only three companion seats must be contiguous with the accessible seat.
Virginia Income Tax Treatment of Same-Sex Marriage
November 14th, 2013
On November 8, 2013 the Virginia Department of Taxation issued tax bulletin 13-13 which informs same-sex spouses that they will be required to file their Virginia income tax returns as single indiviuals.
Bulletin 13-13 states the following:
“On September 16, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service published Revenue Ruling 2013-17, 2013-38 I.R.B. 201, which provides that same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes if they were legally married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, regardless of whether such couples lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage. This ruling was issued in response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013).
Because Virginia’s income tax law generally conforms to federal income tax law, the marital status of a couple for Virginia income tax purposes is historically based on whether the couple is considered married for federal income tax purposes. However, Article I, § 15-A of the Constitution of Virginia and Va. Code § 20-45.2 specifically prohibit the recognition of any marriage in Virginia other than a marriage between one man and one woman. To determine the impact of Revenue Ruling 2013-17 on Virginia income tax returns, the Virginia Department of Taxation (“the Department”) sought legal advice and was advised that Article I, § 15-A of the Constitution of Virginia and Va. Code § 20-45.2 require Virginia to deconform from the federal income tax treatment of same-sex marriage.
Accordingly, same-sex married couples who file federal income tax returns jointly, or as married taxpayers filing separately, will be required to file their Virginia income tax returns as single individuals. This policy may potentially impact a number of items on Virginia income tax returns, including the following:
• Filing status,
• Above-the-line deductions,
• Standard and itemized deductions,
• Personal and dependency exemptions, and
• Virginia tax credits for low-income taxpayers.”
For more information on the adjustments same-sex married couples must make when filing their Virginia income tax returns as single taxpayers as well as adjustments that must be made by businesses that claim deductions for certain expenses incurred for same-sex partners of employees please see http://www.tax.virginia.gov/Documents/TB_13-13_DOMA.pdf
New DOT Rules Make Flying Easier for Passengers with Disabilities
November 8th, 2013
On November 4, 2013, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in its ongoing effort to ensure equal access to air transportation for all travelers, is requiring airline websites and automated airport kiosks to be accessible to passengers with disabilities.
In addition, DOT will allow airlines to choose between stowing wheelchairs in a cabin compartment on new aircraft or strapping them to a row of seats, an option that will ensure that two manual, folding wheelchairs can be transported at a time.
The new rules are part of DOT’s continuing implementation of the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986.
Under the new websites-and-kiosks rule, covered airlines are required within two years to make pages of their websites that contain core travel information and services accessible to persons with disabilities, and to make all of their web pages accessible within three years. Websites are required to meet the standards for accessibility contained in the widely accepted Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The requirement applies to U.S. and foreign airlines with websites marketing air transportation to U.S. consumers for travel within, to or from the United States.
The rule also requires ticket agents to disclose and offer web-based discount fares to customers unable to use their sites due to a disability starting within 180 days after the rule’s effective date. Airlines are already required to provide equivalent service for consumers who are unable to use inaccessible websites. Under the new rule, airlines must also offer equivalent service to passengers with disabilities who are unable to use their websites even if the websites meet the WCAG accessibility standards.
In addition, any automated kiosks installed at U.S. airports for services — such as printing boarding passes and baggage tags –must be accessible to passengers with disabilities until at least 25 percent of all kiosks at each airport location are accessible. Even if no new kiosks are installed, 25 percent of kiosks at each airport location must be accessible within 10 years. The standards for accessible kiosks are based on those set by the U.S. Department of Justice for ATM and fare machines in its 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act rule as well as the Section 508 standards for self-contained closed products, such as copiers.
DOT’s wheelchair rule provides airlines with more flexibility because it permits airlines to transport passenger wheelchairs by strapping them across a row of seats using a strap kit that complies with applicable safety standards, in addition to stowing them in a closet or similar compartment. In 2008, DOT issued a rule prohibiting airlines from using the seat-strapping method on new aircraft as an alternative to stowing the manual wheelchair in a closet or similar compartment. In that same rule, DOT allowed the use of a seat-strapping method on existing aircraft. Based on a fuller evaluation of the costs and benefits, DOT has now revised its position to also allow the use of seat-strapping on new aircraft subject to certain conditions. For example, if an airline chooses to use the seat-strapping method to stow a wheelchair, it must transport two wheelchairs in the cabin if requested unless stowing the second wheelchair would displace other passengers.
If an airline chooses to use a closet to stow a wheelchair, then it will still be required to stow only one wheelchair in the cabin. However, in this case it must install a sign or placard prominently on the closet indicating that a wheelchair and other assistive devices are to be stowed in this area with priority over other items brought onto the aircraft by other passengers or crew, including crew luggage.
National Call-In Day for Disability Treaty—November 11th
November 7th, 2013
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee needs to hear from the public that there is support for the Disability Treaty (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD).
The opposition is flooding Senate offices with calls against the treaty.
According to the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD), the opponents continue to mislead senators about the treaty and its impact on parental rights and national sovereignty.
Nov. 11 is a national call-in day to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ask them to fight for the 1 billion people with disabilities around the world by supporting the ratification of the CRPD.
Visit the citizen action center to make your voice heard.
November 7th, 2013
Are you a person with a disability?
Do you have a family member or close friend with a disability?
Do you work or volunteer in this field?
If so, please take 10-15 minutes to take this survey focused on opportunities for people with disabilities in America.
Finish the survey and you will be entered for a chance to win $500!
Social Security Announces 1.5 Percent Benefit Increase for 2014
October 30th, 2013
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 63 million Americans will increase 1.5 percent in 2014, the Social Security Administration announced today (October 30, 2013).
The 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 57 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2014. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2013.
Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $117,000 from $113,700. Of the estimated 165 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2014, about 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
Dine for Disability
October 21st, 2013
Please join the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and celebrate Dine for Disability on Monday, October 28th by encouraging your friends and family to dine at the following restaurants in the DC metro area:
M Street Bar and Grill
The Degrees Bar and Lounge – Ritz Carlton
Jake’s American Grille
The Ugly Mug
District 2 Bar & Grille
AAPD’s partnering restaurants have agreed to donate a portion of their proceeds on Monday, October 28th to support the disability civil rights movement. So please feast away, and support this noteworthy cause!
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is the nation’s largest disability rights organization. They promote equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities. Their members, who include people with disabilities and their familes, friends, and supporters, represent a powerful force for change.
Please contact Meredith Raymond at email@example.com or 202-521-4318 with any comments or questions.
Are people with disabilities allowed to operate power-driven mobility devices such as Segways and golf carts in non-pedestrian areas?
October 16th, 2013
Public accommodations must allow individuals who use these devices to enter their premises unless the business can demonstrate that the particular type of device cannot be accommodated because of legitimate safety requirements.
Such safety requirements must be based on actual risks, not on speculation or stereotypes about a particular class of devices or how they will be operated by individuals using them.
Important Information About the Federal Government Shutdown
October 4th, 2013
Due to the Federal Government Shutdown, Social Security field offices are open with limited services. Hearings offices remain open to conduct hearings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Social Security card centers are closed.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments to beneficiaries will continue with no change in payment dates.
Due to Congressional inaction to prevent the Government shutdown, Social Security will only provide the following services at Social Security field offices:
1.Help you apply for benefits
2.Assist you in requesting an appeal
3.Change your address or direct deposit information
4.Accept reports of death
5.Verify or change your citizenship status
6.Replace a lost or missing Social Security payment
7.Issue a critical payment
8.Change a representative payee
9.Process a change in your living arrangement or income (SSI recipients only)
Social Security offices cannot provide the following services:
1.Issue new or replacement Social Security cards
2.Replace your Medicare card
3.Issue a proof of income letter
If your visit involves any Social Security-related service not listed above, the local Social Security office will be unable to assist you. Social Security Online Services will remain open.
Does the ADA apply to owner-occupied inns and B&Bs with five or fewer rooms?
October 4th, 2013
No, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not cover owner-occupied inn and B&Bs with five or fewer rooms.
Starbucks Will Offer Braille Gift Cards Year-Round
October 3rd, 2013
Since the Fall of 2011, Starbucks has offered Braille gift cards only during October to correspond with national disability employment awareness month.
Now Starbucks says the Braille cards will become available year round.
The gift card has Braille lettering reading “Starbucks” so that blind customers’ can distinguish this card from other cards in their wallets.
Under what circumstances can an employer ask an employee to self-identify as having a disability?
September 20th, 2013
Federal contractors and subcontractors who are covered by the affirmative action requirements of section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 may invite individuals with disabilities to identify themselves on a job application form or by other pre-employment inquiry, to satisfy the section 503 affirmative action requirements.
Employers who request such information must observe section 503 requirements regarding the manner in which such information is requested and used, and the procedures for maintaining such information as a separate, confidential record, apart from regular personnel records.
A pre-employment inquiry about a disability is allowed if required by another Federal law or regulation such as those applicable to disabled veterans and veterans of the Vietnam era.
Pre-employment inquiries about disabilities may be necessary under such laws to identify applicants or clients with disabilities in order to provide them with required special services.
Can a medical provider deny a patient treatment because they do not have accessible medical equipment?
September 13th, 2013
Generally, no. A medical provider cannot deny service to a patient with a disability.
As a reasonable accommodation, they may need to provide an accessible exam table, an accessible stretcher or gurney, or a patient lift, or have enough trained staff who can assist the patient in transferring to the exam table.
Social Security Disability and the Affordable Care Act
September 12th, 2013
With the implementation of health care reform proceeding under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently published a Federal Register notice of a computer match with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to obtain certain information. 78 Fed. Reg. 48170 (Aug.7, 2013).
Obtaining this information may lead to more Social Security disability beneficiaries becoming eligible for health insurance coverage, especially during the 24-month waiting period.
The ACA requires HHS to establish, among other things, a program for determining eligibility for certain Insurance Affordability Programs and an online system for verification of eligibility. The data provided by SSA to the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) will be used to make initial eligibility determinations and other eligibility determinations (e.g., appeals, renewals, redeterminations) for Insurance Affordability Programs, which include:
1. Qualified Health Plan through an Exchange established under the ACA
2. Advance payments of the premium tax credit and cost sharing reductions
4. Children’s Health Insurance Program
5. Basic Health Program
According to the notice, SSA will provide CMS with the following information when relevant, including: (1) SSN verifications; (2) indicator of finding of disability under Title II; (3) monthly and annual Social Security Title II benefit information; (4) quarters of coverage; and (5) confirmation that an allegation of citizenship is consistent with SSA records.
Best Lawyers In America 2014
September 6th, 2013
The Falls Church Virginia Law Firm of Needham Mitnick & Pollack is proud to announce that NMP Attorneys Helen Cohn Needham & Sheri R. Abrams have been named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2014.
Helen Cohn Needham was named in the Elder Law—Estate Planning category & Sheri R. Abrams was named in the Elder Law—-Social Security Disability catagory.
Both Helen & Sheri are being honored by the publication as a Best Lawyer for the second consecutive year.
The Best Lawyers in America is the oldest peer-review publication in the legal profession. It recognizes attorneys in 128 practice areas from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Are people with disabilities required to give advance notice about their service dog when booking a taxi?
September 4th, 2013
A person with a disability does not have to provide advance notice that he or she will be traveling with a service animal.
Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities.
Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same service.
I.R.S. to Recognize All Gay Marriages, Regardless of State
August 29th, 2013
All legally married same-sex couples will be recognized for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the state where they live recognizes the marriage, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said Thursday.
The federal rules change is one of many stemming from the landmark Supreme Court decision in June that struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. That ruling found that same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits, but left open the question of how the federal government would actually administer those benefits.
“Imagine a pair of women who marry in Albany and then move to Alabama,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote at the time of the decision. “May they file a joint federal income tax return? Does the answer turn on where they were married or where they live?”
As of the 2013 tax year, same-sex spouses cannot file federal tax returns as if they were single. Instead, they will have to opt for filing as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” The location of their marriage — as long as it is legal — or residence does not matter: a same-sex couple who marry in Albany and move to Alabama will be treated the same as a same-sex couple who marry and live in Massachusetts.
“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax-filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”
The Treasury said that the ruling applies to “all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an I.R.A., and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.”
The ruling applies to all legal marriages made in the United States or foreign countries. But it does not extend to civil unions, registered domestic partnerships or other legal relationships, the Treasury said. Same-sex spouses will be able to file as married couples for the 2013 tax year, the Treasury said, and will also be able to file amended returns for certain prior tax years, meaning that many couples might be eligible for refunds.
SOURCE: ANNIE LOWREY, NEW YORK TIMES, AUGUST 29, 2013
Does a Disability Automatically Qualify a Student to Receive Special Education Services?
August 23rd, 2013
No, having a disability does not automatically qualify a student to receive special education services.
Assessments and evaluations to determine whether the student’s disability is adversely affecting academic performance would be conducted before a decision is made.
If the student does not qualify as needing special education services, the student may be entitled to protections under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Section 504 protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination related to their disabilities and requires school districts to take actions to ensure that students with disabilities have access to equal education opportunities, like alternate testing formats and using assistive technology in the classroom.
An individual with a disability is not exempt from going through the screening process at airports
August 16th, 2013
All passengers must be screened before entering an airport’s secure boarding area.
If needed, alternate procedures, which provide an equivalent level of security screening are available and can be done in private.
The TSA has information for people with disabilities to learn about the screening process at www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/travelers-disabilities-and-medical-conditions.
The Social Security Administration is Replacing the Term “Mental Retardation” in its Listing of Impairments
August 12th, 2013
The United States Federal Register is replacing the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in the Listing of Impairments that are used to evaluate claims involving mental disorders in adults and children under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act and in other appropriate sections of the rules.
This change reflects the widespread adoption of the term “intellectual disability” by Congress, government agencies, and various public and private organizations.
“Advocates for individuals with intellectual disability have rightfully asserted that the term ‘‘mental retardation’’ has negative connotations, has become offensive to many people, and often results in misunderstandings about the nature of the disorder and those who have it,” the Social Security Administration concluded.
The final rule which will take effect on September 3, 2013, follows the January 28, 2013 release of draft regulations and a call for public comment.
For more information see:
Statement of Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, on Payments to Same-Sex Couples
August 9th, 2013
Today August 9th 2013 Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, issued the following statement on Payments to Same-Sex Couples:
“I am pleased to announce that Social Security is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due. The recent Supreme Court decision on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, made just over a month ago, helps to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally, with the dignity and respect they deserve.
We continue to work closely with the Department of Justice. In the coming weeks and months, we will develop and implement additional policy and processing instructions. We appreciate the public’s patience as we work through the legal issues to ensure that our policy is legally sound and clear.
I encourage individuals who believe they may be eligible for Social Security benefits to apply now, to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized.”
To learn more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
Under the ADA, what are the access obligations of an historic home, now operating as a museum open to the public?
August 9th, 2013
Alterations to historic properties must comply with the specific provisions governing historic properties in the Americans with Disabilities Act Architectural Guidelines or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, to the maximum extent feasible.
Under those provisions, alterations should be done in full compliance with the alterations standards for other types of buildings. However, if following the usual standards would threaten or destroy the historic significance of a feature of the building, alternative standards may be used.
The decision to use alternative standards for that feature must be made in consultation with the appropriate historic advisory board and interested persons should be invited to participate in the decision-making process.
The alternative requirements for historic buildings or facilities provide a minimal level of access. For example –
1) An accessible route is only required from one site access point (such as the parking lot).
2) A ramp may be steeper than is ordinarily permitted.
3) The accessible entrance does not need to be the one used by the general public.
4) Only one accessible toilet is required and it may be unisex.
5) Accessible routes are only required on the level of the accessible entrance.