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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Kamala Harris on Disabilities

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns.

Biden has chosen Kamala Harris as his running mate.  During her own campaign, she released a position paper on disabilities.

Kamala Harris, Medium, August 29, 2019:
Recommitting to building inclusive economic opportunity in America
According to CDC data, about a quarter of people in the United States have a disability. Kamala believes in an America that is fully accessible and inclusive for everyone and her administration will fight to make this a reality across all parts of our society. As president, Kamala will have diverse leaders with disabilities developing all the policies her administration champions, including priorities that will lift up people with disabilities.
To do this we must expand economic opportunity and security for people with disabilities. In 2018, the unemployment rate for workers with disabilities was more than twice that for workers without disabilities. Only 32 percent of people with disabilities who are working-age are employed. On the other hand, 73 percent of people without disabilities in the same age group are employed. Just as we fight to finally eliminate practices that lead to people with disabilities being paid subminimum wages, we also have to speak the truth about how we need to eliminate barriers that make it harder for people with disabilities to fully participate in our workforce.
Under Kamala’s leadership, in partnership with the disability community, we can build an America that lives up to the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our country is stronger when everyone is valued, everyone has dignity, and everyone can be part of the competitive labor force.

She’ll fight to create inclusive emp loyment opportunities that pay people with disabilities their full value.
She’ll pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, which will establish a grant program for states to help redesign business models and strategies to increase employment of people with disabilities in competitive integrated employment.
People with disabilities are both more likely to work in low wage fields as well as be paid less than the minimum wage. That’s why she’ll pass the Raise the Wage Act, which will not only raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour but will also phase out the “subminimum” wage.
She’ll remove barriers that make it harder for people with disabilities to take advantage of job opportunities.
Kamala will make changes to the vocational rehabilitation system at the Department of Education, which gives grants to states to help people with disabilities prepare for, secure, and retain employment. Kamala will make sure that the grant program covers a wider range of services and supports for a greater number of people to help more people with disabilities get the workplace accommodations, adaptive technology and devices, and other things that can be barriers to finding and maintaining a job.
And she’ll fight to increase funding for the program so that it can serve everyone who would benefit from assistance under it.
She’ll expand accessible, affordable transportation and housing options, which are key supports for anyone participating in the workforce.
Federal civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act already require that our transportation systems and housing projects be fully accessible. However, these accommodations still have accessibility issues because efforts to make the projects fully accessible are frequently not done at the front-end of the project.
For example, more than a quarter of rail stations across the country are not fully accessible to people with disabilities. The same is true of 12% of the U.S. rail fleet.
Kamala will address this by taking executive action to direct the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to require that funding recipients submit plans detailing how their projects will be fully accessible prior to receiving funding.
She’ll fight to pass the IDEA Full Funding Act to make sure that students with disabilities are learning in classrooms that have funding to ensure they can get the education they deserve, which is key to ensuring long-term economic opportunity.
And she’ll direct her education secretary to increase enforcement of civil rights laws designed to protect that right to an education.
And she’ll work to increase resources to better prepare teachers to meet the needs of students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms and expand access to post-secondary education for people with disabilities.
She’ll fight to finally ratify U.S. participation in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to affirm American leadership in fighting for the civil rights of people with disabilities around the world.
She’ll fight to pass the Working Families Tax Credit to allow people without dependent children to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit. And she’ll make the Child Tax Credit fully refundable which would be particularly beneficial to families who have children with disabilities.
Because quality, affordable health care is core to economic security, she’ll fight to pass her Medicare for All plan which addresses the significant barriers to quality health care that children and adults with disabilities face.
Kamala’s plan fully covers comprehensive long-term services and supports, as well as assistive technologies and Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) services that are critical to children with disabilities. It also ensures that those long-term services and supports are consumer-directed and are provided in home- and community-based settings.
And it ensures that when families move, or people with disabilities change jobs, their coverage moves with them so that they have uninterrupted access to the care and services they need.
She’ll ensure that people with disabilities impacted by disasters have the services and other civil rights protections they are entitled to under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, so they can return home, to work and school at the same time as the rest of the disaster impacted community.
And, she’ll make sure the federal government leads by example.
Kamala will recommit us to the goal President Obama established in 2010 to make the federal government a model inclusive employer and strongly enforce Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act. She will direct agencies to create updated plans for how to make the recruitment, hiring, and retention of people with disabilities a priority in her administration. And she’ll make sure this diverse leadership is represented in senior positions and that there are opportunities for promotion.
Kamala will also take executive action to ensure that the technology the federal government buys, develops, or uses is fully accessible, as is currently required by federal law. This will include requiring each agency to implement a plan to ensure that any new technology developed or acquired is fully accessible before it is deployed, as well as doing an analysis of existing technology that is not compliant and develop a timeline for updating it.
And Kamala will create new senior-level positions in the White House to make sure that the priorities for people with disabilities are incorporated across all of her policymaking, particularly on the Domestic Policy Council and the economic work of her administration.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Cannibis Use as a Risk Factor

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss various ideas about what causes the conditionHere is just a partial list of correlatesrisk factors, and possible causes that have been the subject of serious studies:

From the Ottawa Hospital:
In the largest study of its kind, Ottawa researchers found that children whose mothers reported using cannabis during pregnancy were at greater risk of autism. The incidence of autism was 4 per 1000 person-years among children exposed to cannabis in pregnancy, compared to 2.42 among unexposed children. The findings were published in the prestigious medical journal Nature Medicine.

Recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada, but that doesn't mean it's safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Health Canada and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommend against these populations using cannabis, and health warnings to this effect appear on cannabis packaging.
"Despite these warnings, there is evidence that more people are using cannabis during pregnancy," said Dr. Mark Walker, Chief of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Newborn Care at The Ottawa Hospital, professor at the University of Ottawa and senior author on the study. "This is concerning, because we know so little about how cannabis affects pregnant women and their babies. Parents-to-be should inform themselves of the possible risks, and we hope studies like ours can help."
The research team reviewed data from every birth in Ontario between 2007 and 2012, before recreational cannabis was legalized. Of the half a million women in the study, about 3,000 (0.6 percent) reported using cannabis during pregnancy.
The researchers had previously found that cannabis use in pregnancy was linked to an increased risk of preterm birth, and created an animated video to summarize their findings. In that study, they found that women who used cannabis during pregnancy often used other substances including tobacco, alcohol and opioids.
Considering those findings, in the current study the researchers specifically looked at 2,200 women who reported using only cannabis during pregnancy, and no other substances. They found that babies born to this group still had an increased risk of autism compared to those who did not use cannabis.
The researchers do not know how much cannabis the women were using, how often, at what time during their pregnancy, or how it was consumed. They also note that while they tried to control for other factors that could influence neurological development, their study can still only show association—not cause and effect.
As cannabis becomes more socially acceptable, health-care researchers are mindful that some parents-to-be might think it can be used to treat morning sickness.
"In the past, we haven't had good data on the effect of cannabis on pregnancies," said Dr. Daniel Corsi, Epidemiologist at The Ottawa Hospital and BORN Ontario, which is affiliated with the CHEO Research Institute. "This is one of the largest studies on this topic to date. We hope our findings will help women and their health-care providers make informed decisions."
Women who are thinking about or currently using cannabis during pregnancy should talk to their health-care provider to help make an informed choice about what is best for them and their baby.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Biden Would End Subminimum Wage for People with Disabilities

Sarah Katz at The Atlantic:
Biden’s disability plan, released in late May, includes a promise to work with Congress to pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act. The act would provide grants for which states can apply to help employers phase out the subminimum wage and integrate workers with disabilities into their community over a period of six years.

Introduced in 2019 by Bob Casey, the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, and co-sponsored by 59 Democrats and seven Republicans in both houses, the legislation is the product of a yearslong effort. Since the civil-rights movement in the 1960s, disability-rights activists have decried the subminimum wage as discriminatory, and federal lawmakers have made several unsuccessful attempts to abolish it. Their efforts have been thwarted time and again by lobbyists for large subminimum-wage employers, such as Goodwill, who argue that eliminating the subminimum wage would deprive people with disabilities of work opportunities. Neil Romano, the chair of the National Council on Disability, says these lobbyists often have the “single most important weapon” in tow: parents or guardians of someone in a workshop who fear for their loved one’s prospects in the mainstream workforce.
But Biden and an increasing number of lawmakers today are resolute about getting rid of the submimimum wage, arguing that it conflicts with existing policy meant to protect people with disabilities from discrimination, including the ADA. Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, for example, has been pushing federal legislation, including the bill Biden supports.
Until President Donald Trump’s 2016 run, disability rights were largely uncontentious and not associated with a particular party. The ADA, for example, was enacted by a Republican president, George H. W. Bush. However, after Trump mocked the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Serge F. Kovaleski, who has a physical disability, and after reports that Trump has been repeatedly sued for violations of the ADA, disability issues entered the mainstream political conversation. For the first time in history, they became a focus of a major-party presidential nominee’s campaign, as Hillary Clinton pledged to ban the subminimum wage..
Some states have also already ended or begun phasing out the subminimum wage and sheltered workshops. In 2002, Vermont became the first state to abolish the subminimum wage—and, data show, has been the most successful at integrating people with disabilities into the mainstream workforce. Within three years of sheltered workshops’ closure, 80 percent of former workshop workers found employment. Today, the state’s integrated employment rate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is twice the national average: 38 percent, compared with a rate of 19 percent nationally.

At least six states have followed Vermont, including New Hampshire, Maryland, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, and Maine. In 2019, Texas mandated that all state contractors increase their wages for workers with disabilities to the federal minimum wage by 2022. To date, 40 states have adopted “Employment First” legislation or state policy aimed at integrating workers with disabilities into the community.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

RespectAbility Guide to Virtual Education

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.

From RespectAbility:
Whether you are a student with a disability or an adult (parent, guardian, teacher or otherwise) who is championing success for a student with a disability, this guide is for you. Our goal is to be a timesaver for students with disabilities, as well as for the adults in their lives who care about them. This guide includes resources that can help pave the best educational and social-emotional path possible during this pandemic.
Download the PDF or accessible Word document or view each section of the toolkit by following the links below:
To ask a question or add a resource, contact Debbie Fink at
This guide is one of several such guides that the team from RespectAbility has produced during spring/summer 2020. Other resources include our Finding a Job as a Person With a Disability in Los Angeles career pathways guide, our COVID-19 Economic Benefits How-To guide, and our COVID-19 Pandemic and People with Disabilities guide. Best of luck!
We hope this resource has been of use to you – feel free to share this resource guide with others whom you think it will help!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Russian Antivax Efforts, 2020

A false report claiming five Ukrainians had died after taking an American-made coronavirus vaccine spread in just a matter of days from a small Kremlin-friendly website to an audience of thousands in U.S.-based Facebook groups.
Russian media outlets picked up the claim, and soon social media users in the U.S. were sharing screenshots and links to those articles — all as 30,000 Americans were preparing to roll up their sleeves for shots of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine late last month.

The fast dissemination of a single report from an obscure Ukrainian website to crowds of Facebook users highlights the ease with which pro-Russian websites can feed misinformation into American internet circles. In fact, one of the websites that picked up the report was identified by the U.S. State Department this week as being part of a network of proxy misinformation websites being used by the Russian government.
As various countries race to produce a successful coronavirus vaccine, disinformation experts are bracing for a steady drum of misleading claims and propaganda aimed at undermining competing countries’ efforts to develop an antidote. Misinformation could raise distrust and fear around a vaccine, threatening government leaders’ hopes of ending the pandemic. And the U.S., which is readying plans to deliver 300 million doses to Americans starting next year, if a successful vaccine is identified, could be a prime target.

Friday, August 7, 2020

RFK Jr. on Celebrity Instagram

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

In a public health development that one can safely characterize as “not great,” actor Alec Baldwin appeared on Instagram Live on Thursday with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a formerly respected environmentalist who’s been best known in recent years for promoting severe vaccine misinformation. As Baldwin listened obligingly, Kennedy promoted a variety of wildly false claims about vaccine safety, and speculative concerns about the quarantine measures being taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Baldwin’s Instagram account has 1.8 million followers, and the video, in less than two hours, garnered more than 43,000 views. This is not precisely what we need right now.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Back to Virtual School

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.

Perry Stein and  Valerie Strauss at WP:
Antwon Gibson’s public high school in Northeast Washington didn’t even attempt to teach his “independent living” class virtually this spring. The gregarious 18-year-old has an intellectual disability and reads and performs math below grade level. He’s been out of the classroom since schools closed in March and now requires more help from his family to break down multi-syllabic words.
Ayo Heinegg’s son, a rising sixth-grader in the District with dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is typically a high-performing student. But he struggled to keep up with his coursework on multiple online platforms and lost his confidence in the classroom.
And in Loudoun County, 8-year-old Theo Duran, who is autistic, struggles more to walk up the stairs or hold a crayon to write — all tasks he was making progress on before the coronavirus pandemic hit and shut down his school.
Parents across the country who have students with special education needs say the stakes are high if schools do not reopen soon. They say their children are not just falling behind academically but are missing developmental milestones and losing key skills necessary for an independent life.
Resources from the Autism Society:
Resources for Back to School Adjustments
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Resources
Public Policy and Advocacy
Affiliate Highlights