June 2019 Newsletter
Olmstead 20th Anniversary
On June 22, 2019, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Olmstead. This landmark decision has increased community participation and independence of people with disabilities across the country. In the decision the United States Supreme Court held that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specifically that public entities must provide community-based services to persons with disabilities when (1) such services are appropriate; (2) the affected persons do not oppose community-based treatment; and (3) community-based services can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the public entity and the needs of others who are receiving disability services from the entity.
In summary, it said if someone is able to live in the community with support services then they should have that option. The ruling acknowledged the limitation of community resources at the time and said states should take “reasonable steps” to have community-based alternatives to institutions. This has not only drastically increased the availability of services but also decreased government spending as it is much more expensive to provide long term care in an institution than community supports. P&A continues to work to ensure that individuals with disabilities who want to live, work and play in the community can do so.
Olmstead mandates integration wherever public entities provide services. This includes employment services. Historically, South Carolina is behind in ensuring that people with disabilities have access to competitive employment in integrated settings. A majority of states have adopted an “Employment First” initiative, to prioritize integrated employment. South Carolina has not yet adopted a policy, but a 2018 bill provided that an Employment First Study Committee be appointed to provide the legislature with a report on the possibilities for Employment First in South Carolina. Policy Attorney Kathleen Warthen was appointed to the committee by Representative Leon Howard.
The State of South Carolina announced the award of a contract for a new statewide voting system. Throughout the process, P&A advocated for a system that would allow people with disabilities to vote independently and privately. On multiple occasions, P&A provided written and oral testimony explaining the importance of accessibility to decision makers. After a lengthy evaluation of numerous proposals, an evaluation panel unanimously selected the Election Systems and Software (ES&S) ExpressVote voting system. The new paper-based system will replace the state’s aging paperless system that has been in place since 2004. A representative from P&A served as a resource on accessibility matters, joining a group of subject matter experts advising the selection panel including state and private cybersecurity experts, experts on accessible technology, national voting system technology consultants, and county and state election administrators. P&A is excited that this machine will offer greater accessibility than our previous one and allow every South Carolinian to vote independently using the same equipment.
The ExpressVote offers multiple accessibility features for people with disabilities allowing voters to navigate the ballot and make selections using a touchscreen ballot with options such as high contrast and text enlargement or an audio ballot which is always running. Every machine has a head phone jack and there is an attached audio-tactile keypad which offers navigation, volume, and speed control. In addition, the machine has a port for a sip and puff or two position rocker switch. After verifying selections, voters will print their paper ballot. Voters will then have the opportunity to review the paper ballot, either visually or audibly by re-inserting the ballot into the machine, before inserting the paper into a separate scanner. The scanner counts the votes, and the paper ballot is automatically dropped into a ballot box. Votes are recorded on the scanner, and the paper ballots are saved for auditing and verification of results.
Dave Zoellner is P&A’s managing attorney. He works in the Charleston office and has been with P&A for nearly 25 years. As managing attorney, he coordinates P&A’s programs with the Team Leaders and provides legal advice about P&A operations, including review of contracts. Dave also handles selected cases and advises callers about legal issues. He frequently provides trainings on disability rights, including Crisis Intervention Training to law enforcement officers. He serves on the boards of Family Resource Center and of Huntington’s Disease Society-South Carolina. 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. He enjoys travel and exploring Charleston.