Spring 2013 Newsletter

Help us thank Salt Lake City Weekly for naming the DLC Best Unsung Advocates of 2013:

Before two attorneys from the Disability Law Center did the first health & welfare BOU13_Thumb.jpgcheck on Jeremy Haas, a mentally ill inmate in the Utah State Prison, in 2012, it had been some time since anyone had made such an effort to address inmates’ mental health. It’s no surprise that it’s the DLC that’s now carrying this torch; the organization is made up of people who work tirelessly to advocate for those with disabilities, whether that means tracking pertinent bills in the Legislature and encouraging the community to speak up about issues like traumatic brain injuries, or representing people who’ve been fired, abused, denied medical care or discriminated against. The passion and perseverance of these attorneys keep a light on for the disabled that, we hope, won’t ever go out.



In this issue:

Please enjoy this edition and let us know what you would like to see in the next one.



Landlords Fail Discrimination Test

Vard McGuire, Access and Rights Team Leader

Picture  of a mat with the words "Not Welcome" in front of a doorA DLC investigation found that almost a third of individuals from protected classes experienced housing discrimination.  Simply put, discrimination is treating people differently based on their protected class status.  The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing against people who belong to a protected class.  The federally recognized protected classes are race, color, sex (gender), religion, national origin, family status and disability.  Utah law also prohibits discrimination based on source of income. A landlord cannot do things like charge more money or refuse to rent to someone because they belong to a protected class.  There are also additional protections for persons with disabilities, such as the right to ask for a reasonable modification and/or a reasonable accommodation.

Before the FHA, discrimination in housing was often quite overt.  For example, someone looking for a place to live may be subjected to racist or bigoted remarks, or people belonging to a protected class might be segregated from the rest of the population.  Since the passage of the FHA, overall discrimination has become much more subtle.  It usually happens with “a smile and a handshake.”  Most of the time, in housing transactions, a person experiencing discrimination has no idea that he or she is being discriminated against.  One of the only ways to uncover discrimination like this is through testing.

Testing is much like “secret shopper,” but with apartments and landlords.  For example, a test for racial discrimination would involve sending both an African American tester and a Caucasian tester to the same apartment building, at about the same time, to ask about an apartment.  The profiles of the two testers are the same except for race, so that if there is a difference in how they are treated, it can be traced back to that protected class.  After testers visit a target, they fill out reports describing their experience.  The reports are compared to determine if discrimination has occurred.  A test related to disability might involve a tester, who has an emotional support animal, asking for an exception to the “no-pets” policy as an accommodation and checking to see if the request is granted.  Testing can also be performed over the telephone, with testers calling apartment managers to inquire about available units.

The DLC partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division (UALD) to create a Fair Housing Testing Program in May of 2012.  Over the course of 6 months, we conducted tests on 55 apartment buildings or complexes.  Testing occurred in four counties along the Wasatch Front — Utah, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber.  The majority of the tests were conducted in the Salt Lake City area.  Of the 55 sites which were monitored, 54% (30 tests) showed no signs of discrimination, 15% (8 tests) were inconclusive, and about 31% (17 tests) showed some signs of discrimination.  The types of discrimination fell into one of the following categories:

Denied accommodation – testers who presented with an accommodation request for a disability were not granted the request or told they had to pay additional fees.

Making housing unavailable – control testers were told apartments were available, but when testers belonging to a protected class asked about the apartments they were told there were none available.

Steering – the control tester was told the complex had units, but the tester from the protected class was sent to another complex that might have units.

Denying that housing was available for inspection – on numerous occasions, the control tester was allowed to look at an open unit while the protected class tester was not.

Setting different terms – testers who belonged to the protected class were often quoted higher rental or deposit amounts.

Disparate impact – control testers were treated better than testers in a protected class.  This included landlords not returning calls, being less friendly or encouraging, and asking more invasive questions.

The results from this batch of testing will be used by the DLC and UALD to file complaints against landlords who break fair housing laws.  The DLC plans to continue fair housing testing and use what we learn to help prevent discrimination in the future.



Picture of a Question MarkAsk the Advocate

Camille Curtis, Abuse and Neglect Team Leader

Question: I work at a nursing home and I am concerned that one of my patients is being physically abused by another staff member.  What should I do?

Answer: Report the abuse!  If you are a health care provider or educator, Utah Code requires that you immediately report all suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of persons classified as a “vulnerable adult.”  Call Adult Protective Services (APS) intake or the nearest law enforcement agency.  Individuals reporting abuse are immune from civil and legal liability.  All information is confidential.

Contact APS by phone at 1-800-371-7897.  Please be prepared to give them the following information (not all it is necessary when making a report, but it is very helpful):

  • Name, address, and phone number of the victim
  • Identifying information of the victim such as birthday, age, ethnicity, etc.
  • Name, address, and phone number of the alleged perpetrator (if known)
  • Identifying information regarding alleged perpetrator (if known)
  • Your name, phone number, and address
  • Provide information on any disability, health problem, or mental illness
  • Reason for concern (alleged abuse, neglect, or exploitation)

The DLC can also assist you in making that report to APS or law enforcement.  When applicable, our Abuse and Neglect team will conduct an investigation into the matter as well.  Again, all information given will remain confidential.

More information on Utah’s mandatory reporting requirements.



The Scenic Route – Still Working the Land

Matt Knotts, Advocate

As advocates, it is our job to listen and respond to the clients we serve across the state.  If you were to hear from someone living in one of these cities, could you identify what county they were calling from? Here goes: Vermillion, Sigurd, Elsinore, Annbella, or Koosharem?  Need a hint?  How about Richfield?  Well, the answer is Sevier County.  We are going to explore Sevier County and a unique program called AgrAbility, which is helping farmers keep farming even after an injury, accident or illness.

Picture of farmland at sunset

Sevier County, home to roughly 20,000 residents, is located in central Utah. It covers 1,918 square miles. The 1,000-mile-long Pauite ATV trail winds throughout the county and provides a unique off road experience in the Fish Lake National Forest. The largest city, Richfield is roughly the halfway point between Los Angeles and Denver, and a frequent rest stop for cross-country travelers on Interstate 70.

The county’s earliest residents are believed to have been the Freemont Indians, who inhabited the area some 5,000 years ago.  The Southern Paiute and Ute tribes also call this area home. It was not until 1864 that the area was officially settled by Mormon pioneers.  The Freemont Indian State Park and Museum offers much more information on the area. To get there, take exit 17 along I-70 and follow the signs to the visitor center.
Picture of a Farmer in a TractorFarming and ranching has been a way of life in rural Utah for generations.  Roughly 164,000 acres are used for agriculture in Sevier County.  When a farmer or rancher becomes disabled due to illness, age or injury, it is not a matter of helping him or her retrain for a new occupation, but helping them get back to what they love: working the land.  AgrAbility helps people do just that. Darelen Carlisle explained that it is really just a matter of helping people find the resources they need.  This includes working with Vocational Rehabilitation and other programs to provide adaptive equipment and specialized training.  Modifying a tractor, so that it can be driven with hand controls, is just one example of how an individual can get back to farming after losing their mobility.
Photo of Grass Valley MercantileTrip Tip: Next time you are headed to Capital Reef National Park on Highway 24 , I recommend taking a detour on Highway 62, just past the Koosharem Reservoir, and stopping at the Grass Valley Mercantile in Koosharem. This country store has it all.  You won’t be disappointed.
AgrAbility of Utah is a statewide partnership between Utah State University Extension and New Frontiers for Families.  For more information on Agrabiity, check out their website at www.agrability.usu.edu or call 877-225-1860.


bLAWg – Special Education Students with Extra Legal Protections

Lauralee Gillespie, Special Education Staff Attorney

Photo of LauraLee GillespieBart (not his real name) was a student in my first grade class many years ago. Bart had learning and social/emotional disabilities. He was also in foster care. I worked with the special education staff, administration, and school psychologists to try to give him the help he needed in the regular classroom. However, he truly required more than any of us could do. Many times the goal was just to make it through the day without hitting, screaming, kicking, or eating anything placed in front of him.

Bart qualified for special education, but he would have benefited from more intensive services, if they had been available. Unfortunately, like many teachers and parents today, I was unaware of the state and federal laws in place to protect students like him.

Individuals with disabilities are protected by many laws. Students in public education are provided extra protections through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). I love the individual nature of special education under IDEA, not only because it provides for individual specialized instruction, but because it requires progress reports and annual reviews by the team. As a special education attorney and former public school teacher, I understand the importance of an education that is tailored to each student’s needs.

Youth in custody (YIC) include students in foster care and those in the custody of the Division Services for People with Disabilities or the Division of Juvenile Justice Services. They are more likely to have a disability than a non-YIC student. In addition to IDEA, they are protected by Utah State Rule 277-709-5. As such, schools are required to provide a YIC student with the services, as outlined in his or her individualized education plan (IEP), necessary for him or her to receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment possible.

Sadly, YIC students often move several times throughout the year. In a recent conversation, it was clear that a school district was unsure what services were being provided to a DLC client with an IEP in a correctional facility. With improved communication, special educators familiar with the student could have provided the YIC coordinator with insight concerning effective approaches and practices. Thankfully, efforts to improve information sharing are currently underway.. The hope is that records will arrive on the same day as the student, so implementation can happen as quickly as possible.

If I had been aware of these laws when teaching, I could have been a member of Bart’s team, and a stronger advocate for collaboration between the school and youth in custody programs to help students like him to succeed.


Luke’s Story

Eileen Maloney, Advocate

Luke experienced a severe stroke one evening and had to be rushed to the emergency room nearest his home.

Picture of an AmbulanceHe wound up staying in the Critical Care Unit for a few weeks.  After beginning to recover, he started physical, occupational, and speech/language therapy.  Eventually, he was able to move to the acute-care wing of a long-term care center. He continued getting stronger and was increasingly able to control his arms and legs. His speech was also steadily improving.  It looked like he was on track for a good recovery.

Luke was doing so well that he was moved to the skilled nursing wing.   Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. Luke’s sister, Mary, went to visit him after he had been on the skilled nursing wing for six days.  He was in terrible shape.  He had a wrist restraint applied to keep him from pulling out the feeding tube.  It cut into the flesh of his wrist.  The feeding tube had to be replaced many times because he was still able to pull it out.

Luke couldn’t have anything to eat or drink for 24 hours after the tube was changed.  He could go days without food or drink.  He became very ill, running a high temperature and suffering from dehydration.  He was extremely tired and had stopped speaking. Fearing for his life, Mary demanded Luke be taken to the emergency room.

When Luke got to the hospital he was gravely ill. He had pneumonia and one of his lungs had collapsed.  He was physically and verbally unresponsive. Soon thereafter,Luke’s sister called the Disability Law Center.  We wrote a letter explaining our concerns and asking for a meeting. At the meeting, the facility admitted mistakes were made. We negotiated a financial settlement and the facility agreed to changes in procedure, so that something like this is less likely to happen in the future.

Luke’s family thanked the DLC for the interest we took in his case and for advocating for him so strongly. They plan to use the money to pay for more therapy, in the hope that he can regain the ground he lost.


Movie Review – “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Dr. Geri Alldredge, PhD, Wasatch Mental Health

I was taken by this film to another world.  A world that is probably somewhere close to my backyard. However, the fences around my world would have prevented me from seeing this world had I not seen this film. The central figure in the film is a little girl named “Hushpuppy” who is being raised by a single father who is alcoholic, neglectful, and abusive, at least by typical American standards and values.  The two of them live in extreme poverty and filthy squalor, with no modern conveniences.  The situation is one that would curl the hair of most social workers and child advocates.

Hushpuppy is subjected to life threatening trauma, the likes of which would send many into a life-long anxiety disorder.  She lacks structure, is not properly parented, and is not protected from life’s harsh realities.  Her childhood is one big preparation for living in an “eat or be eaten” world of survival.  She was taught early that little Hushpuppies like her are breakfast for some of the creatures of this world, harsh at best, by typical standards.

Hushpuppy and her Daddy are connected to a bi-racial village of sorts that seems to be color blind.  The village shares similar values; values that bind them as a community and separates them from the larger society that exists nearby.  As seen from their perspective, these values and lifestyle are preferable, maybe even superior, to the larger culture next door.  Clean clothes, combed hair, daily schedules, walls, roads, and rules are confining, restrictive, and frighteningly disorienting.  The primitive, indigenous lifestyle they cling to suits them well and meets their needs, even though it is very out of step with the larger nearby community.

One would generally expect that being raised in this kind of soil would produce a damaged plant unable to bear fruit.  But Hushpuppy emerges strong.  She faces her greatest fear, finds inner strength, and comes into her own with graceful dignity uncommon for a young one. Hushpuppy experiences the alchemy of adversity that turns it into strength.  She learns resilience as she passes through some of the most difficult of life’s experiences.

In the end, I did not feel the need to rescue little Hushpuppy from her defective world. I didn’t even feel like she needed a hug!  I wanted to meet her, eat raw crawdads with her, run, sing, and play with her.

And, somewhere deep inside, it inspired me to face my own Aurochs.

The Disability Law Center invites you to submit your own book or movie review for future editions of our newsletter. The book or movie should include disability related topics. Choice of article and content are subject to editorial discretion. You may send your review to newsletter@disabilitylawcenter.org.