Guthrey v. Alta California Regional Center

Filed: July 11, 2024

Court: U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Overview: Amicus brief arguing that California regional centers and their vendors, which coordinate and deliver services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are places of public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Excerpt: “Because they have physical buildings at which and from which they provide services to the public, California Regional Centers and their vendors (including Defendants/Appellees) are all places of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA. . .and the services they provide individuals like Plaintiffs/Appellants are covered by that statute. . .This Circuit’s requirement that discrimination challenged under Title III have a ‘nexus’ to a physical building simply requires a connection to that building; it does not require that the discrimination have occurred on the physical premises. The district court’s opinion requiring a showing that the challenged services were provided at Defendants’ offices. . . improperly restricted the reach of Title III, contrary to the plain language of the statute, its legislative history, and this Circuit’s precedent. The district court also improperly required that plaintiffs establish a violation of the ADA as a prerequisite to a claim under either Section 504 or the Unruh Act. These holdings are completely unsupported, as the three statutes – while all addressing disability discrimination – do so in different contexts with, as a result, different required factual predicates.  Ultimately, by eliminating all recourse for individuals with IDD to challenge discrimination by Regional Centers and their vendors, the district court’s decision threatens to undermine years of progress through both the ADA and California’s Lanterman Act.”

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Letter to House Agriculture Committee on the 2024 Farm Bill

May 23, 2024

The Honorable Glenn “GT” Thompson
Chairman
House Committee on Agriculture
400 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable David Scott
Ranking Member
House Committee on Agriculture
468 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member Scott,

We write to express strong concern with the proposed changes to future Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) benefit adjustments outlined in the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024: Discussion Draft (House Farm Bill). This proposal would block Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits from keeping pace with the cost of a healthy, realistic diet, which the Congressional Budget Office projects would cut benefits by almost $30 billion over the next 10 years. If enacted, this would be the largest cut to SNAP in almost 30 years, and these cuts would grow much deeper over time. Every SNAP participant would receive less to buy groceries in the future than they would under current law. This represents a serious threat to the health of nearly 14 million people with disabilities who rely on SNAP to put food on the table.

The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families. Our nearly 600 state and local chapters across the United States provide a wide range of services for people with IDD, including individual and systems advocacy, public education, family support, systems navigation, support coordination services, employment, housing, support groups, and recreation.

In the United States, all too often food insecurity and disability go together. Families that include people with disabilities are two to three times more likely to experience food insecurity than families that have no members with disabilities. Similarly, people experiencing food insecurity have increased likelihood of chronic illness and disability.

By increasing access to adequate, nutritious food, SNAP plays a key role in reducing hunger and helping people with disabilities to maximize their health and participate in their communities. SNAP benefits have served as an important lifeline as the price of food has skyrocketed in recent years, but benefit levels have fallen short of meeting many peoples’ needs. From 2019 to 2023, the all-food Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 25 percent. As a member of our network from Minnesota wrote, “As a disabled person who is unable to work and gets the maximum amount of benefits I’m entitled to through the program, I still struggle to feed myself and rely on the food shelf and other charities to make sure I don’t go hungry. Cutting it would be devastating to my ability to feed myself.”

Inflation is not the only factor that influences the cost of a healthy diet. Beyond inflation, people with disabilities face additional food affordability challenges because many have allergies, food sensitivities, or other health conditions that require a specialized diet and higher grocery bills. For example, we recently received a message from a parent in Texas who emphasized the importance of SNAP benefits for her family when she wrote, “My daughter has a life-threatening syndrome related to a slow metabolism requiring her to have a low-[calorie], low fat, overall very healthy diet. These foods often cost more. … We daily are working towards long term solutions to keep her safe and healthy when we are someday gone. Losing SNAP benefits would set us back completely.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s 2021 update to the TFP resulted in modest but overdue improvements to SNAP benefits that have enabled people with disabilities to afford more of the foods they need. For example, the inclusion of some easier-to-prepare foods such as canned beans and pre-cut foods in the 2021 TFP helped make SNAP benefit levels better reflect the reality of what beneficiaries—especially those with mobility and/or manual dexterity challenges—actually buy.

The proposal in the House Farm Bill to freeze the cost of the TFP outside of inflation adjustments, even if nutrition guidelines or other factors change the cost of an adequate diet, would erode benefits over time and have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. We urge you not to advance this proposal and to work on a bipartisan basis to strengthen and protect SNAP.

Sincerely,

Darcy Milburn
Director, Social Security and Healthcare Policy
The Arc of the United States

City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson

Filed: April 3, 2024

Court: U.S. Supreme Court

Overview: Amicus brief arguing that the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits cities from criminalizing conduct associated with being unhoused.

Excerpt: “People with disabilities face unique challenges and deep-rooted stigmas that increase their risk for homelessness. Less than 5% of housing in the United States is accessible for moderate mobility disabilities, and less than 1% is accessible for wheelchair use. Housing costs are prohibitive for many disabled people who rely on public assistance for basic costs of living—the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the United States exceeds the maximum monthly Supplemental Security Income a person can receive. Moreover, widespread housing discrimination on the basis of disability further compounds the risk of homelessness. The Ordinances’ impact on homeless people with disabilities highlights how grossly out of proportion the punishments they impose are to the severity of the offense. Simply put, criminalizing the involuntary conduct of being a homeless person without a place to sleep—in a city with no public shelters—is anathema to the decency standards of any civilized society.”

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Robertson v. District of Columbia

Filed: 2024

Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Plaintiffs: Parents and guardians of students with disabilities in the District and The Arc

Counsel: The Arc, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Children’s Law Center, McDermott Will & Emery

Overview: Parents and guardians of children with disabilities living in D.C., along with The Arc of the United States, filed a class action lawsuit against D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent for Education for failing to provide safe, reliable and effective transportation to and from schools for children with disabilities, thereby denying students equal access to their education and unnecessarily segregating them from their peers.

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Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

Filed: January 30, 2024

Court: U.S. Supreme Court

Overview: Amicus brief arguing that it is not the role of courts to substitute their evaluation of drug safety and effectiveness in place of the FDA’s expert determinations.

Excerpt: “The Fifth Circuit’s substituting its evaluation of drug safety and effectiveness for FDA’s expert determinations affects far more than the modifications to the conditions of use for the single drug at issue here. Patients and their providers depend on FDA’s determinations about safety and effectiveness and expect drugs to be available according to the terms of the FDA approval, including supplemental approval. Providers rely on FDA’s expertise-based approval of drug uses in making treatment plans, and patients depend on being able to take the drugs as prescribed by their providers. The Fifth Circuit’s ruling broadly jeopardizes the reliability of FDA’s original approvals of drugs, and the agency’s approvals of modifications to the conditions of their use. It is effectively a roadmap for other litigants seeking to overturn drug approvals or conditions of use they disfavor—whether those changes expand (as was the case here) or restrict how the drug can be used. If approved drugs or modifications to conditions of use can be so readily enjoined despite FDA’s scientific assessments, the resulting uncertainty would jeopardize patient access to drugs, particularly in cases where FDA has expanded the approved uses of a drug to cover new diseases or conditions. It could also threaten patient safety, as FDA approves modifications to conditions of use where it determines they are needed to protect patients from risks of harm. Finally, the Fifth Circuit’s decision would impair the development of new treatments, as uncertainty disincentivizes pharmaceutical manufacturers, clinicians, and patients from undertaking time-and resource-intensive clinical trials to study new drugs and new indications for approved drugs.”

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FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine Amicus Brief

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Storytelling Toolkit for People With Disabilities and Advocates

Your life and experiences are powerful and valuable. Sharing your story can change people’s hearts and minds.

This toolkit will help you create and share your stories to raise awareness about an issue, encourage elected officials to change laws or policies, ask people to support changes you want to make in your life, and share about what your life is like.

Download the resources below to get started!

Intersections of Disability and Rurality: Elevating Family Voices

In this recorded webinar, you will hear from Jessica Curd about rural caregiving and disability. She talks about how poverty, living in rural areas, caregiving, and having a disability can overlap and create higher risks and vulnerability. She also talks about a study she did with Dr. John Keesler. They listened to families in rural areas with kids with autism and let them share their experiences. Jessica explains how they did the study and what they found. She also talks about ideas from the families for how to help more.

Download the presentation here.

Introduction to The Arc@School Advocacy Curriculum in Spanish

These recorded webinars provide a brief overview of the Spanish version of The Arc@School’s Special Education Advocacy Curriculum. The curriculum provides basic information that parents, educators, and non-attorney advocates need to support students and families in navigating the special education system. Watch the webinar to learn more about the content of the curriculum, how to sign up to receive an account, what to expect after signing up, and more.

IN ENGLISH:

IN SPANISH:

Talk About Sexual Violence: Phase Three Final Report

Transforming Health Care to Address and Prevent Sexual Violence of People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Final Report 

Health care providers hold vital positions in the growing national movement to address sexual assault. The overarching goals of the multi-year Talk About Sexual Violence (TASV) project were to raise the alarm about this silent epidemic, promote trauma-informed practices in health care, and compel action to prevent sexual trauma suffered in communities across the country.

This comprehensive summary report provides key findings, innovative solutions, and a call to action from survivors with disabilities, health care professionals, and other advocates.

This final report is provided both in a written format and as a video.

Shifting Our View: A Person-Centered Journey

In this webinar, Lori Ropa, Executive Director of The Arc of Jefferson, Clear Creek, and Gilpin Counties, discusses how she embarked on a journey with their advocacy team during COVID to “shift their views” and attempted to understand the thoughts and feelings of the people who came to support them. Lori’s team developed personas and mapped people’s journeys through The Arc through the lens of each persona. They then developed actionable items to make the advocacy experience even more positive for the people coming to their organization for support.

Download presentation here.