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The impact of the ADA 29 years after its passing

Evan Mealins

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Twenty-nine years ago in late July, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act to tear down barriers excluding millions of Americans from American life. The law’s signing was the fruit of the hard work, activism and protest of thousands of Americans with disabilities.

The historic law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. The spirit of the law is perhaps summarized best in President Bush’s remarks during its signing: “Together, we must remove the physical barriers we have created and the social barriers that we have accepted. For ours will never be a truly prosperous nation until all within it prosper.”

In 2008, an amendment to the act was passed that emphasized a broad coverage for the term ‘disability,’ ensuring ease for an individual with a disability to establish his or her’s having a disability when seeking protection from the ADA.

Employment for people with disabilities was an issue that the ADA sought to address. “The ADA was meant to ensure that people with disabilities could earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else,” said Steve Bartlett, former member of Congress and current Chairman of the national disability organization RespectAbility

The employment rate in America among working-age people with disabilities has risen 9 points since the ADA was passed in 1990, the 2018 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium shows. Last year, 29 of 50 states saw job gains for Americans with disabilities, and the nationwide employment gap between those living with disabilities and those living without disabilities lessened. States that have made progress in employment for people with disabilities owe part of that progress to programs that connect people with disabilities with opportunities to improve their skills and find employment. For companies that are inclusive to those with disabilities, their practices are not only a positive step for the causes of fairness and equality, but also good business sense: according to research from Accenture, disability inclusive companies have higher levels of productivity and lower staff turnover rates, are twice as likely to outperform their peers in shareholder returns and create larger returns on investment.

There is still work to be done, however, as the employment gap between those living with and without disabilities is currently 40.2 percentage points nationwide, and that number is even higher in Alabama.

Also groundbreaking was the ADA in ensuring access to public accommodations for people with disabilities across the nation, and it is probably this aspect of the law for which it is best known.

As President Bush said on the afternoon of July 26, 1990, “every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.” 

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Public accommodations and public transportation have, in most cases, become more accessible as a result of the ADA. Jim Sinocchi, Head of the Office of Disability Inclusion at JP Morgan Chase, felt that the fight for disability inclusion has actually moved beyond the checklist of ramps, curb cuts and automatic doors.

In a press release from Respectability, Sinocchi said, “Today, the new era of disability inclusion is about ‘assimilation’– hiring professionals with disabilities into the robust culture of the firm.”

 

Evan Mealins is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter and student at Auburn University working toward a B.A. in media studies. You can follow him on Twitter @EvanMealins or email him at [email protected]

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Congress

Jones asks for faster COVID-19 emergency payments

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, asked the Treasury Secretary on Tuesday to expedite direct assistance payments to citizens amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Jones and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., expressed concern that CARES Act payments made through paper checks to some citizens would not be mailed until April 24. The senators asked that debit cards be mailed instead, thereby speeding up assistance.

“It is our understanding that payments made electronically can be distributed quickly, but the Internal Revenue System (IRS) must print paper checks and mail them separately. As a result, we encourage the Treasury Department to offer a targeted group of Americans the option of receiving their direct assistance payment on the Direct Express debit cards, which are used for other federal benefits like Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits,” the senators wrote.

“While a slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients,” the letter continues.

The $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package includes payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. The first round of payments are likely to begin around April 13 and will be directly deposited into the accounts of those who filed taxes in 2018 or 2019.

Social Security beneficiaries who did not file taxes in recent years but who receive their benefits through direct deposit are to receive the emergency payments around 10 days after the first round of payments, also through direct deposit. Paper checks will then be mailed to other individuals.

The letter’s full text: 

April 7, 2020

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin

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Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included economic relief to Americans in the form of direct cash payments to provide support during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis. In order to provide this much-needed assistance directly and quickly, we request the Treasury Department utilize its Direct Express debit card as one method, at the option of the individual, for disbursing these payments as an alternative to paper checks.

We were alarmed by the Washington Post report on April 2, 2020, that “$30 million in paper checks for millions of other Americans won’t start being sent out until April 24, as the government lacks their banking information. And some of those checks won’t reach people until September.”[1] Americans should not have to wait five months to receive their checks.

While a slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients. These direct assistance payments are aimed at assisting American workers in covering the cost of essentials household items, including rent and mortgage payments, outstanding bills, and food to feed their families.

It is our understanding that payments made electronically can be distributed quickly, but the Internal Revenue System (IRS) must print paper checks and mail them separately. As a result, we encourage the Treasury Department to offer a targeted group of Americans the option of receiving their direct assistance payment on the Direct Express debit cards, which are used for other federal benefits like Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits.[2] Using debit cards could be limited to Americans eligible for this program not already signed up for direct deposit, have a bank account, or require a paper check.

As Americans across the country practice social distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19, we support delivering benefits automatically to as many people as possible and request that debit cards be offered as an option to distribute the assistance payment. Debit cards are a safer method of delivery than paper checks. Paper checks will force Americans to leave their homes to deposit the funds and can be a source of fraud. We appreciate your consideration of this request to keep Americans safe during these challenging times.

 

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Elections

Sessions attacks Tuberville’s views on China

Brandon Moseley

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Former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, rolled out an ambitious, comprehensive plan to hold the Chinese government accountable for what Sessions called a cover-up of the coronavirus that has killed tens of thousands of people and devastated economies worldwide.

In an interview Thursday on the Matt & Aunie radio show on Talk 99.5 in Birmingham, for Auburn head football Coach and current GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville expressed his views on China.

Matt Murphy asked: What do you see happening with China?

“Well, we can’t worry about China right now…” Tuberville responded.

“You say you don’t need to worry about China, but this came from China and our economy depends on China,” Murphy asked on follow up. “Specifically how to overcome some of that dependence on Chinese goods and specifically in the pharmaceutical industry because right now we’re dependent on the country that covered this up.”

“Now we’re seeing firsthand the results of letting everything go to China,” Tuberville said. “The good thing about this is we’ll have manufacturing come back and drugs and all those things….we’re headed in that direction, just the simple fact that we can’t control our own destiny. Everything’s controlled by China. But that’ll take care of itself.”

During the show, Tuberville also characterized the Wuhan Virus, which has killed over 53,000 people and infected more than 1 million people across the globe, which then including over 1,300 people in Alabama, as “just a virus.”

Jeff Sessions issued a statement critical of Tuberville on Friday in response.

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“Amazingly, Tommy Tuberville said yesterday, ‘We can’t worry about China right now,”” Sessions quoted. “China is where the virus is from, and their deliberate lies hid the danger and resulted in a pandemic that never should have happened. We must take on China now and win, not run scared like Tommy Tuberville.”

“There are over 1 million infected with the Wuhan Virus, and more than 1,300 in Alabama already,” Sessions continued. “This is serious. But Tommy Tuberville said yesterday that ‘this is just a virus.’ What planet is he on? Tuberville is clueless. No wonder he’s scared to debate me. We must stop relying on China for our critical medicines and equipment. I have a detailed plan to fix it. Amazingly, Tuberville also said yesterday, ‘Everything’s controlled by China, but that’ll take care of itself.’ Wrong! We must lead with action, this will not ‘take care of itself.’”

On Thursday, a U.S. intelligence report claimed that China understated the damage that the coronavirus was doing in their country.

“Alabama’s next Senator must be a leader who has the drive and determination to push a Congress that is too often unwilling to confront the critical issues of our time,” Sessions continued. “I have proven my willingness and preparedness to lead from Day One. Tuberville is weak: all talk and no action.”

Sessions is a former Senator, U.S. Attorney General, Alabama Attorney General, Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, U.S. Attorney, asst. U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Army Captain.

The Republican primary runoff has been moved to July by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) due to fears of the coronavirus. The virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019.

As of press time, 10,943 Americans have died from COVID-19 including 53 Alabamians. 367,650 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 2,006 Alabamians. At this point, only 240 Alabamians are confirmed hospitalized with COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the medical condition caused by a strain of coronavirus first identified late last year in Wuhan City, Hubei Province China, SARS-CoV-2. Since then it has spread across the globe infecting 1,346,566 persons that we are aware of killing 74,697 people.

The winner of the Republican primary runoff will then face Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) in the November election.

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Congress

Roby: Stay-at-home order has potential to drastically slow spread of virus

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, said Monday that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order has the potential to drastically slow the spread of the coronavirus in Alabama.

Roby emphasized the importance of social distancing and that the governor’s order puts the safety of Alabamians first.

“t’s important that Alabamians are prepared to follow the advice and guidance of officials who are working day and in light in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,” Rep. Roby said. “Governor Kay Ivey on Friday issued a statewide stay-at-home order effective until Thursday, April 30. The Governor said that she along with many state government and public health officials thoroughly reviewed all possible COVID-19 response options, and they determined that a statewide stay-at-home order put the safety of Alabama’s people first. I believe this public health order does just that and will be beneficial as we continue to fight COVID-19 and practice mitigation among our communities.”

“As the Governor’s statewide order recently went into effect and currently lasts until the end of the month, we have the potential to drastically slow the spread of the virus among our Alabama communities,” Roby said. “Please remember to continue to follow the Administration’s “30 Days to Slow the Spread” social distancing guidelines, wash your hands, disinfect your home, and avoid social gatherings in order to protect yourself and those around you from infection.”

“It is vital to the health and well-being of those in our communities that Alabamians all across the state follow the guidance of state and healthcare officials.” Roby continued. “The people of Alabama remain united, and together we will combat COVID-19. Read more from my Weekly Column here.”

“I have added a “COVID-19 Resources” tab to my official website that includes materials ranging from general health and prevention methods from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to economic support for individuals and businesses from federal and state agencies like the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL).,” Roby stated. “Visit my website for more information.”

There is an enormous shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

“ADPH’s Office of Oral Health is accepting donations of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and gowns for distribution to local healthcare personnel,” Roby stated.

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For details on how you can donate:

https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/assets/oralhealth-ppedonations.pdf

As of press time, 10,943 Americans have died from COVID-19 including 53 Alabamians. 367,650 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 2,006 Alabamians. At this point, only 240 Alabamians are confirmed hospitalized with COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the medical condition caused by a strain of coronavirus first identified late last year in Wuhan City, Hubei Province China, SARS-CoV-2. Since then it has spread across the globe infecting 1,346,566 persons that we are aware of killing 74,697 people.

Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. Roby is in her fifth term; but is not seeking a sixth term in the House of Representatives.

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National

How Alabama is tracking COVID-19 hospitalizations

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama on Saturday started publicly reporting the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 on its data dashboard. As of Monday morning, 240 people have been hospitalized since March 13, according to that data.

The day before ADPH began publishing the number of cumulative hospitalizations on its dashboard, I reported that 255 people were hospitalized with a confirmed case of COVID-19, and another 586 people were hospitalized with a suspected case of the virus awaiting test results.

The number I reported Friday night, which I got from State Health Officer Scott Harris, is not the same number that ADPH began publishing on its dashboard Saturday morning. They do not align.

It might look like he gave me wrong numbers, or that I reported them out incorrectly. That’s not the case. Let me explain why.

The number of hospitalizations displayed on the Department of Public Health’s data dashboard (240) is a cumulative total of hospitalizations since March 13. That number is obtained by ADPH’s epidemiologists as they investigate each confirmed case of the virus. The epidemiologists follow up with everyone who has tested positive for the virus and determine if the person has been hospitalized.

“The way that works is you have a positive test that comes through. Our epidemiology staff contacts the patient. They ask, ‘Hey, what is your story? How old are you? What’re your symptoms? And were you in the hospital?’,” Harris told me.

The epidemiology staff also perform contact-tracing, asking those who have tested positive who they were around, who they live with, where they work and a lot more. These investigations clearly take time.

“It’s a cumulative number because we can’t call these people every single day for the next two weeks to found out who’s still in the hospital and how many cases are hospitalized at the moment,” Harris said.

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The reality is that there are only so many investigators and a ton of confirmed cases. There will inevitably be a delay in reporting the cumulative total as epidemiologists investigate each positive case.

This brings us to the numbers I reported Friday night.

That data (255 confirmed, 586 suspected) was obtained from the Alabama Incident Management System, or AIMS. It’s the same system that is activated when there is a major hurricane, tornadoes or even an ice storm. Hospitals directly update these numbers daily, sometimes more.

The differences in the way the two numbers are obtained explain why the number I reported Friday night was higher than the cumulative total now displayed on the ADPH’s dashboard (and on our dashboard). It was simply more current.

But even the numbers from the Alabama Incident Management System are not perfect. Hospitals voluntarily report that data to the Department of Public Health.

Alabama does not have a law authorizing a statewide hospital discharge database, unlike 48 other states, Harris said, which makes tracking real-time hospitalization data difficult.

“We actually had legislation that we introduced this year to do that, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen now because the session is gone,” Harris said.

So the Alabama Department of Public Health has to ask hospitals to voluntarily report their hospitalization data in AIMS. Most of the state’s hospitals are doing so, Harris said. But it’s still possible that some hospitals are treating COVID-19 patients who are not reflected in the AIMS data.

While the state’s public-facing data dashboard is currently showing the cumulative total obtained by epidemiology staff at ADPH, Harris said the Department of Public Health will soon display the AIMS data instead.

“The question people want to know is not how many people have been in the hospital over the past week,” Harris said. “They want to know how many people are in the hospital today.”

When that switch happens, the number may appear to jump, but it’s really just a more current dataset.

 

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