TAESE starts strategic planning process

April 29, 2014 by Sue Reeves

taeseWork has begun on a five-year strategic plan for the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE), a project of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

“In January 2014, the TAESE leadership met with an outside facilitator to lead us in the process of identifying our strategic vision for the next five years,” said Steve Smith, TAESE associate director.

Over the last couple of years, Smith said, TAESE has undergone major changes in staffing and leadership, including the additions of both himself and Dave Forbush as co-associate directors.

“John (Copenhaver, director of TAESE) thought it would be a good time to solidify the direction TAESE was going in,” Smith said, citing changing environments in special education and contracts in the states in which TAESE works.

During the January meeting, TAESE leadership and the facilitator discussed a variety of topics, including the current values of TAESE, past accomplishments, the current landscape in which the project works, and identifying barriers to desired outcomes. Eight areas were addressed, Smith said, with four strategic areas being identified: To position TAESE for the future, to align the organization to the vision, to organize expertise and to use data strategically.

The group met again recently, without the facilitator, to review what had been accomplished in January and to create implementation plans and smart goals for each work group. A vision statement will be drafted, and then a mission statement.

No specific goals have been finalized yet, Smith said, but that will happen before the official staff rollout during the next quarterly meeting in June.

“A lot of it we’re already doing,” Smith said. “It’s an ongoing process.”

Cache Valley People First kickoff planned

April 24, 2014 by Sue Reeves

peoplefirstcincoThe Cache Valley chapter of People First of Utah will kick off with a Cinco de Mayo party on Thursday, May 8 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by OPTIONS for Independence, 106 East 1120 North in Logan. There will be drawings, dinner, the chance to get together with friends, and an opportunity to learn more about starting the Cache Valley chapter of People First.

People First is a self-advocacy organization that assists people with developmental disabilities learn how to advocate for themselves, increase their independence and become part of their community.

For more information, contact Anna Sherlock at 753-5353 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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.