|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||1|
|3. Total individuals receiving I&R (lines A1 + A2)||4|
|1. Number of trainings presented by PAIR staff||4|
|2. Number of individuals who attended training (approximate)||205|
A. Training Activities — Historically, the PAIR attorney has provided very little training to people with disabilities, family members and others. The 2013 fiscal year was the same, reflecting only 4 trainings by the PAIR program. A little more than 200 people received training and 420 publications were distributed at the training events.
During the fiscal year, the PAIR program provided training to corrections officers, Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinators at Connecticut state agencies, and special education training for families. P&A also sponsored 11 additional special education training events and trained 200 additional people with disabilities and family members who received more than 700 publications. The PAIR program will be conducting more of these training events during the 2014 fiscal year as P&A’s special education attorney diversifies his activities in the agency.
During the 2013 fiscal year, P&A sponsored or participated in 118 training events, including presentations, workshops, conferences, and resource fairs. More than 3,400 individuals received training on topics that included P&A programs and services; 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, behavior plans 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; experience of siblings with of people with disabilities; how the legislature works; emergency preparedness; rights of people with mental illness including individuals of residential care homes; and reporting of abuse and neglect. Information was disseminated to more than 2,500 people at 21 resource fairs. Over 13,500 publications and P&A program brochures were distributed to individuals and organizations throughout the year. More than 3,100 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, 75,128 visitors obtained information through the site (www.ct.gov/opapd) and more than 44,730 publications were downloaded.
All presentation/training events conducted by the PAIR attorney 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 topic of the training and how to get in touch with P&A.
|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||75,128|
|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)||12|
|2. Additional individuals served during the year||12|
|3. Total individuals served (lines A1 + A2)||24|
|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 10
|1. Architectural accessibility||1|
|3. Program access||2|
|5. Government benefits/services||0|
|8. Assistive technology||4|
|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||15|
|2. Other representation found||1|
|3. Individual withdrew complaint||0|
|4. Appeals unsuccessful||1|
|5. PAIR Services not needed due to individual's death, relocation etc.||0|
|6. PAIR withdrew from case||0|
|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||0|
|2. Short-term assistance||7|
|5. Mediation/alternative dispute resolution||1|
|6. Administrative hearings||3|
|7. Litigation (including class actions)||1|
|8. Systemic/policy activities||0|
|1. 0 - 4||0|
|2. 5 - 22||6|
|3. 23 - 59||15|
|4. 60 - 64||3|
|5. 65 and over||0|
Multiple responses not permitted.
|1. Hispanic/Latino of any race||7|
|2. American Indian or Alaskan Native||0|
|4. Black or African American||2|
|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||11|
|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||0|
|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||14|
|4. Orthopedic impairment||4|
|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||0|
|13. Speech impairment||0|
|15. Traumatic brain injury||1|
|16. Other disability||0|
|1. Number of policies/practices changed as a result of non-litigation systemic activities||21|
|2. Number of individuals potentially impacted by policy changes||250,000|
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. Youth Services Bureau Programs - Sometimes systemic activities arise when you least expect them. P&A represented a child with a disability who was being denied access to a municipal youth services bureau (YSB) program. The P&A Attorney contacted the program and spoke to the Director who was unaware of the YSB’s obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Director requested information from P&A and as a result, the child was included in the program and the YSB’s policies were rewritten to include assistance to children with disabilities.
The Director of the YSB was surprised about the information that she invited the P&A Attorney to a county wide meeting of Youth Service Bureau Directors. The Attorney provided training on the Americans with Disabilities Act, especially the obligation of municipalities to provide program access and effective communication under Title II. The YSB Directors were receptive to the information and many expressed that they would be updating policies to incorporate that information.
The P&A Attorney has now been invited to present the information at the yearly conference of Youth Service Bureaus taking place in the 2014 fiscal year.
This systemic activity could potentially impact children with disabilities in Connecticut. The U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2012 estimates the number of children with disabilities in Connecticut to be 28,600.
2. 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. This is a long standing systemic issue for P&A as technology has changed since the original case, creating the need for continued vigilance.
During the 2013 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 four (4) individuals who are either deaf or hard of hearing with complaints against four (4) Connecticut hospitals due to their failure to provide effective communication. The PAIR Attorney also continued to monitor the settlement agreement in one case.
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.
3. Building Code Accessibility Waiver Determinations - P&A is statutorily mandated to work with the Office of the State Building Inspector (OSBI) to review and decide on applications to waive 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 2013 fiscal year, P&A reviewed and made determinations on 114 requests for waivers and 40 requests for the use of wheelchair lifts. Seven of these request were denied changing the practice/policy of the requestor and creating accessibility in a space that would otherwise have been built with inaccessible features. At a minimum, this activity should benefit people with ambulatory difficulties in Connecticut. It will also impact visitors with disabilities who are able to access goods and services in Connecticut because they are accessible. The U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2012 estimates this number to be 188,559.
Case Example: During the 2013 fiscal year, P&A’s Lifts and Waivers Committee acted on 114 applications for waivers from the State Building Code accessibility requirements. These requests came from a wide variety of entities and dealt with a broad range of issues. Applicants included public school systems, private nonprofits, and religious entities, as well as owners of restaurants, gyms, shopping plazas, office buildings, apartment houses and other businesses. A minority of these applications involved new construction; most involved existing construction undergoing new uses. A particularly interesting application came from a large, new laboratory complex that cited the need for inaccessible physical barriers for the containment of infectious elements. Some other applying entities were: A bank requesting, on the basis of security concerns, a waiver from providing accessible teller stations; a group home requesting a waiver from providing an accessible path of travel; a country club requesting exemption from installing adequate grab bars in a bathroom; and a land trust requesting a waiver from providing accessibility in a home on the grounds.
4 Addressing Violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for Prisoners Who have Disabilities - During the 2013 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 35 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, but were not limited to, denial of assistive technology devices including hearing aids; denial of release due to inaccessibility of halfway houses; denial of work opportunities due to disability and denial of reasonable accommodation for various issues.
P&A staff including PAIR staff met with officials from the Department of Correction (DOC) several times during the fiscal year. P&A staff and DOC representatives discussed policies related to people with disabilities, specific cases where the prisoner is being denied rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the general lack of knowledge about DOC’s obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Strategies were developed for cases and the PAIR attorney conducted a training for DOC staff about the ADA and the DOC’s obligation under Title II of the Act.
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: JJ, a paralyzed inmate who uses a wheelchair, contacted P&A when he discovered that the Department of Correction Community Parole staff was holding up his move to the community because there were no accessible halfway houses that could take him. He had been approved for release by both DOC medical managed care and the Warden of his prison. He was so confident that he was leaving to go to the community, JJ gave up his right to a parole hearing. During the application process, however, JJ was denied by the staff at Community Parole who refused to release JJ for medical reasons. Because he had given up his right to the parole hearing, he would have to stay until the end of his sentence. JJ was frustrated.
P&A reviewed the situation with JJ and made contact with the discharge planners at DOC. Upon investigation, P&A staff learned that the reason for the denial to the community was not medical but a lack of accessibility at the halfway houses. P&A successfully advocated with the discharge planners to reinstate the original parole hearing date. JJ also received information about P&A, disability rights and services and How to File a Title II Complaint in case he wanted to file a complaint about the denial of his release due to the lack of accessibility. JJ prevailed at his parole hearing and is now living in the community.
|1. Number of individuals potentially impacted by changes as a result of PAIR litigation/class action efforts||20,000|
|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.
A. Litigation Class Action: P&A uses its PAIR funding to provide legal services to persons with disabilities, collaborating with advocates to protect and advance the civil rights of persons with disabilities in Connecticut. All the examples in this report are legal advocacy or outreach and systemic activities by legal staff. It is difficult to estimate the impact of these activities, however, there are approximately 371,000 people with disabilities in Connecticut (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2012).
Movie Captioning Case — For many years, P&A has been working with the Connecticut Association of the Deaf (CAD) on issues affecting people in Connecticut who are Deaf. During the 2013 fiscal year, CAD raised the issue of effective communication at movie theaters. P&A staff learned from CAD that Bow Tie Cinemas either did not have captioning devices or a sufficient number of captioning devices in its Connecticut theaters. One of those theaters is located near a large school for the deaf. P&A collaborated with the National Association for the Deaf, and a private law firm to approach Bow Tie Cinema to attempt to settle this matter without resort to litigation. Bow Tie agreed to install captioning devices in all of its digital theaters but the parties did not have an agreement on how many captioning devices would be available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In May 2013, P&A sent an official settlement offer to Bow Tie that included the number of captioning devices and giving them 10 days to reply to the offer.
Bow Tie did not respond to the offer but P&A conducted some research and learned that Bow Tie had started to put captioning devices in its theaters but they were wholly insufficient. The impact of the insufficient devices was realized when a group of CAD members went to a local theater to watch a movie and only one device was available because someone else was using the other one. The one device was inoperable, so they left the theater.
P&A and its partners decided to file the Complaint. The Complaint and press releases were filed on July 30, 2013. Since the filing of the Complaint, it has been amended, and the parties are in settlement discussions with Bow Tie in advance of our anticipated settlement conference with the Magistrate. The case is continuing.
The impact of this litigation has not come to fruition yet but it has the potential to impact more than 20,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing in Connecticut and others who come from other states and go to movie as an activity with the family or as part of a vacation or recreation time.
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 2013 paid for attorney and secretary salaries. The PAIR program handled cases related to the rights of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and persons with disabilities experiencing employment, and housing discrimination. PAIR staff also assisted with special education cases and post-secondary education accommodations. In addition to PAIR case work, a 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.
PAIR staff collaborated with other P&A programs to address disability-related issues through casework 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 2013 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 largely 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. A major topic of discussion during fiscal year 2013 was movie theater access resulting in legal action by P&A which will be discussed later in this report. During the 2013 fiscal year, the PAIR program provided an intensive level of legal representation related to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. The PAIR attorney represented 10 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 2013 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 four (4) individuals who are either deaf or hard of hearing with complaints against four (4) Connecticut hospitals due to their failure to provide effective communication. The PAIR attorney continued to monitor a fifth case in accordance with a previous settlement agreement. The PAIR attorney assisted the four complainants with assessing their cases and filing complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and/or the United States Department of Justice. Two (2) of the cases were resolved and closed while three (3) client cases remained open at the end of the fiscal year.
Case Examples: The PAIR Attorney received a complaint from the Deaf parents of a hearing child who has a heart condition. At the Emergency Room, the parents were provided a Video Relay Interpreter (VRI) but it was not effective communication for either parent because the picture was freezing or hospital personnel would walk or stand in front of it. The parents could not communicate with the medical personnel to convey information about their experience with her medical condition nor could they understand what was being told to them. The PAIR attorney met with the parents, reviewed the situation and assisted them in filing a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. The case remains open pending next steps with the complaint.
In a second case, the PAIR Attorney received a call from a deaf individual who was in a mental health facility. She was being denied an interpreter for group therapy sessions as the facility felt the interpreter would be a violation of confidentiality for the other individuals in the group. The PAIR Attorney attempted to work with the facility but ultimately assisted the caller with filing Americans with Disabilities Act complaint against the facility.
2. Employment Discrimination - The PAIR program received three (3) complaints regarding employment from individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The complaints involved issues of pay inequality because of disability, accommodation in a certification process and lack of reasonable accommodation in the workplace.
Case Example: P&A received a call from a Deaf employee who was denied forklift certification because of his disability. He was not afforded the same testing process and retakes given to other employees when they fail the test. When he failed the test, he was not given an opportunity to take it again. About the same time, he needed surgery and upon his return to work after surgery, he was sent home because he was not 100% healed. When they would not allow him to return to work, he requested a slip for unemployment. The employer requested that he sign a paper but did not provide an interpreter at the time the employee went to sign. The employer had him sign a document that effectively was a resignation from the job, resulting in the employee’s loss of unemployment benefits. The PAIR attorney assisted the employee with filing a Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities complaint and his case is pending.
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 during the 2013 fiscal year, 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.
Case Example: Kim, who is deaf, has a 15 year old son named Mark who has a psychiatric disability. Mark was facing a transition in his mental health support services from one agency that provided a short term intensive treatment program to another agency for continuing long term services. His treating clinician from the first agency called the long term treatment agency to make an intake appointment for Mark. After making the appointment, the clinician said that Mark’s mother is deaf and that they would need to provide an ASL interpreter for the intake. The receptionist told the clinician that they were not required to provide an interpreter since it was the mother, not the client, who was deaf.
The clinician was not sure about who needed to provide the interpreter under those circumstances, so she postponed making the appointment. After arranging for her agency to pay for the interpreter for the intake appointment, she called the second agency back and made the appointment. The referring agency paid for an interpreter for several more appointments at the new agency. But, as Mark was no longer a client of the first agency, this arrangement could not continue. Mark’s new psychiatrist ultimately (and somewhat reluctantly) agreed to provide an interpreter for discussions with Kim, but, after discussing the situation with the Director of the new agency, reversed his decision. Even though consultations with both Mark and Kim were part of the treatment plan, the Director believed that it was not their responsibility to provide an interpreter because they were a private agency.
Kim contacted Mark’s old clinician and explained the situation. The clinician contacted P&A. After speaking with Kim, the P&A advocate contacted the new agency and spoke to the psychiatrist, who confirmed that he had been told by his Director that their agency was not obligated to provide an interpreter. The advocate explained Title III under the Americans with Disabilities Act and emailed him a copy of P&A’s publication ‘Healthcare Providers Obligations Under the ADA.’ After a lengthy discussion, the psychiatrist agreed that it was his agency’s responsibility to provide the interpreter. Mark and Kim have since attended many counselling appointments, and there has been an interpreter present each time.
4. Other Complaints Regarding the Lack of Interpreter Services - P&A Information and Referral staff also addressed lack of sign language interpreters when people who are deaf interacted with the police, and in post-secondary educational settings. During the 2013 fiscal year, the PAIR Attorney represented individuals in each of these situations, working with clients to review records, advocate for change, remedy the situation and file complaints. These cases will continue into the 2014 fiscal year.
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. During the 2013 fiscal year, P&A responded to 54 letters and calls from PAIR eligible 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, denial of work opportunities due to disability and denial of parole due to lack of accessibility at half way houses. Some of the cases were handled by advocates while others were handled by the PAIR attorney. The cases were handled through negotiation with officials at the various Connecticut prisons. In many cases, the advocates succeeded in obtaining the necessary services and/or accommodations needed by the prisoners.
Case Example: The PAIR Attorney assisted a hard of hearing inmate who contacted P&A after he was forced to attend his parole hearings without hearing aids or other auxiliary aids and services, resulting in a delay in his parole. The PAIR Attorney reviewed the records, spoke with Department of Correction officials and advocated to get the inmate two new hearing aids. The PAIR Attorney assisted the inmate with filing a complaint with the United States Department of Justice regarding the lack of effective communication at the parole hearing.
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. Present educational practice in Connecticut tends to remove students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, denying them access to the regular educational curriculum and their non-disabled peers. Public schools are ill-equipped to meet the emotional and behavioral needs of these children and consequently resort to the practices of restraint and seclusion rather than the use of positive behavioral supports. During the 2013 fiscal year, P&A represented children who had been subjected to restraint and seclusion. The agency also issued an investigation report on “scream rooms” in a local school system. Scream Rooms were named by children in the school who heard screaming coming from children who were placed in them. They are seclusion rooms that the school system used for children with behavioral issues. A copy of the scream room investigation, No More “Scream Rooms” in Connecticut Schools, can be found on the P&A website at: http://www.ct.gov/opapd/cwp/view.asp?a=1757&q=527780&opapdPNavCtr=|50812|55887|55887 Case Example: P&A represented a student with a speech and language disorder who was being expelled for an incident on a school bus. Though it was ultimately determined the behavior in question was not a manifestation of his disability, his educational history and gaps in academic progress necessitated continued advocacy. The student achievement and skills levels were between a second grade and third grade level. The student is now a freshman in high school. Through representation at Planning anfd Placement Team meetings, the advocate and attorney negotiated for proper evaluations to be done as well compensatory educational time. Currently, it is decided that new information is required to formulate a proper Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for this student and the school has contracted with a Neuropsychologist who is P&A’s first choice evaluator.
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.
In Connecticut, this is especially true of children disabilities. Families tend to not have the information needed to make good decisions for their children. Districts routinely fail to provide all of the necessary supplementary aids and supports to allow children educational opportunity in the least restrictive environment. Children are determined “too” disabled for the district to provide an appropriate program, resorting to placement in more segregated settings because, according to the school systems “that’s where the resources are”. During the 2013 fiscal year, P&A staff handled more than 200 calls related to special education. Parents routinely call the agency for assistance because they cannot get the services and supports they need for their children to be successful in school. The following is a case example of representation for one of these students who was at risk of a more restrictive setting. Case Example: P&A, through its Special Education Attorney, provided advocacy to create accommodations for a student who was having academic and emotional difficulties with regard to an unknown illness or disorder. Student was attending a local magnet school when he began to experience an illness that led to constant vomiting throughout the day. The student’s mother pulled the student out of school until medical personnel could determine the nature of the illness. The family sought medical help from both gastroenterologists and psychiatrists. The student’s principal, however, refused to provide any accommodations including unrestricted hall passes to use bathroom and the ability to make up work. Through negotiation and advocacy to the student’s home school district, P&A was able to convince the principal and personnel at the magnet school to adopt changes in the student’s Section 504 plan so he could return to school without fear and embarrassment about his disability. 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. During the 2013 fiscal year, P&A revamped its special education unit process. A new Attorney had been hired to address special education issues for children with disabilities and during the year, the responsibilities of the special education advocates were shifted. One advocate is now devoted to answering information and referral calls related to special education. She addresses the variety of issues presented by the callers, requests records when appropriate and brings issues to case review when a higher level of advocacy is needed to assist with the educational programming. During the 2013 fiscal year, 205 special education calls were handled by P&A. P&A staff, including the PAIR Attorney conducted 17 presentations concerning rights under special education laws to parent groups in geographically diverse areas of Connecticut. More than 300 people attended the trainings and they received almost 1,000 pieces of information about special education and the special education process. Many of the presentations were in collaboration with parent groups of children in underrepresented communities, some in rural areas and others in urban settings. The trainings are designed to teach parents the basics and provide them with a three question tool that will allow them to have a better handle on the Planning and Placement Team process, leading to more effective Individualized Education Plans for their children. P&A did not begin to offer special education clinics before the end of the 2013 fiscal year. A coordinator has been chosen and a kick off meeting was scheduled. Objective 4 - Provide advocacy representation for students with disabilities to assist in the development of appropriate transition plans. Transition planning in Connecticut continued to be a frequent issues for callers during the 2013 fiscal year. Students with disabilities who are preparing for the future are often “stuck” in school based models of transition continuing the remediation of academic objectives. Services are not developed as a coordinated set of activities based on student preferences that will actually promote movement to adult life. These activities are not functionally relevant to the community they will work, live, and play in. Parents and their children are often left with transition services that are poorly linked to the adult service system. The following is a case example from the 2013 fiscal year. Case Example: P&A, through its Special Education Attorney provided representation to an individual with Muscular Dystrophy. The student uses a wheelchair and requires the use of an elevator to attend classes on the school’s second floor. However, at various times throughout the previous school year, the elevator malfunctioned. The student was not given the ability to attend class nor was there a protocol in place. The student had also been removed from a French Class when it was thought too tough for the student, though other interventions were never tried. Through the agency’s representation, a satisfactory 504 plan was created and accommodations were made to rectify the previous year’s problems.
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 2013 fiscal year, P&A staff answered 211 calls related to employment. The PAIR Attorney provided representation on nine (9) employment cases related to equitable pay, denial of reasonable accommodation including assistive technology, denial of policy modification to create a nut free environment and denial of certification. 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. During the 2013 fiscal year, P&A staff discussed the “Employment First” initiative with several advocacy groups and service providers who were interested in participating in the process. Because of other commitments, a meeting of these organizations has not been convened but is planned for the 2014 fiscal year.
Objective 2 — Provide representation for people who have experienced discrimination in employment because of their disabilities.
During the 2013 fiscal year, P&A represented nine (9) individuals with a variety of disabilities who were experiencing barriers to obtaining or retaining employment and promotional status. The PAIR attorney also provided consultation to other P&A staff who had questions related to potential employment discrimination. The following is a case example from fiscal year 2013.
Case example: Lisa works as a self-checkout clerk for a large grocery store. She has developed osteoarthritis of her knees which affects her ability to stand on her feet for long periods at a time. Earlier this year she went out on medical leave and, upon her return provided her employer with a letter from her doctor verifying her disability and requesting that she be allowed to sit on a stool at her work station as an accommodation.
However, when Lisa returned to work, she was sent home. She provided her employer with another letter from her doctor in which he repeated his verification of her disability, and supported her request to be allowed to sit as an accommodation. Her employer then sent her a letter seeking unspecified “additional information”. Lisa very much wanted to return to work, but was unsure of what to do. So she called P&A.
After speaking with an advocate and sharing copies of the two letters her doctor had already written, Lisa’s case was referred to P&A’s legal division. After speaking to Lisa, the attorney attempted to engage her union in resolving this matter. The attorney spoke with her union rep, explained the law and that Lisa was seeking to return to work with accommodations and back pay for the time she missed when she had been sent home. Her union rep said he’d call the employer’s Human Resources (HR) Department, set up a meeting, and “read them the ‘riot act’.”
That did not happen. Lisa waited a week, but, heard nothing from the union representative. Short on cash and extremely anxious to return to work, she called the P&A attorney again. This time the attorney called the employer’s HR Department and, ultimately, discussed Lisa’s situation with the HR representative who had been assigned to Lisa’s case. Together, they went over the doctor’s letters, and the HR Manager confirmed that the information provided was sufficient. He agreed to provide Lisa with the accommodation she was requesting, and to “look into” the issue of back pay.
Lisa went back to work immediately, and can now work her full shift without experiencing pain. But, so far, there has been no response from the employer about Lisa’s request for back pay. The P&A attorney has informed the employer that she will not be dropping the back pay issue.
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 559 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 and attended one of Connecticut’s largest housing conferences to provide resources and network with other organizations interested in housing issues.
There is no case example for this objective.
Objective 2 - Continue to contest discriminatory housing practices and proposals. In addition to addressing the 559 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: P&A represented a client, Mary, who has an orthopedic disability that impairs her mobility. She has a service dog and the management company at her condominium complex wanted her to sign its pet policy. The management company was pressuring Mary to sign the policy and she called P&A for help. The P&A Attorney reviewed the pet policy and discussed it with Mary, educating her about her right to a service animal and the problems with the policy as written. The Attorney contacted the management company’s attorney and explained to him that Mary would not sign a pet policy because she doesn’t own a pet. She also explained the other deficiencies in the condominium’s pet policy. The P&A Attorney offered to review an updated/modified policy that would address the service animal issue and have Mary sign it if appropriate. Despite several calls to the attorney, the P&A attorney did not receive a call back from the condominium attorney. In addition, Mary has not been pressured to sign anything since P&A’s involvement with the issue. The case is now closed but Mary knows she can call P&A if the issue resurfaces.
This issue, in addition to other calls received by P&A, has prompted the legal staff to begin thinking about a project to inform condominium associations in Connecticut about the obligations to people with disabilities under state and federal housing laws.
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 2014 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 — 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.
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) $175,300.00 $154,522.36 State ---------------- ---------------- Program Income ----------------- -------------------- Private ---------------- -------------------- All other Funds (carry forward) $165,244.63 ----------------------- Total (all resources) $340,544.63 $154,522.36
B. Budget for the fiscal year covered by this report — Category Prior Fiscal Year Current Fiscal Year Wages/Salaries $88,531.56 $96,528.00 Fringe Benefits (FICA, unemployment, etc. $62,665.75 $59,655.00 Materials/supplies ------ $149.00 Postage $47.88 $50.00 Telephone ------ --------- Rent ------- ------ Travel $7.00 $500.00 Copying $4.00 -------- Bonding/insurance ------ ------------ Equipment (rental/purchase) ----- ------------- Legal services (contract) ------ ------------ Indirect costs -------- $15618.00 Miscellaneous (dues, Interpreter services, Service of process) $3266.17 $2800.00 Total Budget $154,522.36 $175,300.00
The costs in the miscellaneous category in FY 2013 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 .82 100 .82 Part-time ---- ---- ----- Vacant ---- --- ----- Clerical Full-time .30 .28 .084 Part-time --- ----- ------ Vacant --- ----- -------
During the 2013 fiscal year, the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities hired an attorney who is handling special education cases. Part of his salary is PAIR funded. In addition, PAIR funding was used to partially fund the salaries of an existing attorney position and one secretary. Attorney work totaled to 82 percent of a full time salary while the Secretary was PAIR funded for 30 percent of her salary. The Secretary position was vacant for a large part of the 2013 fiscal year as the agency worked with state personnel to refill it.
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 2013 fiscal year, these included, but were not limited to: Cross Disability Alliance (new), Board of Education and Services for the Blind Advisory Council, Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities, Special Education Advisory Group to the State Department of Education, Special Education Advocates Network, Long-Term Care Planning Committee, Department of Children and Families-Parents with Cognitive Limitations Workgroup, The Association for Successful Parenting (international organization that assists parents with disabilities), 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, 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. The grievance procedure was reviewed and updated in August 2013 to provide an opportunity to quickly resolve the issue of the grievant. No PAIR grievances were filed during the 2013 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. During the 2013 fiscal year, the PAIR attorney addressed employment issues raised by CAP staff members and worked on the overall employment goals set by the agency.
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 2013 fiscal year.
Part I — NON CASE SERVICES
A. Information and Referral Services — The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A) used its PAIR funds to pay for legal and secretarial time. Legal staff are not responsible for handling information and referral inquiries and therefore this report reflects only 4 calls answered by staff in the PAIR program.
Individuals contacting P&A are 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 (I&R) 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 state 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 2013 fiscal year: In 2013, P&A advocates received 3,259 requests for information and referral, or short-term assistance from people with disabilities, their family members, and interested parties. In addition to meeting with walk-in clients, advocates handled requests for information and assistance from callers, legislators, e-mail contacts, letters and visitors to the P&A website. The largest volume of calls (592) 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 (559), Rights Violations (477), Government Benefits and Services (348), Employment (211), Education (205), Healthcare (145), Services (85), Rehabilitation Services (85), Financial Entitlements (70), Architectural Accessibility (64), Transportation (60), Assistive Technology (30), Guardianship and Conservatorship (36), Parental Rights/Childcare (29), Insurance (13), and Recreation (13). Advocates also responded to 314 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, forensic commitment, immigration, and access to records.
|Signed By||Gretchen Knauff|