|Name||Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilit|
|Address||60B Weston Street|
|Address Line 2|
|Toll-free Phone||800 842-7303|
|Toll-free TTY||800 842-7303|
|Name of P&A Executive Director||James D. McGaughey|
|Name of PAIR Director/Coordinator||James D. McGaughey|
|Person to contact regarding report||Gretchen Knauff|
|Contact Person phone||860 297 4342|
Multiple responses are not permitted.
|1. Individuals receiving I&R within PAIR priority areas||2|
|2. Individuals receiving I&R outside PAIR priority areas||0|
|3. Total individuals receiving I&R (lines A1 + A2)||2|
|1. Number of trainings presented by PAIR staff||2|
|2. Number of individuals who attended training (approximate)||40|
A. Information and Referral Services — The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A) used its PAIR funds to pay the partial salary and fringe benefits of a PAIR attorney and Secretary. The attorney is not responsible for answering information and referral inquiries and therefore this report reflects only 2 calls answered by the PAIR program.
A couple of years ago, P&A changed its information and referral procedures to ensure more efficient responses to calls and other inquiries to the agency. Individuals contacting P&A are now referred to advocates who are subject matter experts in the issue area presented by the caller including special education, mental illness, voting, assistive technology, traumatic brain injury, vocational rehabilitation and social security. The information and referral unit handles all other inquiries including but not limited to housing, accessibility, financial entitlements, higher education, guardianship, conservatorship, government services, rights violations, and abuse and neglect. The I&R staff are non-federally funded but handle topics that would qualify under PAIR as detailed in the following paragraph.
The following demonstrates the work done by P&A’s I&R advocates during the 2011 fiscal year: In 2011, P&A advocates received requests for information from 3,287 individuals with disabilities, their family members, and interested parties. P&A’s advocates handled requests for information and assistance from callers, walk-in clients, legislators, e-mail contacts, letters and visitors to the P&A website. The largest volume of calls (565) related to Abuse or Neglect including inappropriate mental health treatment; excessive or involuntary medication; physical, verbal or sexual assault; inappropriate restraint; and financial exploitation. They also responded to questions concerning Housing (514), Government Benefits and Services (352), Rights Violations (346), Employment (231), Education (200), Services (194), Healthcare (135), Rehabilitation Services (74), Financial Entitlements (97), Transportation (70), Architectural Accessibility (46), Guardianship and Conservatorship (42), Parental Rights/Childcare (28) Assistive Technology (27), Post Secondary Education (20), Insurance (14), and Recreation (8). Advocates also responded to 270 requests for simple information like a copy of a publication or the name of a case manager. Callers also contacted P&A about voting rights and access to government programs.
B. Training Activities — Historically, the PAIR attorney has not provided training to people with disabilities, family members and others. The 2011 fiscal year was the same, reflecting only 2 trainings by the PAIR attorney. Approximately, 40 people received training and 230 publications were distributed. Other P&A staff members sponsored or participated in 83 training events, including presentations, workshops, conferences, and resource fairs. More than 2,600 individuals received training on topics that included P&A programs and services; rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act; special education including “least restrictive environment”, inclusion, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, transition and due process; voting rights of people with disabilities; employment rights and work incentives; vocational rehabilitation; assistive technology; parent leadership; right to refuse medication and rights of people with mental illness; and abuse investigation. Information was disseminated to more than 3,200 people at 14 resource fairs. Over 13,500 publications and P&A program brochures were distributed to individuals and organizations throughout the year. More than 3,500 people were given the opportunity to register to vote.
The P&A website is constantly updated and includes current news and a calendar of upcoming events; P&A program descriptions and agency publications; legislative updates; links to websites for disability rights and resources; and reports on developments in the field of disability rights. Last year, 38,380 visitors obtained information through the site. (www.ct.gov/opapd). P&A continued to enhance the Spanish version of its website, developed in 2010. The website includes Spanish translations of information on P&A programs, self—help brochures and information about P&A programs and services.
Both presentation/training events conducted by the PAIR attorney advocate detailed P&A programs and services including a description of the various state and federal programs funded by the agency with a specific description of the types of issues handled under the PAIR program. The training method includes a PowerPoint presentation and written materials about the agency.
|1. Radio and TV appearances by PAIR staff||0|
|2. Newspaper/magazine/journal articles||2|
|3. PSAs/videos aired||0|
|4. Hits on the PAIR/P&A website||38,380|
|5. Publications/booklets/brochures disseminated||13,500|
|6. Other (specify separately)||0|
Count individual once per FY. Multiple counts not permitted for lines A1 through A3.
|1. Individuals still served as of October 1 (carryover from prior FY)||20|
|2. Additional individuals served during the year||19|
|3. Total individuals served (lines A1 + A2)||39|
|4. Individuals w. more than 1 case opened/closed during the FY. (Do not add this number to total on line A3 above.)||6|
Carryover to next FY may not exceed total on line II. A.3 above 20
|1. Architectural accessibility||0|
|3. Program access||16|
|5. Government benefits/services||1|
|8. Assistive technology||0|
|10. Health care||10|
|12. Non-government services||4|
|13. Privacy rights||0|
|14. Access to records||0|
|1. Issues resolved partially or completely in individual favor||21|
|2. Other representation found||0|
|3. Individual withdrew complaint||2|
|4. Appeals unsuccessful||0|
|5. PAIR Services not needed due to individual's death, relocation etc.||1|
|6. PAIR withdrew from case||1|
|7. PAIR unable to take case because of lack of resources||0|
|8. Individual case lacks legal merit||0|
List the highest level of intervention used by PAIR prior to closing each case file.
|1. Technical assistance in self-advocacy||2|
|2. Short-term assistance||10|
|5. Mediation/alternative dispute resolution||4|
|6. Administrative hearings||6|
|7. Litigation (including class actions)||1|
|8. Systemic/policy activities||0|
|1. 0 - 4||0|
|2. 5 - 22||7|
|3. 23 - 59||28|
|4. 60 - 64||2|
|5. 65 and over||2|
Multiple responses not permitted.
|1. Hispanic/Latino of any race||6|
|2. American Indian or Alaskan Native||0|
|4. Black or African American||6|
|5. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander||0|
|7. Two or more races||0|
|8. Race/ethnicity unknown||0|
Multiple responses not permitted.
|2. Parental or other family home||13|
|3. Community residential home||1|
|4. Foster care||0|
|5. Nursing home||1|
|6. Public institutional living arrangement||1|
|7. Private institutional living arrangement||2|
|8. Jail/prison/detention center||4|
|10. Other living arrangements||0|
|11. Living arrangements not known||0|
Identify the individual's primary disability, namely the one directly related to the issues/complaints
|1. Blind/visual impairment||0|
|2. Deaf/hard of hearing||23|
|4. Orthopedic impairment||1|
|5. Mental illness||3|
|6. Substance abuse||0|
|7. Mental retardation||0|
|8. Learning disability||4|
|9. Neurological impairment||0|
|10. Respiratory impairment||2|
|11. Heart/other circulatory impairment||1|
|12. Muscular/skeletal impairment||1|
|13. Speech impairment||0|
|15. Traumatic brain injury||1|
|16. Other disability||3|
|1. Number of policies/practices changed as a result of non-litigation systemic activities||1|
|2. Number of individuals potentially impacted by policy changes||360,000|
Describe your systemic activities. Be sure to include information about the policies that were changed and how these changes benefit individuals with disabilities. Include case examples of how your systemic activities impacted individuals served.
Hospital Services for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing — Several years ago, P&A completed its official monitoring under C.A.D. v Middlesex Hospital, Civ. No. 395CV 2408 (AHN). P&A staff, however, continued to receive and address complaints concerning lack of sign language interpreter services at hospitals in Connecticut. The case raised claims under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, alleging that 10 hospitals in Connecticut failed to provide effective communication to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. The settlement ultimately included all 32 Connecticut hospitals and required a statewide on-call interpreter system, provision of assistive technology, training for hospital staff and monetary damages.
During the 2011 fiscal year, P&A continued to receive complaints regarding lack of interpreters for hospital visits, both emergency and scheduled visits. Many of the hospitals are also trying the video relay service which has proven difficult for many P&A clients in emergency situations. P&A received requests for assistance to file complaints against eight (8) Connecticut hospitals due to their failure to provide effective communication for patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing. PAIR advocates accompanied these individuals to meetings with administrators to allow the patient and /or companion to explain his or her experience and to develop recommendations to improve the communication services to patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing. The PAIR attorney assisted several individuals who filed discrimination complaints against the offending hospitals.
The consent decree benefited approximately 20,000 Connecticut residents with hearing loss. P&A’s continued willingness to address complaints forces the hospitals to continue to provide the level of service required under the consent decree.
2. Enforcing the Accessibility Requirements of the Connecticut Building Code - P&A is statutorily mandated to work with the Office of the State Building Inspector (OSBI) to ensure compliance with the accessibility provisions of the Connecticut State Building Code. Individuals and businesses seeking waivers from the accessibility provisions or permission to install a wheelchair lift, must file a request with P&A and OSBI. These are jointly reviewed by staff members from both entities and the waiver is either granted or denied. P&A staff members work with OSBI to respond to these waiver requests with the idea of ensuring that accessibility/AT features, such as ramps and grab bars, are not waived unless installation or construction is “technically infeasible” or “unreasonably complicates construction”. This process includes weekly meetings with a representative from the Office of the State Building Inspector to review and decide on accessibility waiver requests; frequent meetings with developers to discuss their proposals and brainstorm alternatives to waiving the accessibility requirements; participation in appeals hearings before the State Codes and Standards Committee; and research on available products that enable compliance with the State Building Code.
During the 2011 fiscal year, P&A reviewed and made determinations on 65 requests for waivers and 33 requests for the use of wheelchair lifts. Three waiver denials were appealed to the Codes and Standards Committee.
Case Example: P&A was presented with a waiver request from a large company for exemption from providing accessibility to a new, second floor warehouse area. The justification for the waiver was familiar: “No one with a disability can work in this area because of the particular job responsibilities performed there.” Is this an appropriate reason to grant a waiver? No! As the advocate said during the eventual hearing: “Who does what where is irrelevant to an accessibility code issue.”
The State Building Code grants waivers for only two reasons: technical infeasibility (which refers to a structural issue that makes the creation of accessibility infeasible) or unreasonable complication of construction (which covers very rare situations where creating accessibility would present serious difficulties). In this particular case, and others like it, there was no infeasibility and no complication. If the Code requires an area to be accessible, then it must be accessible. The code does not make judgments on employment issues, i.e., on who does what where; it covers the structure, and the structure, only. The request was denied, and a subsequent hearing panel upheld the denial. And the ultimate outcome? A more accessible Connecticut.
This activity benefits people with disabilities by ensuring that housing, businesses and governmental facilities conform to accessibility codes, allowing access to more and more facilities in Connecticut. This is extremely important in increasing the stock of accessible housing in Connecticut and ensuring that people with disabilities have access to businesses, schools, places of recreation and other facilities in their communities.
3. Addressing Violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for Prisoners Who have Disabilities - During the 2011 fiscal year, P&A continued its project, developed in response to complaints by prisoners who were being denied effective communication and other accommodations in the Connecticut prison system. P&A received more than 50 complaints from prisoners with disabilities who claimed that they are being denied their rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Complaints included, lack of physical accessibility to courthouses; denial of assistive technology devices including hearing aids; medication administration; denial of work opportunities due to disability and denial of reasonable accommodation for life threatening food allergies.
It is difficult to estimate the number of persons with disabilities who might benefit from changes in policies and procedures that affect prisoners with disabilities. The number of prisoners in the Connecticut Corrections System is more than 18,000. The Department of Correction does not list disability statistics on its website.
Case Example: The PAIR attorney assisted an inmate who contacted P&A because he was being denied employment. He became ill while in prison and needed to use a wheelchair. He was informed that because of the wheelchair, he would no longer be eligible to do his prison job and the job was given to another inmate. The PAIR attorney contacted the supervisor at the job and discussed the inmate’s employment rights. She was able to negotiate an agreement that would give the inmate his job back.
4. Training for Police Departments — During the 2011 fiscal year, the PAIR Program received complaints from persons who are deaf or hearing impaired regarding the denial of effective communication as witnesses and victims. The PAIR attorney assisted with complaints involving 5 local police departments and the State Police. As a result of the complaints, P&A staff members, including the PAIR attorney, have been working with federal officials to develop a systemic strategy to address the issue. The strategy includes planning and implementing a presentation through the entity that trains police officers in Connecticut.
There is no example for this systems activity but it could benefit all people with disabilities who are deaf or hearing impaired. Research on the United States Census Bureau website and contact with the Connecticut Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired did not yield good estimates about the number of people who have hearing loss that rises to the level of disability. In a previous case, the number was estimated at 20,000 people.
|1. Number of individuals potentially impacted by changes as a result of PAIR litigation/class action efforts||360,000|
|2. Number of individuals named in class actions||101|
Describe your litigation/class action activities. Explain how individuals with disabilities benefited from your litigation activities. Be sure to include case examples that demonstrate the impact of your litigation.
1. Laflamme and P&A v. New Horizons, Inc. - This case is a housing discrimination case involving New Horizons, Inc., a corporation that runs a program operated under a state law that provides housing for individuals with severe physical disabilities. The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A) and the named plaintiff allege that the program discriminates against individuals with mental illness, and illegally requires that applicants divulge confidential mental health information as well as other medical information in order to be eligible to be a tenant at New Horizons. Village. P&A and the named plaintiff also allege that the program illegally requires tenants to be able to live independently.
After three years in court, the case settled in 2009. The terms of the settlement, which are embodied in a consent decree, provide that the defendants will change their practices found illegal by the court. The case will be monitored by an independent monitor selected by the parties for a period of two years. The time may be extended if the court finds that the defendants are in violation of the consent decree. The settlement agreement also provided for $600,000 for damages to the named plaintiff and attorneys’ fees.
In fiscal year 2011, P&A lawyers continued to monitor the settlement agreement, receiving reports from the court appointed monitor. P&A and the Connecticut Fair Housing Center also developed a training for the residents of New Horizons. The training included fair housing rights, information about the New Horizons case and it implications for the residents, and how to file a fair housing complaint. Written information about housing rights and P&A was distributed. All residents were mailed an invitation to the training.
The case has the potential to impact all current and future residents at the housing complex. The estimated number of current tenants is 101. The outcome of the case, however, may have regional impact as other housing lawyers and advocates study the courts’ rulings and resulting settlement. There are more than 360,000 non-institutionalized people with disabilities in Connecticut who could potentially be impacted by the case. (2009 American Community Survey, 1-year estimate).
For each of your PAIR program priorities for the fiscal year covered by this report, please:
The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A), a Connecticut state agency, continued to house all federal programs related to the “protection and advocacy system” including PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness), PADD (Protection and Advocacy for Developmental Disabilities), CAP (Client Assistance Program), PAAT (Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology), PABSS (Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security), PATBI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury), PAVA (Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access) and Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR). P&A also receives state funding that supplements the provision of advocacy services and allows the agency to facilitate development of grassroots and existing community organizations.
At the end of the 2010 fiscal year, the special education advocate, whose salary was partially PAIR funded, was promoted to a different position and unit within the agency. At that point, the plan for the 2011 fiscal year, was to use the PAIR money that partially funded the advocate position to fund the partial salary of a second PAIR attorney who would focus on special education. The funding, therefore, would be used for the partial salaries of two attorneys and a secretary. Due to a change in administration and budget difficulties leading to the potential elimination of 75% of the Connecticut P&A, the position refill was put on hold until September 2011. At the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year, the position refill had been requested and was working its way through all required approvals. P&A anticipates filling the position in early 2012.
The PAIR funding for fiscal year 2011 paid the partial salaries of an attorney and a secretary. The PAIR attorney worked on cases that focused on issues related to persons who are deaf or hearing impaired, employment, housing and post secondary education accommodations. In addition to her PAIR cases she provided consultation to Information and Referral (I&R) staff on a wide variety of issues and assisted in reviewing I&R closures to ensure legal sufficiency.
PAIR staff collaborated with other P&A programs to address disability-related issues through case work teams and projects. Many of the activities funded involved systemic issues and policy changing cases. The following narrative lists priorities and systemic advocacy pursued during the 2011 fiscal year.
Priority 1 — Protect rights, identify barriers, and increase awareness of benefits related to community inclusion of people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 to ensure that people with disabilities would be afforded equal opportunity to employment and access to state and local government services and places of public accommodation. Taking into account architectural and economic realities, the law established reasonable rules for balancing interests, and allowed the entities affected to plan and gradually implement compliance with its provisions. Every year, P&A receives complaints from persons with disabilities indicating that further efforts are needed, especially in areas involving access to government functions and programs and services provided by businesses and professionals in the private sector. Effective communication for persons with communication disabilities also continues to be a problem, especially in government settings, and legal and medical offices. Police departments in Connecticut are also unaware of their obligation to provide effective communication, denying people with communication disabilities their civil rights in various interactions. Within the disability rights community, it is felt that problems in these areas are partially due to a lack of immediately available remedies for individuals who are adversely affected and partly due to confusion on the part of government entities and businesses regarding their legal responsibilities.
Objective 1- Continue implementation of legislative mandate for Access Board to advise Office on all aspects of accessibility standards, including architectural, communications, and technological requirements. Connecticut General Statutes §46a-11(14) authorizes the establishment of an Accessibility Advisory Board to function as a strong, well-informed voice to assist the Executive Director of P&A in matters regarding accessibility. The members, chosen by the Executive Director, include people with disabilities, family members, building professionals and others who have valuable insight into accessibility matters. The Board meets or provides consultation to the Director as he finds necessary.
During the 2011 fiscal year, P&A received a copy of the proposed revisions to the accessibility portions of the Connecticut Building Code. Members of the Accessibility Advisory Board expressed interest in meeting with the State Building Inspector. A meeting was scheduled but the State Building Inspector was unable to continue in her position and the meeting was canceled. The members of the Advisory Board were e-mailed questions about the proposed changes and asked to provide feedback to the Executive Director of P&A. The information has been synthesized and a new meeting will be scheduled with the new State Building Inspector.
Case Examples: There are no case examples for this objective.
Objective 2 — Increase outreach to and availability of rights-based advocacy for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. During the 2011 fiscal year, the PAIR program provided an intensive level of legal representation related to persons who are deaf or hearing impaired. 1. Investigate Complaints Related to Interpreters in Emergency Rooms and Hospitals — Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require state and local governments and places of public accommodation to provide effective communication for persons with disabilities. This requirement applies to both public and private hospitals. Previous PAIR reports detailed a lawsuit filed by the Connecticut P&A against 10 hospitals in Connecticut, alleging violations of the ADA by failing to provide interpreters in emergency rooms and during hospital stays. The United States Department of Justice joined P&A in suing the hospitals. The case eventually settled and included 32 hospitals. The settlement required the hospitals to set up a 24 hour interpreter on-call system and to purchase assistive technology devices to assist in effective e communication. P&A monitored the settlement and assisted people with disabilities who called with complaints related to the suit. Even though the settlement agreement is no longer in effect, P&A has continued over the years to investigate complaints related to the lack of interpreter services in several hospital emergency rooms and during hospital stays.
During the 2011 fiscal year, P&A continued to receive complaints regarding lack of interpreters for hospital visits, both emergency and scheduled visits. Many of the hospitals are also trying the video relay interpreting (VRI) service which has proven difficult for many P&A clients in emergency situations. P&A received 8 requests for assistance in filing complaints against Connecticut hospitals due to their failure to provide effective communication for patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing. PAIR advocates accompanied these individuals to meetings with administrators from 6 of the hospitals for the purpose of 1) allowing the patient and /or companion to explain his or her experience and 2) developing recommendations which can improve the communication services to patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing and prevent these problems from reoccurring. The PAIR attorney assisted individuals with filing discrimination complaints against three (3) hospitals.
Case Example: Mr. G is profoundly deaf and uses sign language. In February 2011, Mr. G was brought to the local hospital by his girlfriend who is also profoundly deaf and uses sign language. His chief complaint was disorientation and memory loss. In the Emergency Room (ER), his girlfriend went to the intake person, pointed at the sign for sign language interpreters and was told “‘no.” She pointed to the sign again and again was told “no.” Shortly after, Mr. G’s nephew, who is hearing and knows rudimentary sign language, came to the hospital. He spoke with the intake person and Mr. G was taken to an examining room.
Mr. G’s sister, who is hearing and knows some rudimentary sign language, also came to the hospital. An ER doctor came into the examining room and started to communicate with the hearing persons. He used the family to interpret for Mr. G but Mr. G did not believe he was getting all the information. He was admitted to the hospital that evening. Video Relay equipment was brought to his room but it did not work and the staff could not get it to work.
The next morning a doctor came to visit Mr. G and tried to communicate with him verbally. Mr. G’s girlfriend’s daughter, a certified sign language interpreter, came to the hospital. The doctor used her to interpret for Mr. G. Mr. G was administered various tests and it was soon discovered that he had a TIA stroke. He did not understand what that was because no interpreter was provided. The following morning, he made a written request for an interpreter. The nurse shrugged and ignored his request. More tests were conducted without Mr. G understanding the reason for the tests. On the day of his discharge, no interpreter was provided. He tried to read the nurse’s lips but he does not read lips well. Exchange of notes was also ineffective. His girlfriend finally found a nurse, who knew rudimentary sign language, and she assisted with the discharge. Mr. G was not confident about the information he received from the nurse and was fearful. He went home after 4 days in the hospital without any effective means to communicate. Following his discharge, he had a bad interaction with a medication that was prescribed by the hospital. He called his primary care doctor and was told to immediately cease from taking that medication and prescribed something else. He began to feel better.
Mr. G, upset and frustrated by the lack of effective communication during his entire hospital stay, contacted P&A for assistance. The PAIR attorney was assigned to assist with the case. She met with Mr. G, obtained the records and assisted him with filing complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and the United States Department of Justice. The hospital has asked for mediation which will take place during the 2012 fiscal year.
Complaints about lack of interpreters at Police Departments — During fiscal year 2011, P&A received complaints about the lack of interpreters when a person who is deaf interacts with law enforcement entities. The PAIR attorney assisted individuals who had been denied effective communication as witnesses and victims. Five complaints involved local police departments and one complaint involved the state police. The complaints came from diverse areas of the state.
Case example Over the past several years, P&A has represented a number of deaf people who have filed discrimination complaints against police agencies that fail to provide effective communication when the deaf individuals, or in some cases their children are being questioned. What happened to Mr. H, who is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate, is an example: Following a domestic dispute, the police were called to the home he shared with his wife, who is also deaf, and his 8 year old daughter who is a hearing person. Mr. H was already outside when the police arrived. Using sign language and gestures he requested that an interpreter be provided and indicated a willingness to go to the police station to answer questions. He also requested that the police not use his daughter to interpret. Nonetheless, the police did use his 8 year old daughter to interpret, and also questioned her directly even though neither of her parents could understand what she was being asked. Mr. H was arrested and brought to the police station, where, several hours later a qualified sign language interpreter was provided.
With P&A’s assistance, Mr. H filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). At the CHRO fact-finding session, the PAIR attorney obtained testimony from one of the responding police officers regarding several key facts. He acknowledged that there was no imminent danger or risk when they arrived at the scene, and that the responding officers could have waited to interview Mr. H. at the police station with an interpreter. He also acknowledged that they were aware that the caller was deaf when they responded, and that they knew an interpreter would be needed. He stated that they used the 8 yr old daughter to interpret because she was available; and admitted that they had also used the daughter to inform their “probable cause” determination to arrest Mr. H. Following the fact finding, CHRO issued its finding that there was “cause” to believe discrimination occurred. The case was subsequently scheduled for a conciliation session at which time the parties settled the matter.
2. Complaints regarding lack of effective communication at healthcare and law offices — Although most of the complaints were handled by Information and Referral staff, it is worth noting that P&A received dozens of calls from people who had been denied interpreter services by a doctor, dentist or lawyer. In most of the cases, P&A staff was able to contact the office, educate the staff and get the issue resolved. Staff distributed copies of the P&A self-help booklet, Healthcare Providers’ Obligations under the ADA to both staff at healthcare offices and to callers.
During the 2011 fiscal year, the PAIR attorney assisted 2 individuals who were denied interpreters by their attorneys. In one case, a complaint was file with the United States Department of Justice.
Priority 2 — Safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities living in congregate institutions or at risk of institutionalization.
Despite several decades of civil rights legislation designed to protect their civil rights, individuals with disabilities continue to experience denial of equal opportunity due to a lack of basic understanding about statutory requirements and practical strategies. Whether it is a nursing home, a training school, or chronic care hospital, or even a prison environment, the implications of living in a congregate facility are much the same. The rhythms and routines of daily life in large congregate facilities tend to be dictated by organizational needs often resulting in problems with care, program supports, and denial of basic civil rights. P&A systems were initially established to combat precisely these phenomena and to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not denied civil rights and accommodations that guarantee them equal opportunity to access their environment.
Objective 1 - Address violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that affect prisoners who have disabilities. P&A received more than 50 letters and calls from prisoners with disabilities, many of them claiming they were being denied their rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaints included lack of physical accessibility to courthouses; denial of assistive technology devices including hearing aids; medication administration; denial of work opportunities due to disability and denial of reasonable accommodation for life threatening food allergies. Some of the cases were handled by advocates while others were handled by the PAIR attorney. The cases were handled through negotiation with prison officials at the various prisons. The advocates succeeded in obtaining the necessary services and/or accommodations needed by the prisoners.
Case example: KM has been living in a medical unit at one of Connecticut’s prisons because she has Crohn’s disease and is severely allergic to Styrofoam and fragrances. She also has a hearing impairment. She lives in the medical unit in order to keep her safe from the effects of her allergies. KM called P&A because the Department of Correction failed to provide her accommodations for many of her disabilities, causing isolation, embarrassment and continued safety concerns.
KM reported that she does not have access to a volume-controlled phone or privacy and, therefore everyone hears her personal business when she talks on the telephone. Because she is unaware about how loud she is talking, the Correction staff end her calls, prematurely, saying she is disturbing others. KM was denied family visits because DOC was concerned that other visitors would be wearing cologne and she would have an allergic reaction. After several months, she was finally granted a family visit but the Correction Officer stayed in the room with her and sat at the table during the whole visit. KM also reports that she asked that the staff refrain from wearing fragrances. She was told that staff would not be asked to refrain from wearing cologne. KM also reports that the staff freely uses aerosol spray. KM’s Crohn’s disease causes her to use the bathroom frequently. When inmates leave their cells, the doors lock behind them. This creates a problem for KM, who because she cannot hear when the door unlocks again, often soils her clothing while waiting for the signal that her door is open. DOC’s answer to the problem is giving KM adult diapers to wear. KM tried to address some of her issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator at the prison but she constantly received denials.
P&A contacted KM and had several conversations about the issues described above. P&A also reviewed documents related to the issues and contacted the ADA Coordinator for the DOC system. Several conversations about the issue have resulted in very little progress. Because these accommodation issues are also experienced by other inmates, P&A attorneys have scheduled a meeting with the DOC statewide ADA Coordinator and the prison ADA coordinator. The meeting will address KM’s specific issues and changes in prison policy regarding the accommodation of prisoners with disabilities. The story continues.
Priority 3 - Protect the Educational Rights of Children with Disabilities
Nowhere is the legacy of our society’s profound rejection of people with disabilities more evident than in the domain of public education. A century of near total exclusion, followed by fifty years of mostly segregated special education have left school systems and related institutions (e.g. teacher preparation programs) unprepared to deal with the needs of students with disabilities. Demographics and economics are driving school systems away from totally segregated approaches, but competence to genuinely include children in the regular education environment is in short supply. Especially in troubled urban systems, expectations for special education students remain dismally low and inclusion is not a reality.
The “resource room” is still a ubiquitous feature of Connecticut public schools, and “pull out” strategies for special instruction still disrupt and stigmatize. At the same time, schools seem quicker to resort to suspensions, in-home tutoring and segregated placement options rather than develop partnerships with families and clinicians in response to the needs of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. An increasing number of parents are reporting the use of restraint and/or seclusion as a method of responding to children with challenging behaviors. Parents often are not notified about the restraint/seclusion use and children are coming home injured or traumatized, suffering in silence for an extended period before parents learn what is happening at school. Objective 1- Promote appropriate educational opportunities for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities especially when the student’s program allows for restraint and/or seclusion in a school setting. Objective 2 - Develop materials, training and website resources to inform parents about restraint and seclusion in Connecticut educational settings. Objective 3 - Represent families where the lack of appropriate programming and supports results in or creates a risk of an education program in a more restrictive setting. Objective 4 - Educate parents and parent groups to advocate for the educational rights of children with disabilities through training, clinics and technical assistance. Objective 5 - Provide advocacy representation for students with disabilities to assist in the development of appropriate transition plans. At the end of the 2010 fiscal year, the special education advocate, whose salary was partially PAIR funded, was promoted to a different position and unit within the agency. At that point, the plan for the 2011 fiscal year, was to use the PAIR money that partially funded the advocate position to fund the partial salary of a second PAIR attorney who would focus on special education. The funding, therefore, would be used for the partial salaries of two attorneys and a secretary. Due to a change in administration and budget difficulties leading to the potential elimination of 75% of the Connecticut P&A, the position refill was put on hold until September 2011. At the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year, the position refill had been requested and was working its way through all required approvals. P&A anticipates filling the position in early 2012. Because of the change in circumstances and the inability to hire an additional attorney during the 2011 fiscal year, the PAIR program did not address educational issues. P&A did use other resources to address education cases and anticipates representing children with disabilities during the 2012 fiscal year. The following is a case example of education representation provided by the Connecticut P&A using alternative funding. Case example: OPA received a call from the mother of a Hartford middle school special education student who was in trouble for fighting at school. Speaking only in Spanish, she explained that her son, James, had been diagnosed with several types of emotional and learning disabilities. (His disabilities did not make him eligible for representation under the PAIMI or developmental disabilities funding). She requested assistance at what she thought was an upcoming Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting where decisions would be made about a possible alternative placement.
OPA’s Education Unit staff contacted James’ school and reviewed his records. The records revealed that despite his several co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses, a clear history of difficulty coping in certain classroom situations, and his identification as a special education student with Emotional Disturbance, James had never had a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) and did not have a Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan (PBIP) as part of his Individual Education Plan (IEP). The Education Unit Advocate assigned to assist James and his mom also learned that the upcoming “meeting” was, in fact, a “manifestation hearing” that could lead to James’ expulsion from school.
At the hearing, school officials initially questioned whether James’ mother had the right to bring an advocate from OPA with her. The proceedings were delayed while they checked. Once the hearing began, another problem surfaced: Instead of providing the mother with an objective interpreter, as required by regulations, the school social worker — who had a role to play in the hearing itself — began to act as the interpreter. The OPA Advocate (who is fully bi-lingual) had to make numerous corrections and point out several instances where the social worker was not interpreting, but rather offering her own opinions. (OPA staff has noted that that utilization of unqualified staff to interpret for mono-lingual parents is a pervasive problem in the Hartford Public Schools. In this instance, the problem was exacerbated by the fact that James’ IEP and related documents had only been made available to his mother in English — another violation of law, and another pervasive problem in Hartford.)
After reviewing James’ history and diagnoses, the absence of required evaluations and a positive behavioral intervention plan as part of his IEP, and the frequency with which school staff had responded to behavioral outbursts by calling the police, the hearing concluded by agreeing with his mother and his advocate that James’ behavior was, indeed, a manifestation of his disability. No doubt it was also a manifestation of his frustration with having to cope with an environment that only knew how to punish him.
The real story about James began to unfold in the months following the hearing. At the urging of the Advocate, the PPT called in a behavioral expert who completed a FBA and helped team members develop a Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan. Just as importantly, the consultant provided training and feedback to school personnel as they attempted to break their habit of calling the police in response to outbursts. It took five PPT meetings to get James’ IEP into alignment with his learning needs, but he now has a good plan, and a real chance to succeed in school.
Priority 4 — Educate individuals with disabilities about employment rights, support options and mechanisms to address discrimination; build capacity to provide legal representation for people with disabilities who experience employment discrimination. There has always been a significant gap between the employment of people with disabilities and other members of the general population. This un/underemployment has been caused by the misconception that people with disabilities are not able to work or cannot do the job. Stereotypes lead employers to reject such job applicants with disabilities, fearing liability, attendance problems and high health insurance costs. State and federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit employers from discriminating against persons with disabilities and require them to provide reasonable accommodations that assist the employee in meeting the essential functions of the employment position. Many people with disabilities, however, are not aware of their employment rights under these laws and the obligation of employers to provide such accommodations.
During the 2011 fiscal year, P&A staff answered 231 calls related to employment. The PAIR Attorney provided representation on employment cases related to reasonable accommodation, stereotyping, denial of interpreters and termination. Objective 1 - Continue to develop alliances with pro bono counsel to establish capacity to provide legal representation to two individuals who have experienced discrimination in employment because of their disabilities. During the 2011 fiscal year, P&A attorneys have experienced increasing demand for legal assistance, especially in the area of employment. In addition to handling 8 cases the PAIR program and P&A continued to network with attorneys and gather names for the development of a pro bono bank of attorneys that would be willing to file employment discrimination complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. P&A’s Managing Attorney and Executive Director drafted a letter that will be sent to the employment bar in Connecticut. The following is an example of a case handled by the PAIR program during the 2011 fiscal year.
Case example: SC was 35 when she began a promising career working for a medical practice group. Three months after she began work, she started to experience vision difficulties, dizziness, numbness, and headaches. SC was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and immediately informed her employer. One day at work, SC experienced total vision loss due to her disability. Her doctor requested that she take a two-week medical leave, which her employer granted. Near the end of her leave, SC notified her employer that her doctor was requesting an extended leave of another 4 weeks because of her disability. SC’s employer denied the leave and immediately terminated her employment, claiming it could not leave the position vacant.
SC filed an employment discrimination complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) and contacted P&A for assistance with the CHRO process and any subsequent legal action. CHRO issued a cause finding that discrimination had occurred and certified the case for a hearing. The PAIR attorney obtained a release of jurisdiction from CHRO and filed the case in Connecticut Superior Court. After extensive research, case advocacy and negotiation, the case was settled prior to trial.
Priority 5 — Housing Connecticut consistently has a shortage of accessible, affordable housing for people with disabilities, especially families who need larger housing units with multiple bedrooms. Almost all local housing authorities have waiting lists for housing and those lists are longer for persons with disabilities needing accessible housing units. Despite advocacy efforts to the contrary, changes to the Connecticut Building Code now allow builders to construct units with a lower level of accessibility than previously required. People with disabilities languish in nursing homes and other facilities because they cannot find an accessible place to live. Although state and federal housing statutes prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, landlords and condominium associations establish policies and practices that effectively discriminate against residents with disabilities and stall responses to requests for reasonable accommodation including, but not limited to: designation of a closer parking spaces, allowing residents to have service animals even if there is a “no pets” policy, and construction of ramps, handrails and grab bars.
Objective 1 - Identify and selectively join coalitions and organizations addressing the unavailability of affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities and families. The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A) continued to improve its knowledge of housing rights in Connecticut. P&A staff answered 513 inquiries related to housing for people with disabilities including accommodations, rental termination, subsidized housing/Section 8, and landlord/tenant issues. The agency including PAIR staff continued to collaborate with the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and legal services organizations to serve people with disabilities experiencing discrimination in housing. Staff also continued membership in other housing coalitions and to educate policy makers on housing issues affecting people with disabilities.
There is no case example for this objective.
Objective 2 - Continue to contest discriminatory housing practices and proposals. In addition to addressing the 513 requests for housing information, P&A represented many people with disabilities who were being discriminated against in housing. During the 2011 fiscal year, P&A monitored the settlement agreement in Laflamme v. New Horizons Village. The PAIR attorney also provided consultation for Information and Referral calls related to housing in areas such as improper discharge from a residential care home, denial of service animals or companion animals, and enforcement of noise ordinances. The following is an example of a housing case addressed by the PAIR attorney. Case Example: MP is an elderly woman who has a hearing impairment. She has a hearing dog that assists her when someone knocks on the door or the telephone rings. After MP got the dog, the management company at her apartment complex told her that the complex has a “no dogs” policy. MP would have to get rid of the dog or she would face eviction. She temporarily placed the dog with her family while she sorted out the issue. The dog, however, experienced separation anxiety and as a result, became ill. MP’s daughter contacted P&A for help for her mother.
The PAIR attorney was assigned to assist MP. After discussions with MP, the PAIR attorney contacted the property management and informed them about MP’s rights as a person with a disability. While the complex could have a “no dogs” policy, MP’s dog is a service animal and they are exempt from this policy under the Fair Housing Act. The property manager was skeptical and contacted the lawyer for the apartment complex who confirmed that they had to permit her to have the dog as an accommodation. MP and her dog were reunited and the dog returned home.
Please include a statement of priorities and objectives for the current fiscal year (the fiscal year succeeding that covered by this report), which should contain the following information:
PAIR Priorities and Objectives for the 2012 Fiscal Year Priority 1 - Protect rights, identify barriers, and increase awareness of benefits related to community inclusion of people with disabilities.
Objective 1 — Continue rights-based advocacy for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, focusing on communications access in health care and law enforcement situations.
Priority 2 - Safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities living in congregate institutions or at risk of institutionalization.
Objective 1 - Address violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that affect prisoners who have disabilities.
Priority 3 - Protect educational rights of children with disabilities.
Objective 1 - Promote appropriate educational opportunities for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities especially when the student’s program allows for restraint and/or seclusion in a school setting.
Objective 2 - Develop materials, training and website resources to inform parents about restraint and seclusion in Connecticut educational settings
Objective 3 - Represent families where the lack of appropriate programming and supports results in or creates a risk of an education program in a more restrictive setting.
Objective 4 - Educate parents and parent groups to advocate for the educational rights of children with disabilities through training, clinics and technical assistance.
Objective 5 - Provide advocacy representation for students with disabilities to assist in the development of appropriate transition plans.
Priority 4 - Educate individuals with disabilities about employment rights, support options and mechanisms to address discrimination; build capacity to provide legal representation for people with disabilities who experience employment discrimination.
Objective 1 — Continue to develop alliances with pro bono counsel to establish capacity to provide legal representation to two individuals who have experienced discrimination in employment because of their disabilities.
Priority 5 - Housing
Objective 1 - Identify and selectively join coalitions and organizations addressing the unavailability of affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities and families.
Objective 2 - Continue to contest discriminatory housing practices and proposals
At a minimum, you must include all of the information requested. You may include any other information, not otherwise collected on this reporting form that would be helpful in describing the extent of PAIR activities during the prior fiscal year. Please limit the narrative portion of this report, including attachments, to 20 pages or less.
The narrative should contain the following information. The instructions for this form outline the information that should be contained in each section.
PART VI. NARRATIVE: At a minimum, you must include all of the information requested. You may include any other information, not otherwise collected on this reporting form that would be helpful in describing the extent of PAIR activities during the prior fiscal year. Please limit the narrative portion of this report, including attachments, to 20 pages or fewer.
The narrative should contain the following information. The instructions for this form outline the information that should be contained in each section.
A. Sources of funds received and expended —
Source of Funding Amount Received Amount Spent Federal (Section 509) $175,632.00 $141, 170.90 State ---------------- ---------------- Program Income ----------------- -------------------- Private ---------------- -------------------- All other Funds (carry forward) $107,906.65 ----------------------- Total (all resources) $283,538.65 $141,170.90
B. Budget for the fiscal year covered by this report — Category Prior Fiscal Year Current Fiscal Year Wages/Salaries $85,332.85 $96,528.00 Fringe Benefits (FICA, unemployment, etc. $51,877.46 $59,654.80 Materials/supplies ------ $130.92 Postage $22.94 $100.00 Telephone ------ --------- Rent ------- ------ Travel $39.69 $800.00 Copying ------- -------- Bonding/insurance ------ ------------ Equipment (rental/purchase) ----- ------------- Legal services (contract) $2,300.00 ------------ Indirect costs -------- $15618.28 Miscellaneous $1597.96 $2800.00 Total Budget $141,170.90 $175,632.00
The costs in the miscellaneous category in FY 2011 are for fees and permits, membership dues and interpreter services.
C. Description of PAIR staff (duties and person-years) Type of Position FTE %of year filled Person Years Professional Full-time .66 100 .66 Part-time Vacant ---- --- ----- Clerical Full-time .30 100 .30 Part-time --- ----- ------ Vacant --- ----- -------
The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities changed its funding strategy for the 2011 fiscal year as the agency works toward hiring an attorney to handle special education cases. The attorney will be partially PAIR funded. Because of this strategy, the 2011 funds were used to partially fund the salaries of an existing attorney position and one secretary. Sixty-six percent (66%) of the full time attorney and 30% of a full time secretary were charged to PAIR.
Unfortunately, the second attorney position could not e filled by the end of the 2011 fiscal year due to budget and hiring issues. The position has been approved and resumes will be solicited in early 2012.
D. Involvement with advisory boards (if any) P&A staff members consistently participate on advisory boards, coalitions, and task forces that benefit individuals with disabilities in order to improve services, expand resources and protect individual rights. It allows the agency and its programs to network with other organizations, learn about other resources and services and provide input on new policies and procedures that affect people with disabilities. During the 2011 fiscal year, these included, but were not limited to: the Disability Advocacy Collaborative, Board of Education and Services for the Blind Advisory Council, Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities, Special Education Advocates Network, Long-Term Care Planning Committee, Department of Children and Families-Parents with Cognitive Limitations Workgroup, Department of Developmental Services Focus Team on Aging, Department of Public Safety 9-1-1 Access Workgroup, Family Support Council, Disability Specialist Program Advisory Committee at Manchester Community College, State Rehabilitation Advisory Council, Independent Mortality Review Board, Children’s Behavioral Health Advisory Committee, Advisory Committee for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Vocational Rehabilitation Program, State Mental Health Planning Council, Governor’s Task Force for Abused Children, University Center for Excellence Consumer Advisory Group, and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Open Space and Watershed Grant Acquisition Advisory Council.
E. Grievances filed under the grievance procedure - The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A) has an agency grievance procedure that is distributed to all individuals who contact the agency. All Individuals requesting information and referral services receive a copy of the grievance procedure with a closure letter. When a case is closed, a client is also sent a closure letter with a copy of the agency grievance procedure. No PAIR grievances were filed during the 2011 fiscal year.
F. Coordination with the Client Assistance Program (CAP) and the State long- term care program, if these programs are not part of the P&A agency.
The PAIR and Client Assistance Programs are housed at the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. Agency advocates and attorneys including staff funded through CAP and PAIR, work together to address systemic issues and brainstorm specific case related problems that affect people with disabilities.
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is located in the Connecticut Department of Social Services. The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities maintains a working relationship with the staff of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program in order to address mutual issues and cases. The Connecticut General Statutes require Protection and Advocacy’s Executive Director or designee to be a member of the Long Term Care Planning Committee. P&A’s Legislative and Regulations Specialist continued to be the agency designee to the Committee. She attended all Long Term Care Planning Committee meetings during the 2011 fiscal year.
|Signed By||Gretchen Knauff|