April 16, 2021
VOR Weekly News Update
VOR is a national non-profit organization that advocates for
high quality care and human rights for all people with
intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Photo courtesy of Peter Kinzler

VOR promises to empower you to make and protect quality of life choices for individuals with developmental disabilities

VOR's 2021 Legislative Initiative
Registration Is Open!
VOR's Legislative Initiative Is Online This Year

Legislative Briefing - Sunday, May 16 - 4:00 pm, Eastern
Virtual Hill Visits - May 17 - 20
Online Debriefing Sessions - May 17 & 18 6:30 - 8:00 pm Eastern

Due to the pandemic, there will be no in-person meetings with Members and Congress or their staff on the Hill. We are encouraging our members to coordinate with others in their state to arrange meetings via Zoom, WebEx, Skype, FaceTime, or conference calls. We will provide the contact lists and let you know who in your state is participating. It will be up to you to coordinate with them and arrange your virtual meetings.

Part One: The Legislative Briefing
Sunday, May 16: 4-6 pm Eastern, 3-5 pm Central, 2-3 pm Mountain, 1-3 pm Pacific

The Sunday Briefing will explain in depth the issues that we wish to bring before our legislators this year. It will be followed by a Q&A, giving participants the opportunity to better understand our key points.

Part Two: Virtual Hill Visits
Monday - Thursday, May 17 - 20 - Virtual Meetings with Congressional Offices
We will try to make our presence known by concentrating our virtual meetings into a shortened time frame, much like during our in-person initiatives in the past when VOR members were meeting in offices in all six of the Legislative Office Buildings. If at all possible, please try to schedule meetings in the days that follow the Sunday Briefing.

Online Debriefing Sessions
Monday, May 17 & Tuesday, May 18  6:30 - 8:00 pm Eastern
There will be two online de-briefing sessions after each of the first two days’ meetings, to provide Q&A to help answer any questions that may have arisen and to help members follow up with anything that arises during their Hill visits.
You must be a current member of VOR to participate in this event, as the meetings with legislators and their aids will be conducted under the auspices of VOR.
National News:
New Push Underway To Eliminate Subminimum Wage
By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, April 16, 2021
Government investigators say that a lack of resources is one of the main reasons people with disabilities continue to work for less than minimum wage. Now, some lawmakers want to change that.

A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this month would phase out what’s known as subminimum wage over five years and provide the means to support people with disabilities in the transition to competitive, integrated employment.

The legislation introduced by Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., seeks to do away with a federal provision dating back to 1938 that allows employers to obtain special 14(c) certificates from the Department of Labor authorizing them to pay people with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

“More than 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, our nation’s preeminent wage and hour law still denies equal opportunity for far too many workers with disabilities. It is long past time for Congress to phase out the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities and expand access to fulfilling employment and economic self-sufficiency,” Scott said.

The measure known as the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, H.R. 2373, would halt the issuance of any new 14(c) certificates immediately and require that employees working under existing certificates be paid at least minimum wage within five years. The legislation would also create grant programs to help 14(c) certificate holders transition to
supporting workers with disabilities in competitive, integrated employment. And, the lawmakers said their proposal provides for the “inclusive wraparound services that some individuals with disabilities will need when subminimum wages are phased out.”

In addition to the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, there are a number of other legislative efforts in the works that would put an end to subminimum wage. Phasing out the practice is among the goals of the Raise the Wage Act, a bill chiefly aimed at increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. And, President Joe Biden is currently pushing an infrastructure package called the American Jobs Plan that also seeks to do away with subminimum wage.

Several states and cities from Maryland to Alaska have already moved to prohibit employers from paying people with disabilities less than minimum wage in recent years. However, many families continue to support the option of subminimum wage employment arguing that it offers purpose for those with more significant disabilities who may struggle in other work environments.

Note: VOR strongly opposes this bill. There is no need to take away opportunities from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
CDC Issues COVID-19 Guidance For Day Centers Serving Adults With Disabilities
By Shaun Heasley, Disability Scoop, April 13, 202

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering up new guidance for day centers and the people with disabilities they’re serving during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidance comes in two documents — one aimed at administrators and staff and another for participants and their caregivers — that were issued late last month.

Federal officials say that day centers for people with disabilities and older adults across the nation should encourage COVID-19 vaccination, hand-washing, mask-wearing and physical distancing when possible. Both participants and staff should stay home if they have tested positive for the virus, have had close contact with someone who has or if they have symptoms.

Nonessential visitors should be limited from day centers, the guidance indicates, as should services and programs that require individuals to be within six feet of each other. In addition, centers are advised to have a plan to isolate and transport anyone who shows symptoms.

The CDC is recommending that day centers modify layouts to allow for physical distancing, install plexiglass barriers and prioritize outdoor activities.

April is Autism Awareness Month
VOR's Virtual Annual Meeting

Sunday, June 6, 2021 on Zoom

Details to be Announced Soon
VOR's Campaign For Change

This year, VOR's Annual Meeting will be held virtually, via Zoom. The date and details are yet to be announced. But to support our work, we are have a fundraising event we call the Campaign For Change.

It's easy. At the end of each day, empty your pockets of all your loose change and put it into a jar. You can dig into your couch cushions, too. On May 1st, gather up all of that change and take it to the bank or a CoinStar machine and cash it in, deposit it into your bank account, and send a check to VOR for the amount of change you've gathered. You are welcome to get family and friends, children and grandchildren involved.

At our virtual Annual Meeting, five winners will be announced. So start saving those pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters today, and we look forward to seeing you all in June!

"Be a part of the change you want to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi
Vaccinations Lag for Home Health Workers
By Sophie Quinton and Kristian Hernández, PEW Trusts - Stateline, April 13, 2021
Gaudy Baez-Montero, 41, works full-time in Massachusetts as a personal care aide for an 11-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. She wants to get a COVID-19 vaccine to protect herself and the child, but she’s struggling to get an appointment.

“My work gave me a number to call,” she said. “I’ve been calling and calling, but I haven’t been able to get any help.”

Health care workers were among the first U.S. residents eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. But months into the vaccination rollout, survey data suggests that nurses and aides who work in people’s homes are less likely to have had shots than their counterparts in hospitals and nursing homes.

Just a quarter of home health care workers were vaccinated by early March, compared to about two-thirds of hospital workers and half of nursing home workers, according to a joint poll by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post.
Home health care workers serve older, disabled and terminally ill people at high risk of complications from COVID-19. Many workers are low-paid Black and Hispanic women, who have expressed more wariness about COVID-19 vaccines in surveys.

But lack of access, not hesitancy, is driving the low vaccination rate, said April Verrett, president of Service Employees International Union Local 2015, which represents over 400,000 home care and nursing workers in California.

“A lot has been made of vaccine hesitancy among communities of color,” Verrett said, “and it is true that there has been a high level of hesitancy. But I think what’s even more problematic is the barriers to access.”

Two Nice Stories About Horses:
Walking Ability of Teenagers with Intellectual Disabilities Improved by Riding – Study
HorseTalk, Co. New Zealand, April 14, 2021
Improvements in the walking ability of children with intellectual disabilities were found after they took part in a therapeutic horse riding program.

Ok-Deuk Kang, a researcher with Jeju National University in South Korea, said normal development can be delayed in people with intellectual disabilities. This can limit learning capacity, mobility, and independent daily living.
In addition, people with intellectual disabilities may have problems with basic movements such as walking, running, and throwing due to inconsistent body movements and delayed motion coordination with sensory organs.

This limitation of exercise performance can lead to feelings of alienation and negative self-concept, as well as physical development.

In a study reported in the Journal of Animal Science and Technology, Kang set out to determine if an eight-week therapeutic riding program improved the walking ability of students with intellectual disabilities.

Thirteen youngsters, with an average age of 14, took part, undertaking two 30-minute riding sessions each week, for a total of 16 rides.
A gait measurement analyzer was used to assess progress based on three measures — a turning test, a walking test, and a timed up-and-go test, in which the youngsters had to get up, walk 3m, and return to a chair.

Measurements were taken three times: before the horse-riding program began, after four weeks (eight rides), and at the end of the program.

Analysis of the results indicated improved walking ability after the program, with a significant increase in stride length noted.

The walk test revealed a significant effect on the duration of the forward gait cycle (walking speed increased), with significant improvements in both the left and right strides.

Benefits of Horse-Related Therapy seen in Boys with Autism
HorseTalk, Co. New Zealand, April 17, 2021
Horse therapy brought about improvements in key behavioural areas in 15 children affected by autism spectrum disorder, researchers report.

The study team from Italy reported on the effects of 20 weekly sessions of equine-assisted activities and therapy on the group of autistic boys, aged 7 to 15.

Leonardo Zoccante and his fellow researchers, writing in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, said autism was by nature a multifactorial disease, whose different features were probably caused by different genes, associated with different brain regions and related to different core cognitive impairments.

Complementary and alternative methods of treatment may support the classic medical approach.
“In fact, it is not uncommon in clinical practice that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder would ask for different treatments in addition to the pharmacological approach, including healthcare practices that traditionally have not been part of conventional medicine, especially when the child’s behavioral difficulties have not been adequately controlled,” they said.

Among the most implemented and effective types of complementary methods are swimming, art therapy, music therapy and horse-related therapy.
Over the last decade, therapies involving horses have gained interest in the treatment of autism in light of their potential benefits around social functioning and postural control, which remain mostly resistant to medication.

State News:
Texas - 25 People Removed from Unlicensed Group Home in Rosenberg Raid
By Stefania Okolie, ABC 13 Eyewitness News, April 10, 2021
More than two dozen people at a group home were removed from the facility Friday after authorities said it was operating without a license.

Officials with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said they removed 25 people from the home in the 200 block of FM 723.

The residents, who ranged in age from 22 to 65 years old, were all transported to hospitals. Six people refused to leave the property as authorities converged, TDFPS representatives said in a statement.

"[We] heard lots of yelling and screaming and fighting," a neighbor said. "We saw people trying to escape in wheelchairs going down the driveway pulling like buckets and umbrellas. It was just pure pandemonium here."
Adult Protective Services and Rosenberg police were on the scene along with EMS personnel. The group home was unsafe, authorities said.

"Unfortunately, unlicensed personal care homes are a continuing problem that Adult Protective Services encounters repeatedly, said Adult Protective Services spokesperson Melissa Lanford in a statement.

Officials said they're looking for new homes for the 25 people who were removed.

Connecticut - In Southbury: Future of STS Addressed by Commission
By Linda Zukauskas, Voices News, April 14, 2021

SOUTHBURY — The Strategic Plan Commission, meeting on Thursday, April 8, listened to John Hirschauer, Jr., a volunteer with Southbury Training School and vice president of the Home and School Association, as he provided some information about the school, including what the facility means to him.

The school is an intermediate care facility, assisting the most profoundly disabled people.

After a lawsuit alleged overcrowding in 1986, a consent decree closed new admissions. Legislation following that stopped additional admissions so that the former school population of 2,000 is now at 147.
Mr. Hirschauer shared a conversation he had with a woman who has lived there for 60 years to note that prematurely closing the facility would cause a great deal of stress on people who consider the school to be their home.

He pointed out that anyone who could have been placed somewhere, has already been placed. There is nowhere else for these people to go.

The commissioners considered the implications of a long-term plan for the school that recognizes the assets of the facility, including the skill sets of the staff and their ability to serve a high needs population.

They noted the need for such a facility, for veterans with PTSD and other populations that are different from the people served in Southbury in the past, and the fact that creating one could be impossible if done from scratch.

Chair John Monteleone suggested that Mr. Hirschauer’s perspective should be shared with the Board of Selectmen, noting that Selectman George Bertram had attended the meeting and heard the presentation.

Coronavirus Updates:
Covid-19 Tracker:
More Than 869 Million People Have Gotten Vaccines Worldwide;
The U.S. has Administered 202 Million Doses

A Quick Guide to Statewide Vaccination Plans

Littler Publications is offering a free guide to vaccine plans for each state.

This chart is not all-inclusive and does not cover municipalities, some of which have issued their own guidance. Nor does the chart include vaccine provider registration procedures or industry-specific guidance. The purpose of the below information is to give employers a general idea of what vaccine-related actions various jurisdictions are taking.

VOR Bill Watch:
Click on blue link to view information about the bill


H.R. 603 & S. 53 - The Raise the Wage Act - These bills are aimed at raising the minimum wage, but they also have provisions to phase out and ultimately eliminate vocational centers and 14 (c) wage certificates over the next six years and to immediately stop the issuing of any new certificates. VOR believes the issue of employment options for individuals with intellectual disabilities should not be buried in a bill for raising the federal minimum wage. Both issues deserve clean, stand-alone bills.

H.R.1880 - To amend the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 to make permanent the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration.

H.R. 2383 - This is the new version of the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act - It purports to assist employers providing employment under special certificates issued under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 in transforming their business and program models to models that support individuals with disabilities through competitive integrated employment, to phase out the use of such special certificates, and for other purposes
Home and Community Based Services Access Act of 2021

Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have drafted a new bill, the Home- and Community-Based Services Access Act of 2021. The bill was written with input from the Arc and possibly other like-minded organizations, and contains provisions to increase federal support of HCBS settings eliminate waiting lists for services, and alter the landscape of services for people with I/DD. The Bill has not yet been introduced. The sponsors have opened a forum for comments from stakeholders until April 26, 2021.

VOR is at work on a response to this bill and we will keep our members posted as to our comments and how you, as stakeholders, may get involved when the time comes.


At this writing, there have been no bills entered in the 117th Congress that support a full continuum of care, protect employment options that rely on 14(c) wage certificates,
or advance the interests of Direct Support Professionals.
Please stay tuned.
Direct Support Professionals:

Our loved ones' caregivers are essential to their health, safety, and happiness.
In appreciation of their good work and kind hearts, VOR offers free digital memberships to any DSP who would like to join.

We encourage our members to speak with their loved ones' caregivers to extend this offer of our gratitude.

If you are a Direct Support Professional interested in receiving our newsletter and e-content, please write us at

with your name, email address, and the name of the facility at which you work. Please include the name of the VOR member who told you of this offer.

What's Happening In Your Community?

Is there an issue in your loved one's home that you need help with?
Do you have information or a news story you would like to share?
Is there legislation in your state house that needs attention?

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