Archive for the ‘Legislation’ Category

Miniature Horses the New ADA Service Animal?

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Ramouni and Cali

Mona Ramouni rides a SMART bus to her job with her guide horse, Cali, in Lincoln Park, Mich., Thursday, April 9, 2009. Ramouni lost her sight soon after birth, but she can't use a guide dog. Many Muslims consider dogs unclean, and Ramouni respects her parents' aversion to having one in their home. The solution, she hopes, is Cali, a miniature horse who stands 30 inches tall and is being trained to help Ramouni through her daily routine. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

e new Americans with disabilities Act guidelines have been shaking up the industry, and this particular news story demonstrates that perfectly — if a bit on the extreme side, but new and different nonetheless.

Most people who require the aid of a service animal use dogs. In some cases trained assistance monkeys have been used, but assistance dogs are the “norm”. But new federal guidelines in ADA also permit the use miniature horses!

Currently, five miniature horses serve as assistance animals to the blind.

The article mentions some of the benefits and some of the difficulties of using minis as assistance animals, such as, they don’t attract fleas but they do get other parasites like ticks. A mini is about the size of a Newfoundland dog so physically they aren’t larger than a dog, but they do require more physical space for living, a stall, and an environment in which they can move about and interaction with other horses. Both a dog and a mini can be houstrained, though dogs are fed and walked a couple of times a day whereas horses eat hay and grass and produce waste all through the day. Minis can be fed grass and hay in the form of pellets, though experts cautiuon that this can cause ulcers.

Overall, the choice to use a miniature horse as a service or guide animal is probably not going to be something that everyone opts for, and experts don’t believe that this is going to be a sudden trend that individuals in need of service animals will rush out to join. Though a few experts are worried that some individuals may rush into choosing a mini for a service animal and then leave them homeless if things don’t work out.

You can read the full Washington Post article here.

The article also introduces you to Michigan State University student Mona Ramouni and her miniature guide horsel, Cali. Ramouni chose to use a mini because of her family’s devout Muslim upbringing which consider dogs to be unclean. Ramouni has pushed hard for the acceptance of using miniature horses as service/guide animals, petitioning the Department of Justice to include minis in the new ADA law.

If you’d like to know more about Ramouni and her mini Cali, a blog has been set up to document their lives together, at http://www.theeyesofmona.blogspot.com.

Related:
Associated Press. “Miniature Horse Is Lone Exception to Dog in Federal Law Governing Service Animals for Disabled.” The Washington Post. Associated Press, 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2011.

ADA 2011 Compliance Deadlines & Updates Webinar

ADA Compliance and Deadlines Handouts

Handouts from the ADA 2011 Compliance & Updates Webinar. Image courtesy Tamara Nguyen.

Today, your friendly staff at Disability Support Services at Gulf Coast Community/State College attended a webinar focused on ADA 2011 Compliance Deadlines and Updates. There are some exciting changes happening in the legal world of disability, beginning with the lowering of the clinical bar for disability diagnosis and the inclusion of a variety of medical, cognitive, and emotional conditions for coverage of disability support services in the category of Life Activities. There was also discussion on the many ways in which the program of disability support and learning services can be of assistance to our returning veterans in their endeavor of degree seeking, for which returning to a traditional classroom or educational institution may become a stressor. The webinar was informative and discussed many of the new changes, the new litigations of ADAAA, and the implementation deadlines for these new policies. Our own program has begun implementing many of these new policies and procedures and will continue to do so as higher education institutions across the nation prepare for this new transition.

Call to Action:Preserve Critical Federal Funding for Education

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If you have been keeping up with the latest happenings in the Florida Legislature — and if you haven’t been, then here’s a good place to start — then you know that one of the biggest topics of concern being discussed are several legislative acts designed to cut the funding in several areas of education. Florida has been in a state of education crisis for the past couple of years, seeing budget cut after budget cut that GCCC/GCSC has been valiantly working to buffer the impact these cuts have on our students and faculty and staff. Even still, tuition costs have risen and the need to stimulate dollars for campus operation has forced the campus to get creative, such as the imposed paid parking permits.

But early Saturday morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own legislation, H.R. 1, that reduced spending for the current federal fiscal year 2011 by almost $100 billion.

To put this in a more personally-understood relation, this deep reduction puts a pretty devestating cut to the Pell Grant program — an area of the most importance for our students. With the cuts, maximum grant would drop by $845 for the award year starting July 1. In effect, students would be responsible for this cut by the cost of tuition rising $845. That would have a total impact on about two million needy students who rely on the Pell Grant, and would negate all the hard won increases in the maximum grant that has been secured over the last four years — including President Obama’s Education Reconciliation Act, which increased the Pell Grant scholarship award.

H.R.1 would also de-fund all Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs (a critical part of not only our college by also our community) for the rest of the year, significantly reduce funding for the Hispanic-serving Institutions program, and eliminate the Predominantly Black Institutions and Tech Prep programs.

H.R.1 now moves on to the Senate for consideration. It is important that Senators understand the kind of critical damage passing H.R.1 would have on our students in higher education. They need to hear from YOU that the substantial cuts to the Pell Grant and other key programs is unnacceptable. AACC logoDeep cuts like this deny accessibility to attend college and receive critical services that the community and state colleges afford the community and as a whole will harm the nation’s economy.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is asking that in communication with your Senators, that you include the following message:

  1. The $5,500 Pell Grant maximum must be maintained for FY 2011. A cut of $845 as included in the House version of H.R. 1 is disastrous public policy. It would decrease opportunities to attend and succeed at community college. It would also damage the nation’s economy by preventing people from acquiring the training that they need.
  2. WIA programs must continue to receive adequate funding. The House version of H.R. 1 eliminates all funding for the major WIA Title I programs for Program Year 2011. Community colleges across the country use these programs to provide a variety of job training services; cutting them is a short-sighted move at this time.
  3. The federal government must maintain targeted investments in a few critical institutional programs, including Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Predominantly Black Institutions, and Asian-American Serving Institutions. These programs must be maintained.

The AACC also suggests that the more locally focused you can make your case, the better. Tell Senators about the extent to which students depend on Pell Grant. This is an EVERYBODY crisis — as beings of a community with social responsibility, we are all responsible for providing accessibility to higher education for everyone. Describe to Senators how Workforce helps meet local labor market and related needs.

For information about contacting your senator’s office, please consult the AACC website by visiting www.aacc.nche.edu.

Additional [Source] information.

Health-Care Repeal Bill Would Also Eliminate Community College and Career Training Program

AACC logoThe Novemeber elections dramatically changed the political calculus in Washington, setting the U.S. House of Representatives as Republican majority while the Senate remains Democrat-controlled. At the direction of the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) board of directors, AACC has encouraged its members to educate new legislators on the role that the federal government plays in helping community colleges fulfill their missions. The role starts with ensuring that everyone who wants to attend a community college can afford to do so. Our own president, Dr. Jim Kerley, has been actively involved in these summits.

On October 5, 2010, Jill Biden convened the summit to highlight community colleges’ role in developing America’s workforce and reaching the President’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. Those White House Summit Papers can be read here. You can also read more about the White House Summit on AACC’s website.

However, as one of their first orders of business in the new Congress, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is planning a vote this week on legislation to repeal the health care reform legislation enacted last year. The Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act (H.R. 2) [act can be read here]is a one-page bill that repeals the main health-care bill and health-care items in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.

As you may remember from a post we wrote last week, the Education Reconciliation Act set up provisions that ended the bank-based student loan program and applied the resulting savings to the Pell Grant program and other such programs, increasing the amount awarded by the Pell Grant scholarship. The act was a part of the reconciliation acts proposed and funded by the health care writing committees in order to get the Health Care Reform Act passed.

If the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act (H.R. 2) were to pass, the $2 billion in funding for the Community College and Career Training Program that was included in the health care reform section of the reconciliation bill would be eliminated.

H.R.2 is expected to pass the House, but is unlikely to pass the Senate and would certainly face a presidential veto if it were to somehow pass.

AACC has written to the House of Representatives and urged it not to reduce funding for community colleges in this legislation. You may also want to do so as well, emphasizing the important role that community colleges play in delivering the education and job-training needs of its community. Note that the institutions need and are counting on this funding. But please be aware that legislators who will be voting for this legislation are not generally actively choosing to de-fund community colleges — they will acting on the health care provisions. The loss of funding for community colleges and career training programs would be an unfortunate consequence of the repealing of the health care reform act.

GCCCFor more information, contact David Baime (ext. 224), senior vice president for government relations and reasearch, or Jim Hermes (ext. 216), director of government relations.

This is not just a community college issue, this is a community issue and we urge everyone to contact their representatives and let them know how they feel about the issue. If you are not familiar with your new representatives and you wish to contact them, please visit the AACC webiste for assistance.

Education Reconciliation Act

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Along with the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), President Barack Obama also signed into effect the Education Reconciliation Act (H.R. 4872) just seven days later.

The Act was enacted into law by means of the reconciliation process, meaning, in order to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Education Act was included as part of the provisions submitted for the budget resolution text necessary to passing the law in the House and Senate. Click here for an informative Wiki on that process.

Locally, the Education Reconciliation Act brought both welcome and unwelcome news, as many in the area were affected by the closing of SallyMae, a large provider of the areas employment. Still, the Act does provide some benefits in the area of education, especially that in the form of student loan reform. The language is very similar to the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act that also passed the House last year, but with some slight variation. This reform package includes:

Health Care Reform, Resolutions and You

How Does Health Care Reform Impact You?

Image via Neurology Now Sept/Oct Vol. 6 Iss. 5, article "How Does Health Care Reform Impact You?"

With the start of the new year and those pesky well intentioned resolutions that hardly see the light of day past February, taking better care of our health is usually at the top of the resolution list. Everything from resolving to lose weight to eating better to being more regular with doctors visits, resolving to take better care of our well being should also include knowing how last years enacted Health Care Reform Act effects you and your loved ones.

Signed into law March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) — a.k.a. the Health Care Reform Act — decisively changed the health care system in the United States. According to an article written in Neurology Now, it is estimated that an additional 32 million Americans will have health insurance by 2019. The law will also allow some people with chronic diseases who were previously excluded from being covered due to pre-existing condition, employment situation, or cost to find new health insurance exchanges and tax deductions to gain them coverage.

You can read the bill text as well as view a helpful Wiki and follow the Money Trail (i.e. the interests the supported the bill) here at www.opencongress.org.

For a quick and informative breakdown of the major impact the health care reform act will have, this article in the Sept/Oct issue of Neurology Now does a nice job of hitting the major points. Of course, the best way to understand the new law is to read the action in original form and to ask questions of your local representatives, but the article “How does Health Care Reform Impact You?” puts into an easy to read format the gist of what the bill does and may direct you to specific areas within the act that are of personal interest.

So while your still gunghoe about keeping your New Year’s resolutions, find some time to read this article and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Related:
Wesolowski, Kierstin. “THIS WAY IN: How Does Health Care Reform Impact You?” Neurology Now 6.5 (2010): 9-11. Print.

STEPP AHEAD

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Summary:
The Alternative Media Access Center (AMAC) in partnership with CourseSmart and the AccessText Network (ATN) have come together to request funding in support of an innovative, e-textbook rental program entitled the STudent E-rent Pilot Project (STEPP). While STEPP is designed to meet the textbook rental needs of any postsecondary student, the program is unique in that its textbook offerings are specially modified for accessibility, and comply with Section 504 requirements under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

In brief, STEPP leverages the expertise of AMAC, one of the nation’s leaders in producing accessible educational text, with the established distribution network of CourseSmart, the nation’s number one electronic textbook rental service, and the reach of ATN, the nation’s only ―one-stop shop‖ for disability service providers with a need for alternative format text files. For the first time, students with disabilities will enjoy the benefits of significant cost savings inherent in a textbook rental program, as STEPP provides universally accessible e-textbook files for top titles.

Goals:
The goals of the STEPP initiative are as follows: (1) To save students an average of 50 percent off the retail cost for purchasing textbooks; (2) To provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in textbook rental programs and experience cost savings; (3) To develop and demonstrate a viable business model for rendering e-textbooks for rent, which are universally accessible to all; (4) To create awareness of the availability of universally accessible e-textbooks for rent; and (5) To increase knowledge and awareness amongst all players in the marketplace of the need for and the profitability of providing universally accessible e-textbooks.

Over the next two years, CourseSmart, ALternative Media Access Center, and AccessText Network will utilize a $1.1 million grant awarded them from the U.S. Department of Education to support STEPP.

Read more information on the initiatives at, www.coursesmart.com/accessibility, www.amacusg.org, and www.accesstext.org.

Disability Mentoring Day

Disability Mentoring Day logoEarlier in the month we wrote about President Obama signing into law the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. In his presidential adress, President Obama declared his beliefe that this legislation will “greatly increase access to technology, with advances in areas such as closed captioning, delivery of emergency information, video description, and other advanced communications,” all things for which he believed were “essential tools for learning and working in today’s technological society.” [Source]

Along with the efforts of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (in October), the technology act is designed not only to afford equal access for individuals with disabilities, it is also designed to create fair access to employment by individuals with disabilites with the same technology that has changed the way we work and live.

With an administration that has proclaimed a commitment to ensuring people living with disabilities have fair access, Obama has openly declaired that his driving goal is provide the means necessary to allow individuals with disabilities the opportunity to contribute to our economy and realize their dreams through career employment. Americans with disabilities continue to be employed at a rate far below Americans without disabilities, and they are underrepresented in our Federal workforce.

The effort to correct this imbalance in employment is not a new endeavor, but its nice to see the President is so committed to the cause. Beginning in 1999, Disability Mentoring Day is a national effort to promote career development for students with disabilities through hands-on career exploration. Students with disabilities (mentees) are matched with workplace mentors according to expressed career interests. Mentees then experience a typical day on the job and learn how to prepare to enter the world of work. Employers gain an increased awareness that people with disabilities represent an overlooked talent pool.

With its humble beginnings of fewer than three-dozen student participants in 1999, in 2005 some 9,000 youths with disabilities participated nationally and in 20 international locations. More then 2,000 provate, non-profit, governmental, and educational organizations participated as mentors.

This year’s Disability Mentoring Day (October 18th) saw the participation of several of our own local businesses, including Home Depot, Red Lobster, Sam’s Club, and Bill Cramer Chevrolet. We commend these mentors for their participation in the furthering of equal access employment for individuals with disabilities.

For more information on Disability Mentoring Day, visit the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Is a Deaf Driver Communication Visor Card the way to go?

One of our very own Interpreters, Rhonda Tingler, is currently researching, for one of her own classes, a policy proposal for alternative or additional identification for deaf or hard of hearing individuals to aid them in communication with, as well as insure the hearing impaired individual’s rights, when pulled over by law enforcement.

Visor Card Rochester area

Deaf Driver Communication Visor Card being used in the Rochester area.

One of the proposals for which Rhonda is researching is the voluntary issuing of Visor cards. The purpose of the Visor Card is to assist in the comunication between police officers and a hearing impaired individual during interactions at traffic stops or violations. The card also assists the deaf or hard of hearing driver in understanding the desired actions of the police officer during the traffic stop to reduce misunderstanding and confusion.

As has been adopted in other states (Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the Rochester area in New Yor state, for example), the front side of the Deaf Driver Communication Vosor Card alerts the police officerf to the fact that the driver is either deaf or hard of hearing. to one side of the card are usually listed the methods for which the hearing impaired individual can communicate, and to the other side of the card are methods for which the police officer may help in communication with the deaf driver. Here, the driver can then indicate which of each of the methods would best aid them in this interaction with law enforcement.

Also on the card are small picture icons with which the officer can use to indicate to the driver the possible reason for the stop, the actions for which the officer would like the driver to perform, or assist the officer in requesting the needed information of drivers license, registration, and proof of insurance.

On the back of the card are suggestions for what the driver should do when pulled over, such as roll down the window and place their hands on the steering wheel and wait for the officer. There is also a section for tips for using the visor card which should further facilitate the successful completion of the traffic stop.

Each state, working in conjunction with their Department for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing, has the right to construct the card as best suits the needs and laws of that state.

Rhonda is asking students if they would like to see the adoption of a similar Visor Card for our local area or for the state of Florida. Examples of the visor card can be seen at www.cityofrochester.gov for the Visor Card being used in the Rochester area, and at www.dmv.de.gov for the card being used in Delaware.

Feel free to leave your thoughts, opinions, questions, and suggestions in the comments section of this post.

Obama signs new technology access bill for the disabled

President Barack Obama with Stevie Wonder

President Barack Obama with Musician Stevie Wonder. Image via Google search.

Last Friday (Oct. 8), President Obama signed a technology access bill that will enable the blind and the deaf and hard of hearing to more easily use smart phones, the internet, and other technologies that have been staples in our growing and ever changing society. As President Obama signed the bill, he marked the occassion as being another step in guarenteeing equal access, opportunity, and respect for all Americans.

It is estimated that the new law will improve the lives of some 25 million American’s living with visual impairments and some 36 million living with hearing impairments.

The law sets federal guidelines that require the telecommunications industry to:

  • Make getting to the internet easier by improving the user interfaces on smart phones.
  • Provide audible descriptions of on-screen acions to help the visually impaired more fully enjoy television.
  • Add captions to online TV programming to help the hearing impaired.
  • Make the equipment used for internet telephone calls compatible with hearing aids.
  • Add a button or other switch to television remote controls for simpler access to closed captioning on television.

With the improvements set forth in this new law, the visually and hearing impaired will see a reduction in the thousands of dollars that they have had to spend in the past for costly accessories or software to make their cell phones and other devices more accessible.

Related:
Superville, Darlene. “Obama Signs Technology Access Bill for Disabled.” Associated Press. Associated Press, 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

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