The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

CAC Corner: April is Fair Housing Month

April 22, 2014 by Sue Reeves

By Adina Zahradnikova, Disability Law Center

Image of two people shaking hands.

Discrimination in housing has become much more subtle, the author says, often happening with “a smile and a handshake.”

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing against people because of their race, color, sex, religion, national origin, family status and disability.  Utah law also prohibits discrimination based on source of income. Simply put, discrimination is treating people differently based on their protected class status.  A landlord cannot do things like charge more money or refuse to rent to someone because they belong to a protected class. People with disabilities can also ask for a reasonable modification and/or a reasonable accommodation if it will help them use and enjoy their dwelling.

Since the passage of the FHA, 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 housing discrimination is through testing.

In 2012, the DLC and the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division collaborated on a pilot enforcement project to investigate and test for claims of housing discrimination. The project investigated and tested for claims of housing discrimination against each protected class; however, due to limited resources only complaints related to disabilities were pursued.

Fair housing testing is much like “secret shopper,” but with apartments and landlords.  For example, a test for discrimination based on disability would involve sending both a person with a disability and a person without a disability to the same apartment building to ask about an apartment.  The profiles of the two testers are the identical except for disability status, so that if there is a difference in how they are treated, it can be traced back to that protected class.  Test reports are compared to determine if discrimination has occurred.  Testing can also be performed over the telephone, with testers calling apartment managers to inquire about available units.

The pilot program found that approximately half of testers posing with a disability experienced housing discrimination.  Over the past year and a half, the DLC conducted a total of 137 tests on apartment buildings or complexes.   Of the sites which were monitored for disability status, 35% showed no signs of discrimination, 14% were inconclusive, and about 51% showed some signs of discrimination.  The most common types of discrimination seen in disability related testing were  testers who requested an accommodation for a disability were denied the request or else told they had to pay additional fees.

In the Fall of 2013, the Disability Law Center (DLC) was awarded a three-year grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fight housing discrimination in Utah. This new three-year $700,000 award will enable the DLC to fully represent all protected classes. The DLC will recruit more testers, increase the number of tests performed, file complaints or litigation when necessary, and take the program statewide. The DLC will also expand its education, outreach, and self-advocacy training efforts. The DLC will continue to work with its community partners to address systemic issues, such as programs or policies which discriminate against select groups.  This will mark the first time the state of Utah will have a private program dedicated to the enforcement of fair housing laws.

Open House planned at CPD

April 18, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of CPD signThe Center for Persons with Disabilities will host a Donor Appreciation Event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24.

“It’s important to give our supporters an opportunity to interact with the programs they’ve been supporting and an opportunity to support other programs they might not be aware of,” said Shane Johnson, associate director of development for the CPD.

There will be no set program for the event, Johnson said, adding that the flexible format allows people to come and go as their schedules permit. Hors d’oeuvres will be served, and guests will be free to view multimedia slide shows in Room 153 or wander the halls of the CPD, where additional program information will be displayed.


GOALS offers ‘cheat sheets’ to content creators

April 16, 2014 by Sue Reeves

GOALS logoAs web-based instruction becomes more commonplace, institutions of higher learning are being pressured to ensure their content is accessible to people with disabilities. For some content creators, it’s like being asked to work in a foreign language.

Fortunately for them, a decade-long project at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities gives them what they need to know in a one-page, easy-to-understand format.

Gaining Online Accessible Learning through Self-Study, or GOALS, offers ‘just in time’ cheat sheets that provide what users need to know in just one page.

“They’re very popular,” said Jon Whiting, an instructional developer at the CPD. “The feedback has been very positive. A lot of institutions are linking to them.”

The focus is on system-level change in higher education, Whiting said. Benchmarking and planning tools help people where they are in the process of creating accessible content and provide an action plan for the future.

GOALS is a project of The National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE), which is supported by USU and the CPD. NCDAE works on policy, research, training and technical assistance, and dissemination of information.


Heidi’s Happenings: March Madness!

April 14, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Heidi Hill is a guest blogger for the CPD’s Developmental Skills Laboratory (DSL), a day program for adults with disabilities. Heidi loves to type and each month she’ll be sharing the fun activities that she and her “buds” are doing at DSL.

Image of blogger Heidi Hill.

Heidi’s pie face!

We had our own version of March Madness here at the worksite.  We enjoyed taking a vote to see what our favorite pies were.  The winners were:  Apple, cherry, chocolate, banana, and strawberry.  We all pitched in and made pies for pie day, March 14 (3.14).  All of those pies were yummy.  Those pies did sure taste good.  After Heidi and her buds ate those good pies, they went home to tell their families all about it.

We also had one heck of a scavenger hunt.  We found clues and found tons of treasure at the end of the rainbow.  This rainbow was super sticky because it was by lots of chocolate treasure!

We also went to see “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.”  Mr. Peabody had a time machine and they all traveled through history.

Jon won our NCAA bracket.  We had a great month!


CPD researchers honored at USU awards gala

April 11, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Five researchers at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities were among those honored on April 8 at USU 2104 Research Awards Gala.

Faculty members who received more than $1 million in external funding in 2013 included John Copenhaver, Bryce Fifield, Judith Holt, Mark Innocenti and Cyndi Rowland.

Image of John CopenhaverJohn Copenhaver
Copenhaver is the director of the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) at the CPD. TAESE is located at the Innovations Campus and has contracts to provide technical assistance in special education to twenty states across the country, from Georgia to Alaska. He has been at TAESE for the past 22 years. He has also served in many capacities, including special education teacher, school psychologist, and school administration. He has extensive experience working with children with disabilities and Native American children. He serves on several state and national advisory boards.


Image of Bryce FifieldBryce Fifield
CPD Director
Fifield is the director of the CPD. His research focuses on developing effective approaches to increase the inclusion and independence of people with disabilities and their families. Among his current efforts are projects providing disability services to Native American children and youth in the Four Corners area, developing habilitative environments using smart home technologies, and documenting the lives and experiences of early Utah pioneers who had disabilities. Fifield also serves on several local, state, and national advisory and governance committees serving the disability community.


Image of Judith HoltJudith Holt
Interdisciplinary Training
Holt was appointed as the director of the Interdisciplinary Training Division in March 2000. She has extensive experience in designing, implementing, and evaluating supports and services for children, youth and adults with disabilities and their families and support systems. Holt is a strong advocate for consumer direction and choice. She has developed numerous educational materials that focus on the key concepts of independent living. She currently directs numerous grants and contracts including the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND).


Image of Mark InnocentiMark Innocenti
Research & Evaluation
Innocenti is a director for the Research and Evaluation Division at the CPD, and an associate professor in psychology. Innocenti has over 30 years of experience working with infants and young children at-risk and with disabilities. He also works with their families. He has headed up multiple research projects and has conducted research and evaluation on various aspects of home visiting and preschool intervention services.



Image of Cyndi RowlandCyndi Rowland
CPD Associate Director
Rowland is the associate director at the CPD, where she has engaged in research, tool development, education and policy and standards work at both the national and international level for more than 20 years. She is the director of the New Mexico i3 validation project “StartSmart K-3 Plus,” which is assessing outcomes of an innovative educational program. As part of the National Center of Disability and Access to Education, Rowland is principal investigator on a project to assist postsecondary institutions as they make a decision to commit to enterprise-wide web accessibility.

In addition to the research awards, faculty authors were also honored at the gala. Authors included Gina Cook (CPD), Mark Innocenti (Psychology), Robert L. Morgan (CPD Faculty Fellow in Special Education and Rehabilitation) and Lori A. Roggman (CPD Faculty Fellow in Family, Consumer, and Human Development).

In other Research Week news, Biologic Engineering students Annalise Dykes and Taylor Eggertsen presented posters based on research they conducted with Dr. Anthony Torres, director of the CPD’s Biomedical Lab.