Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ANNOUNCEMENT: Article from Chronicle of Higher Ed on DOJ Regulations for Higher Ed

This article is from today's Chronicle of Higher Education, and discusses how new DOJ regulations may affect accommodations in higher ed.

Proposed Federal Regulations Would Ease Up on Colleges' Responsibilities Under Disability Law




As Congress considers a bill that would bolster the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Justice Department has proposed new regulations that would limit the accommodations universities and other entities must provide under the existing law.

The lengthy new regulations, which detail requirements for handicapped-accessible seating and qualifications for service animals, among other issues, are scheduled to be published today in the Federal Register.

Counting Seats

Compared with current regulations, the proposed update decreases the proportion of seats an "assembly area" must make accessible to people who use wheelchairs. Now that figure is about 1 percent, with the exact proportion depending on the size of the venue. A stadium of 5,000 seats, for example, must provide space for 51 wheelchairs. Stadiums larger than that must provide one more space for every 100 additional seats. Under the proposed new regulations, a stadium of 5,001 seats would have to provide space for 36 wheelchairs. One more space would be required for every 200 additional seats a stadium has. For a stadium with a 50,000-person capacity, that would mean 261-as opposed to 501-handicapped-accessible spots.

"That seems like a step backwards to me," said L. Scott Lissner, who coordinates disability-law compliance for the Ohio State University system. "I don't know of any past examples that actually reduced the standard of access."

At Ohio State's football stadium, Mr. Lissner said, wheelchair-accessible seating is in high demand. "We're easily filling 2 percent" of all seats, he said.

The proposed revisions of regulations, he said, were driven by professional arenas, which tend to draw fewer fans with disabilities than do college stadiums.

The new regulations, if unchanged after a public comment period, would be roughly comparable to the terms of a recent settlement between the federal government and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. This spring, in response to a lawsuit over handicapped-accessible seating in its football stadium, the university agreed to provide 329 spots-or a third of a percent of its 107,000 seats-for fans in wheelchairs.

The proposed new regulations on seating would modify the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, an attempt to consolidate several building codes, Mr. Lissner said. As of now, depending on facilities' age and the source of funds for their construction, colleges may be complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Architectural Barriers Act, the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, and the American National Standards Institute's guidelines. If the changes pass, Mr. Lissner said, "all of the buildings will be under the same set of standards on campus."

Residence halls, whether operated by or on behalf of a college, would have to meet existing accessibility guidelines for "transient lodging," according to the proposed regulations. Apartment-style housing, on the other hand, would be subject to existing requirements for residential dwelling units. Prior rules did not specify how to classify campus housing for compliance purposes, the Justice Department said.

No Ferrets

Service animals are another focal point of the new regulations. The proposed rules distinguish service animals from "emotional-support animals," which they say are not covered by federal disability law.

"Animals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or promote emotional well-being are not service animals," the Justice Department said in an early copy of the proposed regulations posted online.

Support animals, like ferrets and snakes, have been a sticking point for colleges, where students have asked to keep them in residence halls and take them to class.

"The arguments have been made with increasing frequency in recent years that lots of animals other than traditional service animals should qualify," said Michael R. Masinter, a professor of law at Nova Southeastern University. The new regulations would define service animals as those that are specially trained to perform a demonstrable task. That definition may still include "psychiatric-service animals" that remind their owners to take medication or that interrupt incidents of cutting or other self-mutilation.

"The regulations permit one to ask what service the animal has been trained to perform," Mr. Masinter said. "That's a fair question."

Certain animals are explicitly prohibited. They include "nonhuman primates," as well as "reptiles, rabbits, farm animals (including horses, miniature horses, ponies, pigs, and goats), ferrets, amphibians, and rodents."

The bill pending in Congress, the ADA Restoration Act (HR 3195 and S 1881), has concerned some higher-education officials because it defines disabilities more broadly than have a handful of recent court decisions (The Chronicle, June 13). When the legislation, now stalled, becomes final, the group it defines will be eligible for the accommodations the new regulations-and maybe more to follow-propose.

Those, however, are just the minimum requirements, Mr. Masinter pointed out. "All of these laws serve as a floor of what schools may provide," he said. "Schools are always free to go further than where the law requires them to go in accommodating students with disabilities."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ANNOUNCEMENT: Disability History Association Spring Newsletter Now Available

The DHA Spring Newsletter is now available at the new!, improved! Disability History Association website:


Monday, June 9, 2008

ANNOUNCEMENT: Current Journal Articles on Disability History

About once a month, and appearing as an an occasional feature of H-Disability, Penny L. Richards, a PhD Research Scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women and Co-editor of H-Education and H-Disability, compiles and posts a listing of recently published historical articles about disability (somewhat broadly defined). These articles are usually found on the "current periodicals" shelves at a university library, from the most recent two calendar years (right now, 2007-2008). Some of them are culled from online Table of Contents sites maintained by journal publishers. Additional sources include book chapters in new collections, cites for new books, and cites for review articles, new books, and new dissertations.

She welcomes contributions offlist that are compiled into subsequent postings . Her usual caveats for contributions are:

"1) your definitions of history and disability may exclude some of these articles, and include others;

2) listing here does not necessarily constitute a recommendation of the articles involved; and

3) only English-language tables of contents or abstracts are usually culled (but works in other languages are welcome from contributors)."


Brown, Steven E. "Breaking Barriers: The Pioneering Disability Students Services Program at the University of Illinois, 1948-1960," in E. Tamura, ed., The History of Discrimination in U.S. Education: Marginality, Agency, and Power (Palgrave Macmillan 2008): 165-92.

Cormier, Andre. "The Transcendental Blind Stripling in Ulysses," in Philip T. Sicker and Moshe Gold, eds., Joyce Studies Annual 2008 (Fordham UP 2008).

Fearnley, Andrew M. "Primitive Madness: Re-Writing the History of Mental Illness and Race," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences_ 63(2008): 245-257.

Langbauer, Laurie. "Ethics and Theory: Suffering Children in Dickens, Dostoevsky, and LeGuin," ELH (English Literary History) 75 (1)(Spring 2008): 89-108.

Smith, Leonard. "A Gentleman's Mad-Doctor in Georgian England: Edward Long Fox and Brislington House," History of Psychiatry 19 (2008): 163-184.

Williams, Owen. "Exorcising Madness in Late Elizabethan England: The Seduction of Arthington and the Criminal Culpability of Demoniacs," Journal of British Studies 47(1) (January 2008): 30-52.


Jennifer Tebbe-Grossman reviewed Christopher Krentz, Writing Deafness: The Hearing Line in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (UNC Press 2007), in Journal of American Culture 31(2)(2008): 267-269.

Carolyne Van Der Meer reviewed Valerie Pedlar, The Most Dreadful Visitation: Male Madness in Victorian Literature (Liverpool UP 2006), in ELH 75(1)(Spring 2008).


Castles, Katherine Lynn (PhD, Duke University 2006): "'Little Tardies': Mental Retardation, Race, and Class in American Society, 1945–1965"

Greene, Kyra R. (PhD, Stanford University 2007): "The Role of Protest Waves, Cultural Frames, and Institutional Activism in the Evolution of American Disability Rights Policies"

Harris, Sean J. (PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago 2007): "Found insane in 'the Holy Land': Psychiatry and the African American experience in Illinois, 1870--1910"


Connolly, Cynthia A., Saving Sickly Children: The Tuberculosis Preventorium in American Life, 1909–1970. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2008. xvi, 182 pp. $39.95, isbn 978-0-8135-4267-6.)

Talley, Colin L., A History of Multiple Sclerosis. (Westport: Praeger, 2008. xviii, 201 pp. $49.95, isbn 978-0-275-99788-5.)

Scandura, Jani, Down in the Dumps: Place, Modernity, American Depression. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008. xx, 321 pp. Cloth, $89.95, isbn 978-0-8223-3654-9. Paper, $24.95, isbn 978-0-8223-3666-2.) Heavily illustrated.

Contributors this month: Dan Wilson

Compiled by Penny L. Richards PhD Research Scholar, UCLA Center for the Study of Women Co-editor, H-Education and H-Disability turley2@earthlink.net