|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||3|
|2. Individuals receiving I&R outside PAIR priority areas||3|
|3. Total individuals receiving I&R (lines A1 + A2)||6|
|1. Number of trainings presented by PAIR staff||4|
|2. Number of individuals who attended training (approximate)||180|
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 6 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 2012 fiscal year: In 2012, P&A advocates received requests for information from 3,609 individuals with disabilities, their family members, and interested parties. The largest volume of calls (642) related to Abuse or Neglect including inappropriate mental health treatment; excessive or involuntary medication administration; physical, verbal or sexual assault; inappropriate restraint; and financial exploitation. They also responded to questions concerning Housing (604), Government Benefits and Services (405), Rights Violations (434), Employment (205), Education (235), Services (118), Healthcare (147), Rehabilitation Services (115), Financial Entitlements (87), Transportation (63), Architectural Accessibility (65), Assistive Technology (37), Guardianship and Conservatorship (36), Parental Rights/Childcare (36), Insurance (30), and Recreation (9). Advocates also responded to 294 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, immigration, privacy rights, institutionalization and access to government programs.
B. Training Activities — Historically, the PAIR attorney has provided very little training to people with disabilities, family members and others. The 2012 fiscal year was the same, reflecting only 4 trainings by the PAIR program. Approximately, 180 people received training and 220 publications were distributed.
Other P&A staff members sponsored or participated in training events, including presentations, workshops, conferences, and resource fairs. More than 2,700 individuals received training on topics that included P&A programs and services; end of life issues; rights under the Americans with Disabilities and the Fair Housing Acts; special education including “least restrictive environment”, inclusion, the requirements of 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; structural accessibility; rights of parents with disabilities; how the legislature works; emergency preparedness; rights of people with mental illness; brain injury and domestic violence; and abuse/neglect reporting. Information was disseminated to more than 3,000 people at 30 resource fairs. Over 14,000 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. Many of the P&A publications have been translated into Spanish and are available on the P&A website. Last year, 132,135 visitors obtained information through the site (www.ct.gov/opapd) and more than 26,000 publications were downloaded.
All 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||6|
|3. PSAs/videos aired||0|
|4. Hits on the PAIR/P&A website||132,135|
|5. Publications/booklets/brochures disseminated||14,000|
|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||8|
|3. Total individuals served (lines A1 + A2)||28|
|4. Individuals w. more than 1 case opened/closed during the FY. (Do not add this number to total on line A3 above.)||3|
Carryover to next FY may not exceed total on line II. A.3 above 12
|1. Architectural accessibility||1|
|3. Program access||6|
|5. Government benefits/services||0|
|8. Assistive technology||3|
|10. Health care||4|
|12. Non-government services||0|
|13. Privacy rights||0|
|14. Access to records||0|
|1. Issues resolved partially or completely in individual favor||12|
|2. Other representation found||0|
|3. Individual withdrew complaint||1|
|4. Appeals unsuccessful||1|
|5. PAIR Services not needed due to individual's death, relocation etc.||0|
|6. PAIR withdrew from case||4|
|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||2|
|5. Mediation/alternative dispute resolution||2|
|6. Administrative hearings||3|
|7. Litigation (including class actions)||3|
|8. Systemic/policy activities||0|
|1. 0 - 4||0|
|2. 5 - 22||3|
|3. 23 - 59||22|
|4. 60 - 64||1|
|5. 65 and over||2|
Multiple responses not permitted.
|1. Hispanic/Latino of any race||4|
|2. American Indian or Alaskan Native||0|
|4. Black or African American||5|
|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||9|
|3. Community residential home||1|
|4. Foster care||0|
|5. Nursing home||1|
|6. Public institutional living arrangement||0|
|7. Private institutional living arrangement||0|
|8. Jail/prison/detention center||2|
|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||1|
|2. Deaf/hard of hearing||17|
|4. Orthopedic impairment||1|
|5. Mental illness||0|
|6. Substance abuse||0|
|7. Mental retardation||1|
|8. Learning disability||2|
|9. Neurological impairment||0|
|10. Respiratory impairment||1|
|11. Heart/other circulatory impairment||0|
|12. Muscular/skeletal impairment||1|
|13. Speech impairment||0|
|15. Traumatic brain injury||1|
|16. Other disability||2|
|1. Number of policies/practices changed as a result of non-litigation systemic activities||4|
|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.
A. Systemic Activities —
1. 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 2012 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 assisted three (3) individuals who are either deaf or hearing impaired with complaints against three (3) Connecticut hospitals due to their failure to provide effective communication. The PAIR attorney accompanied these individuals to meetings to try to resolve the issues. One case settled during the fiscal year but two remain open as the PAIR attorney works to address these issues for her clients.
The consent decree benefited approximately 20,000 Connecticut residents who are deaf or hard of hearing. 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 2012 fiscal year, P&A reviewed and made determinations on 74 requests for waivers and 32 requests for the use of wheelchair lifts. Three waiver denials were appealed to the Codes and Standards Committee.
Case Example: The Office is frequently presented with waiver requests related to conversions of historical buildings. Typically, the developer asks us to waive accessibility requirements because implementing the requirements would destroy historic features of the building. Past requests have centered on inaccessible entryways, non-compliant rest rooms, and inaccessible interior paths of travel. Often, the applicants present an ADA-based argument, irrelevant because waiver requests come under the CT State Building Code, not the ADA. In this case, a developer had purchased an old school for conversion into housing units. The applicant had requested permission to leave inaccessible the interior doorways that would lead into individual units. The justification was that creating compliance would compromise historic detailing located over and next to the side of the doors. For complicated applications, we request a presentation meeting to give applicants the opportunity to present their cases in greater detail. These meetings typically involve our distinguishing ADA from Building Code and clarifying the historic exemption options in the Code. This case also required that we address competing factors, such as those created by the interaction of the Code with historic designations. At this meeting, the applicant was accompanied by a preservationist and equipped with a letter from the State Historic Preservation Office. The most important provision of the Code at this meeting was the non-exemption of interior elements. This means that the interior of a building must meet all accessibility requirements as defined for that particular kind of building and for the particular renovation planned. At the end of the meeting, the applicant was advised to re-do the application to avoid a definite denial. After much correspondence between the applicant and our point person at the Office of the State Building Inspector, a compromise was reached. The applicant re-designed one floor to enhance compliance at those door openings and agreed to install automatic doors at each unit that was required, under the Code, to provide greater accessibility. 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 2012 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 66 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: CC, a prisoner contacted P&A requesting assistance because he was being denied work due to his disability. After reviewing the facts, the case was assigned to a PAIR attorney who met with the prisoner to learn the facts of the situation and review any pertinent paperwork. CC had worked and earned money at the prison for many years. He reported and the records support that there had never been any disciplinary incidents related to his employment.
CC began experiencing health problems and eventually needed to use a wheelchair. Although this did not impair his ability to do his prison job, the prison staff told him that he could no longer do that job for security reasons. They felt that he would be able to steal and hide objects in the wheelchair. The PAIR attorney contacted CC’s supervisor at the prison and extensively negotiated with him and educating him about the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of the solutions proposed was that CC transfer to a different wheelchair when he arrived at work and back to his personal wheelchair when leaving work. This would prevent him from taking anything from the worksite.
The negotiation was successful but CC continued to have health problems that made it more difficult for him to work and continue to keep him out of work at this time. CC and the PAIR attorney agreed that CC would call P&A if he returned to work and experienced further barriers related to his disability.
4. Training for Police Departments — During the 2012 fiscal year, the PAIR Program continued to receive 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.
System Strategy: Effective Communication and Service Animals are two (2) issue areas that are not well understood by the police. Because of the complaints filed by P&A on behalf of clients in a few of its programs, the Department of Justice worked with P&A staff including the PAIR advocate to provide training to law enforcement personnel from geographically diverse areas of Connecticut. The training included rights and responsibilities of service animal owners and effective communication for people with disabilities. The PAIR attorney will continue to work with the Department of Justice during the 2013 fiscal year to educate police departments about other issues affecting people with disabilities.
The activity 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||0|
|2. Number of individuals named in class actions||0|
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.
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 support grassroots community organizations.
The PAIR funding for fiscal year 2012 paid the partial salaries of an attorney and a secretary. The PAIR attorney continued to concentrate on cases related to persons who are deaf or hearing impaired or cases that involved employment discrimination, housing discrimination or accommodations and post-secondary education accommodations. In addition to her PAIR cases, the PAIR attorney 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 of the information provided to I&R contacts.
P&A spent much of the spring and summer of the 2012 fiscal year working to fill an attorney position that focuses on representing children who are experiencing problems with their special education programs. The position was finally filled and the new attorney began his tenure at P&A in early September 2012. The attorney will be partially funded with PAIR monies in order to facilitate representation of children who do not have developmental disabilities or mental illness.
PAIR staff collaborated with other P&A programs to address disability-related issues through casework 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 2012 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 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 rights-based advocacy for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, focusing on communications access in health care and law enforcement situations. The P&A staff including the PAIR attorney continued to address barriers for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Staff met with members of P&A’s Deaf Advisory Group and members of the Connecticut Association of the Deaf to discuss issues related to interpreter services at a number of different venues. One topic included the lack of interpreters at different recreational venues with an emphasis on movie theater access. During the 2012 fiscal year, the PAIR program provided an intensive level of legal representation related to persons who are deaf or hearing impaired. The PAIR attorney represented 17 individuals in the following problem areas: 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 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 continues to investigate complaints related to the lack of interpreter services in several hospital emergency rooms and during hospital stays.
During the 2012 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 assisted three (3) individuals who are either deaf or hearing impaired with complaints against three (3) Connecticut hospitals due to their failure to provide effective communication. The PAIR attorney accompanied these individuals to meetings to try to resolve the issues. One case settled during the fiscal year but two remain open as the PAIR attorney works to address these issues for her clients.
Case Example: RM is profoundly deaf. He was admitted to local hospitals several times between September 30, 2010 and June 6, 2011. Each time he was admitted to the hospital, he requested a sign language interpreter to assist him in understanding what was happening to him. When the hospital did get an interpreter, it was only for the purpose of informed consent. Over the course of his visits, the hospital provided many services including, heart surgeries, various tests, diagnosis, prognosis, discharge, treatment options, and medication administration. Most of this was done without an interpreter or with the use of his sons who fingerspell or his ex-wife who knows sign language but is not a medical certified interpreter. RM was only provided a sign language interpreter five (5) times during all these visits, leaving him unable to effectively communicate for a significant majority of his hospital stays and unable to fully participate in his medical decision making. In addition, one (1) of the hospitals placed a sign with the word “deaf” over his bed, without his consent.
RM contacted P&A to discuss the lack of interpreters and to request assistance with addressing the issue. The PAIR attorney met with RM and requested his extensive medical records. After reviewing the file, the PAIR attorney assisted RM with writing and filing an Americans with Disabilities Act complaint with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). RM’s case is currently under investigation at DOJ and the PAIR attorney is assisting RM by providing DOJ with any information it may need to pursue the investigation of the hospitals.
2. Lack of Interpreters and the Police - During fiscal year 2012, P&A received complaints about the lack of interpreters when a person who is deaf interacts with law enforcement entities. The PAIR attorney assisted five (5) individuals who had been denied effective communication as witnesses and victims. The complaints came from diverse areas of the state.
As a result of these complaints, the PAIR attorney and her supervisor provided training to police officers about the obligation of state and local police to provide effective communication under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Case example: JJ is profoundly deaf and uses sign language to communicate. In February 2011, she went with her daughter to her storage unit. Her daughter uses a wheelchair. When she opened the unit she found it in disarray and was very upset because she could not find the items her daughter asked her to locate. While there, her daughter’s ex-boyfriend showed up and JJ was upset because she thought that he was responsible for the disarray of the unit. She began to throw items out of the unit and one hit the boyfriend. JJ went to the manager’s office at the storage facility and asked the manager to call the police for her because she did not want the situation with the ex-boyfriend to get out of hand. When the police arrived, JJ tried to communicate with the officer using gestures but he decided to communicate with her daughter, frustrating JJ. She tried to get the officer’s attention by texting him a message with her phone. She also waved to get his attention, causing him to come toward her with his hand on his handcuffs. She backed away but the officer told her daughter that they should go to the police station. While at the station, JJ requested an interpreter several times, but her request was ignored. The officer eventually typed on his computer asking JJ if she hit the ex-boyfriend. She wrote “yes” and renewed her interpreter request in writing. At one point she got up and left the room in frustration and was put in a jail cell for about 20 minutes. She was then charged with breach of peace.
After the incident, JJ immediately contacted P&A for assistance. She spoke with the PAIR attorney, providing her with the details about the denial of effective communication by the police. The PAIR attorney requested the police records and any other information related to the incident. She also assisted JJ with filing a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). CHRO found that the case had merit and scheduled a mediation between the parties. The PAIR attorney represented JJ at the mediation. The case settled. JJ agreed to a monetary amount and changes in police department policy.
3. 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 2012 fiscal year, the PAIR attorney assisted two (2) individuals who were denied interpreters by their attorneys. The following is one of those cases:
Case Example: MM is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He contacted, by video relay, a law office regarding scheduling a meeting with the attorney to discuss retaining the attorney as a mediator for his divorce proceeding. He spoke with the office assistant. In that conversation, he requested a sign language interpreter for the meeting and for the mediation services if he were to retain the lawyer. He was informed that he would have to bring his own interpreter. He followed up this call with an e-mail confirming that he was responsible for retaining his own interpreter. The assistant confirmed, writing that the cost for obtaining an interpreter would not be affordable. The assistant also informed MM that the firm would not be able to assist him in the divorce process and recommended that he find a law firm that would be able to incur the cost of a sign language interpreter.
MM contacted P&A about the interpreter issue. A P&A attorney contacted the law firm and spoke with MM’s attorney who said that she did not think she could provide mediation services using an interpreter because she chooses her words very carefully in mediation and she could not be certain that the interpreter would interpret correctly. MM’s attorney also said that because most of what she does involves the ability to listen to people’s “tone of voice” and “expressions,” she did not think it would be possible to provide mediation services with a sign language interpreter. The attorney did offer free consultation services, but MM had no confidence that following the consultation that the attorney would take his case and if she did, that she would be able to fairly and neutrally provide him services for his divorce proceeding. As a result, he felt he had no choice than to find another mediator who was willing to provide interpreter services without any bias. He was able to hire another mediator.
The PAIR attorney assisted MM with filing a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, the agency that investigates disability related discrimination in Connecticut. After much negotiation, the parties were able to settle the case. As part of the settlement, the law office created and implemented a comprehensive non-discrimination policy and procedure that included the provision of auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreters, for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.
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 66 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, but were not limited to, denial of assistive technology devices including hearing aids; medication administration and denial of work opportunities due to disability. 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: CC, a prisoner contacted P&A requesting assistance because he was being denied work due to his disability. After reviewing the facts, the case was assigned to a PAIR attorney who met with the prisoner to learn the facts of the situation and review any pertinent paperwork. CC had worked and earned money at the prison for many years. He reported and the records support that there had never been any disciplinary incidents related to his employment.
CC began experiencing health problems and eventually needed to use a wheelchair. Although this did not impair his ability to do his prison job, the prison staff told him that he could no longer do that job for security reasons. They felt that he would be able to steal and hide objects in the wheelchair. The PAIR attorney contacted CC’s supervisor at the prison and extensively negotiated with him and educated him about the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of the solutions proposed was that CC transfer to a different wheelchair when he arrived at work and back to his personal wheelchair when leaving work. This would prevent him from taking anything from the worksite.
The negotiation was successful but CC continued to have health problems that made it more difficult for him to work and continue to keep him out of work at this time. CC and the PAIR attorney agreed that CC would call P&A if he returned to work and experienced further barriers related to his disability.
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. This education goal and its priorities were not addressed by the PAIR program during fiscal year 2012. Advocates whose salaries were paid with alternative sources of funding, however, addressed 235 special education information and referral calls and 65 cases.
During the 2011 fiscal year, the PAIR program anticipated hiring an attorney that would be partially funded using PAIR monies. Because of proposals that would have eliminated 75% of the Connecticut P&A, the attorney hiring process was delayed until the fall of 2011. At the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year, the position refill was finally submitted and worked its way through all required approvals. By the deadline in March 2012, P&A received 150 resumes from applicants interested in practicing special education law. It took six (6) months to review all the resumes, interview applicants, and fulfill the affirmative action requirements for state agencies. The attorney was hired in September 2012, just as the 2012 fiscal year was ending. He did not provide representation for PAIR clients by the end of the fiscal year. The following is a case example of education representation provided by the Connecticut P&A using alternative funding. Case example: When advocates met with Kevin and his mother, he had just been suspended from his middle school after having returned from an out-of-district educational placement. Kevin has learning and behavioral disabilities, which qualify him for special education and related services under both federal and state law. However, his school had failed to convene educational meetings called Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meetings to evaluate and determine his needs for specialized instruction and support services. Without those supports, Kevin had considerable difficulty navigating the regular classroom program. Rather than providing the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and resources to allow him to be successful within his school community, the District had responded to Kevin’s behaviors with repeated suspensions and other punitive measures, and ultimately, by placing him into a poorly designed, inadequately resourced, segregated program it had hastily developed for students with behavior problems. Following numerous complaints, separate investigations by the State Department of Education and P&A, and a series of embarrassing newspaper articles, that program was adjudged to be a massive failure. The school system promised major changes would be made before the start of the next school year. However, one month prior to the start of that new school year, the school system decided to shut the program down and send its students, including Kevin, to a privately operated out-of-district placement nearly an hour away. At that school, Kevin was routinely physically restrained for misconduct.
Ultimately, Kevin and other students were returned to their home district, but without the individualized assessment and planning processes required by law. Kevin was back where he started — plunked down in a middle school that was ill prepared to educate him, and without the appropriate evaluations and an individualized plan for teaching him the coping skills and academic information he desperately needed to succeed. In fact, he had lost ground — two academic years had been wasted by his school system as it shuttled Kevin and other students around, ignoring their needs while it made much-publicized efforts to improve test scores and graduation rates for other students.
P&A filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requesting an investigation of the school’s pattern of unilateral and arbitrary placements and other potentially discriminatory practices affecting students with Emotional Disturbance (ED). OCR agreed to look into Kevin’s situation as part of that inquiry. OCR was able to secure a plan of correction from the school system, and a further agreement to comply with it. The agreement ensured system change for Kevin and other students in the district. In Kevin’s case, the school district agreed to review his educational placement and convene his PPT so that a placement decision could be made based on evaluations — evaluations that would include information from a variety of resources and a proper discussion of his needs. Kevin’s team was also required to determine what and how much educational or other services, such as counseling or other related services he had lost, and to develop a plan to compensate him for those services, giving him the opportunity to catch up with his non-disabled peers. Kevin now attends school in his district with the supports he needs.
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 2012 fiscal year, P&A staff answered 205 calls related to employment. The PAIR Attorney provided representation on eleven (11) 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 2012 fiscal year, P&A attorneys have experienced increasing demand for legal assistance, especially in the area of employment. In addition to handling 11 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.
Case example: BB had a stroke in 2009 and subsequently lost his peripheral vision. He requested that his employer, as an accommodation to his disability, provide him with adaptive tools on his computer so that he would be able to do his essential job functions. BB’s employer, rather than engaging him in the interactive process required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, told him to go to the Human Resources Department.
BB could no longer drive and requested as an accommodation that he be permitted to work from home. His supervisor permitted him to work from home. BB, however, did not get the adaptive tools he needed despite repeated requests for the equipment. His employer continued to complain about his work performance, but did not address his request for adaptive tools.
Following a difficult phone conversation with his supervisors, BB, out of frustration, wrote an email to one of his supervisors in which he expressed a wish to quit because of the denial of adaptive software. He accidently sent the email, but when he realized his error, he immediately called his supervisor to rescind the email. During that conversation, his supervisor said a few words and then abruptly ended the call. Not having the opportunity during the conversation to rescind the email, BB attempted several times to call his supervisor and followed up the calls with two emails in which he asked his supervisor to ignore the email about quitting and reiterated his desire to work with adaptive tools on his computer. His employer accepted the email as a resignation.
BB filed an employment discrimination complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). BB contacted P&A for assistance when he learned that the case had passed merit assessment and he would have to negotiate with the company. The PAIR attorney was assigned after the case had passed merit assessment. P&A represented BB during settlement discussions, which failed, and at the fact-finding. Following the fact-finding CHRO found cause that discrimination occurred. The case was certified for public hearing.
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 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 604 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 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 604 requests for housing information, P&A represented people with disabilities who were being discriminated against in housing. The following is a case example related to housing: Case Example: Like many veterans, Steven is living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his service. He had been working with Paws and People Assisting Wounded Warriors, an organization that matched him with a service dog to assist him with his PTSD. Steven called P&A when his landlord refused to allow him to bring his dog home to live with him.
A PAIR attorney contacted representatives of the landlord’s management company to inform them that refusing to allow a tenant to have a service animal was a violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). During the conversation, the management company said it needed information regarding the breed of the dog and a copy of the dog’s certification as a service animal. The attorney informed the management company that, pursuant to provisions of the FHA, they could not insist on information regarding the dog’s breed, and, further, that service animals were not required to be “certified.” The management company was concerned that the service dog would not be required to behave and that Steven would not be responsible for cleaning up after it. Upon learning that Steven would be required to keep the dog under control and to clean up after it, the management company agreed that he could bring his dog 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 2013 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 - 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 3 - Inform parents and parent groups about the educational rights of their children with disabilities through information and referral services, group trainings, technical assistance and by organizing clinics at which parents and students can review records and develop problem solving strategies. Objective 4- 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 - Pursue “Employment First” initiative in Connecticut by collaborating with disability organizations to educate policymakers and representing individuals with disabilities who are being denied real work for real pay.
Objective 2 — Provide representation for people 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.
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 $152,423.12 State ---------------- ---------------- Program Income ----------------- -------------------- Private ---------------- -------------------- All other Funds (carry forward) $142,637.75 ----------------------- Total (all resources) $318,269.75 $152,432.12
B. Budget for the fiscal year covered by this report — Category Prior Fiscal Year Current Fiscal Year Wages/Salaries $91,073.51 $96,528.00 Fringe Benefits (FICA, unemployment, etc. $57,714.39 $59,654.80 Materials/supplies ------ $130.92 Postage $23.07 $100.00 Telephone ------ --------- Rent ------- ------ Travel $67.96 $800.00 Copying $6.50 -------- Bonding/insurance ------ ------------ Equipment (rental/purchase) ----- ------------- Legal services (contract) ------ ------------ Indirect costs -------- $15618.28 Miscellaneous $3537.69 $2800.00 Total Budget $152,423.12 $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 .74 100 .74 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 2012 fiscal year as the agency worked toward hiring an attorney to handle special education cases. The attorney will be partially PAIR funded. Because of this strategy, the 2012 funds were used to partially fund the salaries of an existing attorney position and one secretary. Seventy-four percent (74%) of the full time attorney and 30% of a full time secretary were charged to PAIR.
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 2012 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 2012 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 2012 fiscal year.
|Signed By||Gretchen Knauff|