When I was in the first grade, an astute teacher noticed that I had trouble seeing the blackboard. This finding was quickly confirmed by a vision test. Formal evaluation by an ophthalmologist revealed that I had a rare degenerative retinal disease. Worse than that diagnosis was the ophthalmologist’s devastating prognosis for my life: attending college would be very challenging, sports and certain activities would be difficult or impossible, and it was unlikely that I would ever have a professional career.
Health Care Professionals with Disabilities Career Trends, Best Practices, & Call-to-Action Policy Roundtable
March 18, 2014
More than 40 employers, federal and state policymakers, researchers and nursing school administrators convened at the U.S. Access Board on March 18 for a policy roundtable hosted by the Office of Disability Employment Policy in collaboration with the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities. “We know that health-care occupations dominate the list of jobs predicted to be in most demand in coming years,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor Kathy Martinez, who heads ODEP, as she welcomed attendees. Martinez was joined by acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Eric Seleznow, along with leaders from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Department of Education. They explored strategies for using the skills and talents of people with disabilities, including veterans, to meet anticipated labor shortages in nursing and allied health occupations. Because “there is simply not enough talent in the pipeline,” that people with disabilities “have an important role to play in meeting the demands of this changing landscape,” Martinez told attendees.
On September 4, 2013, Michael Argenyi, a deaf medical student, represented by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the law firm of Stein & Vargas and Disability Rights Nebraska, won a jury trial against Creighton University in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. Mr. Argenyi had been a student in the medical school at Creighton University beginning in 2009, and had requested that Creighton University provide him with real time captioning for classes and oral interpreters for clinics. Creighton refused to provide him with such services and also refused to allow Mr. Argenyi to bring interpreters even if he paid for the interpreters himself.
With NAD and the other lawyers representing Mr. Argenyi, a lawsuit was filed against Creighton in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. The District Court originally dismissed Mr. Argenyi’s case and ruled that Mr. Argenyi had not demonstrated that medical school was beyond his capacity without captioning or interpreting services. Upon appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s ruling, and remanded the case back to the District Court, holding that “Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title III of the ADA each require Creighton to provide reasonable auxiliary aids and services to afford Argenyi ‘meaningful access’ or an equal opportunity to gain the same benefit as his nondisabled peers.”A trial began in Omaha with opening arguments on August 22nd and ended with closing arguments on August 30th, and the jury returned with a verdict that Creighton University violated Mr. Argenyi’s right to communication access under the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA.
The NAD appreciates the strength and courage of Michael Argenyi for standing up to the improper conduct of Creighton University.
“Every university, college and school in the country should take note that deaf and hard of hearing people can achieve any dream including becoming a doctor, and the law clearly requires communication access to make such dreams possible. All schools should heed this case and support these dreams,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association for the Deaf.
For more information, contact Marc Charmatz at the National Association of the Deaf via email at nad (dot) info (at) nad (dot) org or telephone at 301-587-1788, or Mary Vargas at Stein & Vargas, LLP by email at Mary (dot) Vargas (at) steinvargas (dot) com or telephone at 240-793-3185.
Deaf Student, Denied Interpreter by Medical School, Draws Focus of Advocates
By JOHN ELIGON
Speaking with the parents of a sick infant, Michael Argenyi, a medical student, could not understand why the child was hospitalized. During another clinical training session, he missed most of what a patient with a broken jaw was trying to convey about his condition.
His incomprehension, Mr. Argenyi explained, was not because of a deficiency in academic understanding. Rather, he simply could not hear.
Mr. Argenyi, 26, is legally deaf. Despite his repeated requests to use an interpreter during clinical training, administrators at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb., have refused to allow it. They have contended that Mr. Argenyi, who is able to speak, communicated well enough without one and that patients could be more hesitant to share information when someone else was present. They added that doctors needed to focus on the patient (not a third party) to rely on visual clues to make a proper diagnosis.
Mr. Argenyi took a leave of absence at the end of his second year, in 2011, after suing Creighton for the right to finish his medical training with an interpreter. The case, scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Omaha, is attracting the attention of the federal government and advocates who are concerned that it could deal a setback to continuing efforts to achieve equality for people with disabilities.
“I couldn’t understand so much of the communication in the clinic,” Mr. Argenyi wrote in an e-mail. “It was humiliating to present only half of a history because I had missed so much of what was communicated. I was embarrassed every time I would miss medicine names that I knew from classes but couldn’t understand when the patient or a colleague spoke them.”
Despite making tremendous strides over the past four decades with the passage of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, those with disabilities remain underrepresented in higher education and in the work force. In the medical field, people who are deaf or hard of hearing remain less likely to hold high-skilled positions than those without impairments.
Universities tend to provide requested accommodations after admitting a student who they know has a disability, proponents for the deaf say. And most arrangements for the deaf are settled long before any issues reach a courtroom, said Curtis Decker, the executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, a federally financed association of legal services programs.
But, he said of Mr. Argenyi’s lawsuit, “It’s a very important case because, I think, if it’s successful it will send a very powerful message to the university community that the law does cover them and the law is clear about the accommodations that they need to provide.”
Creighton officials maintain that they have provided Mr. Argenyi with the necessary tools for him to succeed in medical school.
“Michael Argenyi is a very bright, capable young man who Creighton believes will make a good doctor,” said Scott Parrish Moore, the lead counsel for Creighton.
After being accepted to Creighton four years ago, Mr. Argenyi asked the university to provide a real-time captioning system for lectures and a cued speech interpreter. (Mr. Argenyi, who does not know sign language, can read lips. An interpreter helps by mouthing words while using hand signals to clarify sounds.) These were the same accommodations that Mr. Argenyi, who had a diagnosis of profound deafness when he was 8 months old, received for much of his schooling, from grade school through undergraduate studies at Seattle University.
Creighton provided Mr. Argenyi with just one of the aides that his audiologist had recommended — an FM system, which amplifies the sounds he hears in cochlear implants. The university also provided note takers for lectures, priority seating and audio podcasts. Soon after classes began, Mr. Argenyi told school officials that the accommodations were inadequate and that he was missing information. He sued in federal court in Omaha in September 2009, arguing that the university was legally required to pay for and provide necessary aides.
Mr. Argenyi said he hired his own interpreter and transcription service, which cost him more than $100,000 during his two years in medical school. The breaking point, he said, came during his clinical work in his second year when Creighton refused to allow him to use an interpreter, even if he paid for it himself. The university did allow Mr. Argenyi to use interpreters during a couple of clinics while the Justice Department was trying to broker a settlement, but stopped when a deal could not be reached. Mr. Argenyi is pursuing degrees in public health and social work at Boston University, which is providing his requested transcription services, while the lawsuit is pending.
As an avid climber, crawling high into trees didn’t seem like such a risky proposition to Michelle Kephart, RN, MSN. However, midway through her nursing program, Kephart fell 25 feet from a tree, injuring her spinal cord. Returning to nursing school amid skepticism from the faculty, and with no idea how her quadriplegia would impact her education, Kephart found the support she needed in the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND).
End the Disability Debate in Nursing: Quality Care is Fact
By Leslie Neal-Boylan
Misconceptions abound regarding the abilities of people with disabilities and this holds true in the nursing profession, as well. While nurses with experience and expertise are often denied jobs or lose their jobs because of a physical disability, research shows appropriate accommodations can be made to retain these highly skilled and much-needed health care professionals.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Title I of the ADA covers employment by private employers with 15 or more employees as well as state and local government employers of the same size. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act provides the same protections for federal employees and applicants for federal employment.
The ADA protects a qualified individual with a disability from disparate treatment or harassment based on disability, and also provides that, absent undue hardship, a qualified individual with a disability is entitled to reasonable accommodation to perform, or apply for, a job or to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. The ADA also includes rules regarding when, and to what extent, employers may seek medical information from applicants or employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the employment provisions of the ADA. Most states also have their own laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of disability. Some of these laws may apply to smaller employers and provide protections in addition to those available under the ADA.
Health care is the largest industry in the American economy, and has a high incidence of occupational injury and illness. Though they are “committed to promoting health through treatment and care for the sick and injured, health care workers, ironically, confront perhaps a greater range of significant workplace hazards than workers in any other sector.” Health care jobs often involve potential exposure to airborne and bloodborne infectious disease, sharps injuries, and other dangers; many health care jobs can also be physically demanding and mentally stressful. Moreover, health care workers with occupational or non-occupational illness or injury may face unique challenges because of societal misperceptions that qualified health care providers must themselves be free from any physical or mental impairment.[5
Several Million Healthcare Workers Needed by 2020
Regardless of the fate of the Affordable Care Act, the United States will need 5.6 million new healthcare workers by 2020, according to a study.
The study, by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce, also found that 4.6 million of those new workers will need education beyond high school.
“In healthcare, there are really two labor markets — professional and support,” Anthony P. Carnevale, the report’s lead author and director of the Center on Education and Workforce, said in a news release. “Professional jobs demand postsecondary training and advanced degrees, while support jobs demand high school and some colleges.”
There is “minimal mobility” between the two, Carnevale said, “and the pay gap is enormous — the average professional worker makes 2.5 times as much as the average support worker.”
Among the study’s findings:
- In 2008, 80% of entry-level RNs had at least an associate’s degree, up from 37% in 1980.
- Rising degree requirements in nursing may be crowding out disadvantaged minorities, according to the authors: 51% of white nurses under age 40 have bachelor’s degrees, compared with 46% of Hispanic nurses and 44% of African-American nurses.
- Healthcare has the largest number and proportion of foreign-born and foreign-trained workers of any industry in the U.S. Among healthcare workers, 22% are foreign-born, compared with 13% of all workers nationwide. Most foreign-born nurses come from the Philippines, India and China.
- Only 20% of healthcare professional and technical occupations earn less than $38,000 a year, and almost 50% earn more than $60,000.
- More than 70% of healthcare support workers make less than $30,000 per year, but that percentage is still better than most available alternatives for workers of that skill and education level, according to the report.
- Healthcare successfully competes for science and engineering talent. Because the healthcare, science and technology fields tend to require similar skills, healthcare programs at the associate and bachelor’s level often are appealing alternatives for science and engineering students.
- One difference between the fields: People in healthcare jobs tend to value forming social bonds, while people who gravitate to science, technology and engineering occupations place a greater emphasis on achievement and independence, the researchers found.
“What can YOU do?” Video Contest 2012 Winners Announced
Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE)
The Campaign for Disability Employment’s 2012 “What can YOU do?” Video Contest challenged the general public, youth, and employers to produce disability employment awareness videos that reflect the diversity of skills people with disabilities offer, challenge common misconceptions about disability and employment, and reinforce the “What can YOU do?” initiative’s core message that at work, it’s what people CAN do that matters. The CDE’s national “What can YOU do?” initiative reinforces that people with disabilities want to work and that their talents and abilities positively impact businesses both financially and organizationally.
Contest winners were selected in three categories; General Public, Youth, and Employer. Judging was based on originality, content, reflection of campaign themes and categories, production value, impact, and accessibility. Three first place winners—one in each of the General Public, Youth, and Employer categories—will receive an *Apple® iPad®, while two runners-up each will receive $250.00, courtesy of the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN®). Winning videos will now be used in support of the CDE’s national effort to increase the employment of people with disabilities.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2011
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts
Karen J. McCulloh, Appointee for Member, Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled
Karen J. McCulloh consults as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist with businesses and nonprofit organizations to educate on the inclusion of people with disabilities into the labor force. Ms. McCulloh was the founding Executive Director of disabilityworks, a project of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, from 2005 until 2010. Ms. McCulloh was appointed by the Secretary of Labor to sit on the Job Corps Advisory Committee from 2006 until 2008, and she served as Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Disability. In 2003, Ms. McCulloh co-founded the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities, served as President from 2003 to 2005, and is now serving as the Immediate Past President. Ms. McCulloh also served as the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago. She was in charge of the agency review for the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled for the Obama-Biden Transition Team in 2008. Ms. McCulloh received an RN from the Grant Hospital School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and a B.S. from Loyola University of Chicago.