In the News – For those with Disabilities
News topics for those dealing with the challenges of a disability.
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach
There’s so much going on every day in the world it’s hard to keep up with all the issues that affect the daily lives of people with disabilities. In an effort to keep you informed, we hope that you will find the following news items interesting and helpful.
As the holidays approach and the weather grows colder, people are spending more time inside with family and friends.
Even though more people are adhering to CDC guidelines on social distancing and wearing masks, cases of COVID-19 are increasing rapidly. People with disabilities are three times more likely to die from COVID-19 as the general population. With the recent approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, advocates for people with disabilities are asking questions, concerned that the vaccine may not be distributed in a non-discriminatory process and that the vaccine may be unaffordable for many. Organizations like the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and the National Council on Disability are pressuring the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that distribution of the vaccine complies with federal anti-discrimination laws. The CCD stated: “Disability status and age should not be used to deny or deprioritize people for a vaccine, such as categorically excluding people with certain disabilities or functional impairments or prioritizing people based on projections of long-term survivability.”
The recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for the vaccine to be given first to front-line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
Individuals who have a high risk of complications if infected and people over 65 will receive the vaccine next. The vaccine is expected to be available to the general population sometime in the spring. States will handle vaccine distribution and are not required to follow CDC guidelines, but most are expected to. Disability advocates believe people with developmental disabilities should be included in the first phase. Under current plans, individuals with developmental disabilities are eligible for the vaccine only if they live in a long-term care facility or are residents of an institution. Advocates argue this procedure should also include disabled people living in group homes or living in their own homes and receiving services.
If you have been denied disability don’t give up! Contact a Disability lawyer at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and get the benefits you deserve.
In October, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released interim final regulations requiring Medicare to cover the full cost to patients of any Covid-19 vaccine.
Coverage will also be free for Medicaid recipients. Additionally, CMS announced partnerships with CVS and Walgreens to provide vaccines at no cost to seniors and staff in long-term facilities.
New Rules for Travelers with Service Animals
The Department of Transportation has authorized new regulations limiting air travel with service animals.
The new regulations are in response to health and safety issues faced by airlines due to an increased number of animals brought on board and replace somewhat vague guidelines forcing airlines to make up their own rules.
- The only animals allowed onboard will be dogs and only dogs that are considered service dogs, trained to perform tasks for a passenger with disabilities.
- Emotional support animals will no longer qualify as service animals.
- A Department of Transportation form must be completed certifying that the dog is trained, well-behaved, and in good health.
- The dog must be leashed, harnessed, or tethered and fit within the handler’s foot space.
- Carriers may limit a disabled passenger to two service animals.
- Other animals will be considered pets and may travel in a plane’s cargo hold; airlines may charge a fee for this service.
- Passengers traveling with a service dog must be allowed to check in online rather than physically at the airport.
With fewer people traveling because of the coronavirus, it’s difficult to say how much of an impact these changes will have.
However, the new regulations, which take effect the beginning of next year, are expected to provide safer and smoother travel for people with disabilities who must travel with an animal.
Algorithms May Be Impacting the Hiring of People With Disabilities
An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.
A recent report issued by the Center for Democracy and Technology has found that software algorithms used by companies in their hiring process are having a negative impact on people with disabilities who are looking for jobs. Titled “Algorithm Hiring Tools: Innovative Recruitment or Expedited Disability Discrimination,” the report discusses the different ways computer algorithms fail to capture the complex experiences of individuals living with a disability. This is particularly evident in employee recruitment and hiring processes.
One in four adults in the U.S. lives with a disability and the employment rate of people with disabilities in the United States is about 37% compared with 79% of the population that is not disabled.
There are many different forms of disability, making it difficult to detect bias in the employment process. For example, a hiring tool might analyze facial movements and tone of voice to evaluate a candidate’s job interview or the candidate’s performance in an online game. A blind person seeking employment will experience different barriers than a person with a mobility impairment or a cognitive disorder. One of the main problems seems to be platform accessibility. How would a vision impaired candidate access a test with graphics and images? How would a candidate with a motor disability move a mouse or answer multiple choice questions? How would a candidate on the autism spectrum react to an exercise in reading facial expressions? To further complicate the problem, many candidates are afraid to disclose their disability.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities through inaccessible hiring processes or questions and exercises that do not measure skills and qualities directly related to the specific job they are applying for.
The algorithms most employers rely on in the hiring process have been modeled after positive traits of successful employees. By failing to consider the difficulties faced by candidates with disabilities, companies risk promoting discrimination in the workplace.
The Center for Democracy and Technology has some suggestions to improve the hiring process for people with disabilities and make it more equitable.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) should update its guidelines on employee selection tools to respond to changes in technology.
- Organizations must realize the limitations of algorithmic tools when assessing individuals with disabilities.
- Organizations should consider whether the qualities they are measuring (for example, “optimism,”) are necessary in the position.
- Organizations should inform each prospective candidate about the details involved in tests they are taking.
- Alternative tests should be available to candidates who believe algorithmic testing may be unfair to them.
- Organizations should develop employment policies to offset these issues.
Perhaps the biggest responsibility in resolving these issues lies with the software vendors.
They should design their products with an emphasis on accessibility – with the help and feedback of people with disabilities.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
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Author: Attorney Greg Reed has been practicing law for 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Reed obtained board certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Greg is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the United States Court of Appeals-Fifth Circuit. Mr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, and an Associate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Reed and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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