July 2020 Newsletter

We Need To Hear From You

We are conducting a community feedback survey to help us set our goals for next year. Please take a moment to fill out this 3 minute survey.

P&A Files Lawsuit to Improve Conditions at Charleston County Juvenile Detention Center

On July 25, 2020, Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A) brought a federal lawsuit about longstanding conditions at the Juvenile Detention Center operated by Charleston County. The Nelson Mullins law firm of Columbia represents P&A. The complaint says there are “dangerous, inhumane, and unconstitutional conditions, policies, and practices” at the facility. The building is over 50 years old and keeps juveniles in small cells, up to 22 hours a day. The lawsuit also asserts that the juveniles have been deprived of their educational rights under federal and state law. Law enforcement agencies in Charleston, Dorchester, Berkeley, and Colleton counties all place juveniles at the facility. Link to the full complaint.

P&A Statement on School Openings

As SC’s designated Protection & Advocacy system, P&A is mandated by state and federal law to protect and advance the rights of individuals with disabilities, including students, in South Carolina. P&A is disappointed by Governor McMaster’s message in his July 15, 2020 press conference recommending schools reopen with face to face instruction five days a week. While P&A appreciates and agrees that parents should be given options when schools reopen, districts must take into account the health and safety needs of their students and staff and their logistical abilities to reopen safely when making reopening decisions. In this pandemic, return to school decisions must be made with regard to the recommendations made by professionals in the education and the medical communities as well as local leadership and citizen input. To not do so is dangerous.

P&A encourages districts to include families of students with disabilities in planning and determining needs for school reopening to ensure their needs are accounted for and addressed. P&A also encourages districts to support their staff with disabilities. P&A wants to remind districts and families that students with disabilities eligible for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) are still entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the chosen school district service delivery model. Determinations for service delivery should be made by the student’s IEP team.

This pandemic has highlighted a number of educational needs in South Carolina, such as the lack of technology, broadband capacity, special education staffing – needs that need to be addressed, so we can effectively teach our children and prepare them for their future, pandemic or not. We want our kids to return to school, but only when it is safe to do so in each district.

P&A Managing Attorney Announces Retirement

P&A managing attorney Dave Zoellner has announced his retirement. Dave Zoellner has faithfully served P&A for over 25 years. As managing attorney, he coordinated P&A’s programs with the Team Leaders and the writing of the annual goals and priorities and program performance reports (PPRs) to federal funding authorities. Dave provided legal guidance to P&A concerning laws, court decisions, administrative rules and regulations. Dave enjoyed working with clients and handled selected cases and advised callers about legal issues. He frequently provided training on disability rights in the community, including Crisis Intervention Training to law enforcement officers. Prior to P&A, Dave served as a legal officer in the Navy and lived in San Francisco, on an aircraft carrier, in Scotland, and in New York City before final duty in Charleston. Please join us in thanking Dave for his dedication to P&A and wishing him an enjoyable and well-earned retirement.

ADA Turns 30

On July 26 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turns 30. The ADA is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to people with disabilities similar to those provided to people on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.

Title I: Equal Employment Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities
This title of the ADA is designed to help people with disabilities access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.

Title II of the ADA: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination by state and local governments. It applies to all kinds of state or local governments and the services they provide. These include services from police departments, county councils, courts, and voting. The ADA covers state agencies like SC Department of Social Services (DSS) or SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN).

Title III: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities
This title of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits private places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Examples of public accommodations include privately-owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, day care centers, health clubs, sports stadiums, movie theaters, and so on. This title sets the minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction of facilities. It also requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense.

Title IV: Telecommunications
This title requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system of interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services that allows individuals with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone. This title also requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements. This title is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission.

Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions
The final title contains a variety of provisions relating to the ADA as a whole, including its relationship to other laws, state immunity, its impact on insurance providers and benefits, prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal use of drugs, and attorney’s fees.

For more information

P&A website: with information sheets about each ADA title
ADA website by the Department of Justice with the ADA law, regulations and recent ADA cases and
South East ADA center for technical information to individuals and businesses by phone or email