Wednesday, July 25, 2012

College for "Glee" character with Down Syndrome

College Urged For ‘Glee’ Character With Down Syndrome
By Michelle Diament

July 24, 2012

When students on Fox’s “Glee” graduated this season, many considered college. Now a Twitter campaign is calling on the show’s writers to make the same plan for a character with Down syndrome.

Using the hashtag #College4Becky, a social media push launching this week is encouraging the “Glee” writers to send Becky Jackson to college at the end of the show’s next season. Though the character is believed to be a rising high school senior, little has been said about her future.

“All of Becky’s friends on the show are heading off to college next year. That’s something she can do too — but we haven’t yet heard what her plans are after graduation,” reads an open letter to the writers of “Glee” from the campaign’s organizers at Think College, a national clearinghouse on college options for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities that’s housed at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“If you make college plans for Becky, you’ll be raising the expectations of all your viewers with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities,” the letter reads.

Currently, Think College’s database lists 199 postsecondary programs at colleges and universities across the country specifically for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nonetheless, awareness of college options for this population often remains limited.

“We want to plant a seed,” said Meg Grigal, the co-director of the group behind the campaign. “College is a real option for people with intellectual disabilities.”

Lauren Potter, 22, the actress with Down syndrome who plays Becky Jackson on “Glee,” attends Irvine Valley College in Irvine, Calif. in real life.

“I know she will love the idea (of Becky going to college) because she loves the idea that she is in college,” Potter’s mother, Robin Sinkhorn, told Disability Scoop, adding that she had not yet had an opportunity to discuss the campaign with her daughter who was traveling Monday. “It would be a great storyline.”

Potter’s character has long been a fan favorite in the disability community and the actress has not shied away from taking a stand. She’s used her platform as a “Glee” cast member to raise awareness about bullying of people with disabilities among other issues and currently serves as a member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Officials at Fox did not respond to a request for comment about the Twitter campaign.

“Glee” returns Sept. 13 on Fox.

Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect the fact that not all characters on “Glee” indicated plans to attend college.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

National Federation of the Blind Urges Boycott of Goodwill Industries

National Federation of the Blind Urges Boycott of Goodwill Industries

Condemns Practice of Paying Subminimum Wages to Workers with Disabilities

Baltimore, Maryland (June 7, 2012): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), one of the oldest and largest organizations of Americans with disabilities, today called for a boycott of Goodwill Industries International, Inc., the nonprofit manufacturer and retailer, for its payment of subminimum wages to many of its workers with disabilities. Freedom of information requests filed by the NFB confirmed that Goodwill Industries employees have been paid as low as $1.44 an hour. The NFB and over forty-five other organizations support legislation, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act (H.R. 3086), which would phase out and then repeal the nearly seventy-five-year-old provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act that permits special certificate holders to pay subminimum wages to workers with disabilities.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Goodwill Industries is one of the most well-known and lucrative charitable organizations in the United States, yet it chooses to pay its workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. While this practice is currently legal and many entities engage in it, many other nonprofit organizations have successfully transitioned to paying their employees the minimum wage or higher. That Goodwill Industries exploits many of its workers in this way is ironic, because its president and chief executive officer is blind. Goodwill cannot credibly argue that workers with disabilities are incapable of doing productive work while paying its blind CEO over half a million dollars a year. Goodwill should be ashamed of such blatant hypocrisy. We are calling upon all Americans to refuse to do business with Goodwill Industries, to refuse to make donations to the subminimum-wage exploiter, and to refuse to shop in its retail stores until it exercises true leadership and sound moral judgment by fairly compensating its workers with disabilities.”

For more information on this critically important issue, please visit



Thursday, July 5, 2012

More discussion on restraint and seclusion in schools

Senate To Revisit School Restraint, Seclusion


June 25, 2012
(Updated: June 26, 2012 at 10:46 AM CT)

Lawmakers are set to consider the use of restraint and seclusion in the nation’s classrooms in the coming weeks, rekindling efforts to establish first-ever federal rules governing the practices.

The topic is expected to be front and center at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee originally scheduled for Thursday that is now planned for July 12. A much anticipated ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on the legality of health care reform is expected Thursday morning when the hearing was initially scheduled and is believed to be the reason for the postponement.

The use of restraint and seclusion in schools has been a hotbed for disability advocates since 2009 when an advocacy group report uncovered widespread abuse and even deadly instances, problems which were later confirmed in a government report as well.

Students with disabilities were most often subject to the questionable practices, the reports found.

In response, legislation sharply restricting restraint and seclusion was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, but when Senate talks fell apart later that year, action on the issue largely fizzled.

Currently, a patchwork of state and local rules exist. Disability advocates say that federal requirements are needed to ensure student safety.

However, at least one group representing educators — the American Association of School Administrators — opposes such regulation arguing that it is unnecessary and would put school staff at risk.

The hearing planned for July marks the first time this year that Congress will consider the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Currently bills are on the table in both houses of Congress that call for the practices to be restricted, though support for the legislation is scant.

On the Senate side, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is the lone sponsor of a bill he introduced last December. The measure would bar any type of restraint from being used outside of an emergency situation and prohibit the tactics from being included in a student’s individualized education program, or IEP, among other limitations. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion »)

Meanwhile, there are 44 backers of a House version of the bill and the top Democrat on the body’s education committee is urging leaders to take up the issue. However, the committee’s Republican chair, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., remains reluctant.

“State and local leaders are taking steps to ensure school practices are safe for students, and have made great progress in achieving this shared goal,” said Kline spokeswoman Alexandra Haynes Sollberger. “Chairman Kline remains concerned that federal intervention could obstruct these efforts, ultimately doing more harm than good to students and educators. For this reason, the committee has not scheduled any action on restraint and seclusion legislation at this time.”


For more information on the bills mentioned in this article, please refer to Senate Bill 2020 and H.R. 1381.