You may also submit your application in person at any driver’s license office or voter registration agency. Voter registration agencies include public libraries and any state agency offices that provide public assistance or services to individuals with disabilities. These include offices of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Division of Blind Services, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Elder Affairs, the Department of Health, disability services offices at public colleges and universities, Centers for Independent Living, and Department of Children and Families offices that administer WIC, SNAP, Temporary Cash Assistance and Medicaid programs.
Your registration date is the date that your application is postmarked or hand delivered to the office of any voter registration agency.
After you register, you should receive a voter information card in the mail. Your assigned polling place, which is where you must go to vote if you vote on Election Day, will be printed on the card.
Updating Your Registration
If you have previously registered to vote, take a few minutes to verify that your voter registration is current and correct. If your name, address or signature has changed since you last registered, it is important to update your information with your Supervisor of Elections. You may check your registration status by calling your county’s Supervisor of Elections or online at http://registration.elections.myflorida.com/CheckVoterStatus
It is recommended that you use a voter registration application to update your name or address. You may contact your county’s Supervisor of Elections for information about other accepted methods for updating this information.
You must use the voter registration application to update your signature.
Name and address updates may be submitted at any time prior to voting, although it is preferred to submit them well in advance.
For the signature updates to be used for signature comparisons by officials reviewing absentee and provisional ballots, the updated signatures must be received in advance. Officials may begin these reviews as early as 15 days before an election.
Four Ways to Vote
Florida law provides that as a registered voter, you may choose one of four ways to vote:
Early voting in Florida begins 10 days before each state or federal election and ends on the 3rd day before that election.
Early voting for the 2012 General Election is between October 27 andNovember 3. Contact your Supervisor of Elections for locations and times.
Early voting requires that you, the registered voter, vote in person at a voting site designated by the Supervisor of Elections for early voting. If you vote early, you will use the same type of voting equipment used on Election Day and you must bring a valid picture identification with signature. See below for details regarding accepted forms of identification.
Voting at the Polls on Election Day
On Election Day, the polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Contact your Supervisor of Elections or visit their website to learn which precinct and polling place you need to go to.
When you vote, bring a valid picture identification with signature. The following photo identification is accepted:
Florida driver’s license
Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
United States passport
Debit or credit card
Retirement center identification
Neighborhood association identification
Public assistance identification
If your photo identification does not contain your signature, you will be asked to provide an additional identification that includes a signature.
If you do not have proper identification, your vote will be considered "provisional" but will later be counted if the signature on the "provisional" ballot envelope is found to match the signature on your voter registration application.
Absentee Voting or Voting by Mail
Florida law allows you, as a registered voter, to request an absentee ballot from the Supervisor of Elections.
A member of your immediate family or a legal guardian may also request an absentee ballot for you, if directly instructed to do so by the voter. The request can cover two general election cycles and details can be obtained from your Supervisor of Election.
A request for an absentee ballot to be mailed must be made no later than 5 p.m. on the 6th day before an election.
Florida law allows you to have assistance marking your choices on your absentee ballot if such assistance is required because of blindness, disability or inability to read or write.
At an Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home
If you live at an Assisted Living Facility or in a Nursing Home, Florida law requires that a Supervisor of Election set up and facilitate absentee voting within the assisted living facilty or nursing home whenever the facility administrator makes a timely and proper request. The request must be submitted at least 21 days before the election and list at least five voters who wish to vote at the facility. If fewer than five names appear on the request, the Supervisor is not required to set up and facilitate the absentee voting.
However, a Supervisor of Election may set up such voting even if the faciliy administrator has not requested it. Visit the Links tab to read further. Generally you must be a resident of the facility to be eligibile to vote at the facility.
To access Florida's law on these and other voting topics, visit the Links tab.
Accessibility & Assistance
Federal and state law requires Supervisor of Elections offices and polling places to be accessible. Visit the Links tab to learn more about these laws.
Florida law also governs the extent to which you have the right to be assisted by others in the process of registering and voting.
Accessibility to Register and to Vote
Title II of the ADA outlines the accessibility requirements related to registering to vote and voting. The law says that all polling places must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For example, the doors should be wide enough, the parking and walkways accessible, and the ramps and elevators appropriate. To learn more, visit the Links tab or go to our Americans with Disabilities Act - Title II sections regarding State and Local Government Activities and the role of County and Court ADA Coordinators.
Please also visit the Links tab to access a U.S. Department of Justice ADA Checklist for Polling Places.
In Florida, the law requires a "marksense" ballot on which you, the registered voter, use a marking device to designate selections. Marksense ballots are preprinted with selections next to an empty rectangle, circle, oval, or an incomplete arrow. Voters record their choices by filling in the rectangle, circle or oval, or by completing the arrow. After voting, the voters either place the ballot in a sealed box or feed it into a computer tabulating device at the precinct. The tabulating device reads the votes using "dark mark logic," whereby the computer selects the darkest mark within a given set as the correct choice or vote. Marksense technology has existed for decades and been used extensively in such areas as standardized testing and statewide lotteries. Although marksense systems are often referred to as "optical scan," marksense technology is only one of several methods for recognizing marks on paper through optical reading techniques.
Florida law and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 establish the standards for accessible voting systems. Some Supervisors of Elections currently make these systems available. However, Florida law also allows Supervisors of Elections to delay use of devices that meet these standards until 2016.
Assistance with Voter Registration
Florida law outlines assistance with registration that individuals with disabilities may request and receive.
For example, staff at your local Supervisor of Elections Office may assist by explaining the requirements for correctly filling out a voter registration application.
Florida law also requires that any state agency office or private provider on contract with a state agency providing assistance or services to individuals with disabilities must provide their applicants and clients with an opportunity to register to vote or update their voter registration. These state agencies and private providers are required to assist you with voter registration anytime you apply or reapply for services or assistance or anytime you provide a change of address. For more information about places to register, see the “Register” tab.
An individual may receive assistance to register from their spouse, parent or child.
Assistance is also available from a number of private individuals and organizations, such as the Florida League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote. Anyone who is not a Supervisor of Elections employee, voter registration agency employee, or a prospective registrant’s spouse, parent or child, must register as a “third-party voter registration organization” before assisting individuals to register to vote.
Assistance with Voting - at the poll, during early voting or when voting absentee
Florida law allows you, as a registered voter, to have assistance marking your choices on your ballot or absentee ballot if you need assistance because of blindness, disability or inabilty to read or write. You may request assistance from election officials or select someone to assist you. You may choose whoever you want to assist you, except that the person cannot be your employer or an agent of your employer or an officer or agency of your union.
You, as a registered voter, do not have to disclose the nature or extent of your disability.
If your voter registration record does not already contain a notation about you needing help, you will have to complete and sign a form. The clerk at the polling place can help you fill out the form.
Unless you choose an elections official, the person you choose to help you also has to fill out a form.
If you have any questions about receiving assistance with voting, please direct your questions to your Supervisor of Elections or the clerk or inspector at the polling place.
Loss of Right to Vote
There are only two ways you can lose your right to vote under Florida law:
The first way is if a judge finds that under Florida's guardianship laws, you are mentally incapacitated with regard to voting.
The second way is if a court has convicted you of a felony and suspended your civil rights.
Only a court can take away your right to vote.
No one else - not a guardian advocate, not an election official, not a caregiver, not a family member or anyone else, has the legal authority to prevent you from voting.
If you need assistance protecting your right to vote, you may contact Disability Rights Florida.
A judge can take away your right to vote if the judge finds that you are mentally incapacitated with respect to voting. If you have been found to be incapacitated but believe your rights, including your right to vote should be restored, contact Disability Rights Florida to request assistance.
Felony Criminal Conviction
In Florida, a person who has been convicted of a felony and whose civil rights have been suspended, may not vote unless the right to vote has been restored. Help is available to people, including people with disabilities, to pursue the restoration of their rights through the Florida Parole Commission Office of Executive Clemency.
Visit the Links tab to access the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and Florida Parole Commission Office of Executive Clemency websites for more information.
If you are a candidate or support a campaign, please read on to learn how to increase meaningful participation by improving accessibility.
We suggest that candidates and campaigns follow these guidelines:
Hold events and establish campaign offices in ADA-compliant accessible facilities.
Have sign language interpreters available for all events.
Use closed captioning and descriptive audio in campaign commercials/videos.
Have campaign materials available in alternative formats that are accessible to persons with disabilities (such as Braille, large type, on computer disk and online).
Make campaign websites fully accessible to people with disabilities.
Encourage campaign workers and staff to be sensitive to people with disabilities - their votes count just as much as everyone else’s. Make sensitivity training or materials available to campaign workers and staff.
Recruit and encourage people with disabilities to join and become active in the campaign.
Encourage private groups supporting the campaign to adopt these guidelines.
You may distribute these guidelines in the form of a flyer available here for print in English and Spanish, or print this entire disability topic and share it with others.
Visit these websites for more information and resources:
Voting in Florida - A Guide for Citizens with Disabilities booklet was published by Disability Rights Florida and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council. You may print it from this link or from the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council’s publication page. You may also order copies online at the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council’s publication page. Scroll down to “Voting in Florida - A Guide for Citizens with Disabilities,” then click “Order Online.” The guides will be shipped to you at no charge.
There are two Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Programs in Florida: The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and The Division of Blind Services. Vocational Rehabilitation is the State of Florida’s largest employment program serving the needs of Floridians with disabilities. Both programs are charged with providing an array of employment supports and job placement assistance to eligible individuals with disabilities. These employment supports may include tuition assistance for colleges or vocational schools, books and supplies needed for school, assistive technology aids or devices, transportation services, occupational licenses, vehicle modifications, psychological counseling, medical services, and job placement assistance. Services are individualized and are based on an individual’s needs and employment goals.
Who provides Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services in Florida?
Florida has two VR agencies: The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division of Blind Services. Both agencies are housed within the Florida Department of Education. For more information, please call or visit their websites:
Although both VR agencies operate under the same federal law and regulations, each agency is allowed to develop its own policies and procedures. Always feel free to request a copy of any policy being cited to you, or visit the websites above to download a copy.
What is a vocational evaluation and is it required?
A vocational evaluation can be a useful tool in helping VR and you determine your strengths, interests, aptitudes, skills, weaknesses and types of employment in which you have the ability to succeed. Vocational evaluations are not required for every individual but there may be circumstances (i.e.: inability to return to work in a given area after onset of disability) that make this a valuable source of information for future planning for you and your VR counselor?
What help can I request from VR if I am determined “eligible”?
If you are determined to be eligible, you and your counselor will develop and agree to an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) that will list agreed upon employment goals, and services you will need to become employed. The services are individualized and may be unique to your situation, so please feel free to discuss your specific needs with your counselor. You should be able to explain why your requests will help you to become employed in your rehabilitation program, or why specific services are needed due to your disability.
Must services be prior-authorized by VR before they can be sponsored by VR?
Yes. Your counselor must approve services and complete an IPE specifying the service before VR is responsible for payment. If you do not have a signed IPE, and your VR counselor did not approve the service, you will not be reimbursed if you purchase a service without VR approval.
What are some examples of services VR can provide me?
Vocational exploration, career and interest assessments, trial-work experiences, on-the-job training, job coaching, supported employment, career planning, counseling and guidance, assistive technology (aids, devices and training), assistance with transportation to participate in your rehabilitation program, vocational training programs, college training, medical and psychological diagnosis and treatment, support services, rehabilitation engineering evaluations and services, and job placement, to name a few. Remember, services may be unique to you, so don’t hesitate to discuss your needs with your counselor.
Can I request a copy of my VR case record?
Yes. You have a right to access your VR file. You or your representative must make the request in writing. Information that is deemed harmful may not be released directly to you but could be provided to your designated representative.
Is VR only there to help me obtain entry-level employment?
No. The Rehabilitation Act requires that individuals with disabilities have an active voice in choosing employment goals and meaningful careers that are consistent with their interests, strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities and capabilities, and informed choice.
What is informed choice?
Informed Choice is a right you have as an eligible VR client to understand your options to select your vocational goal, services, and the vendors who will supply services. This is not a guarantee you will receive everything you request, but it is your right to work in partnership with your counselor to identify advantages and disadvantages of different decisions and choices you have in your rehabilitation program.
Can I select a private school or must I use a public school if VR agrees to provide training?
Both VR agencies have a policy that encourages use of accredited public schools or provision only of the rate of the public school toward tuition at a private school if an individual chooses to attend a private school. However, both agencies have exceptions to this policy if the public school cannot meet the individual’s needs. Example: distance to public school results in a hardship for the individual due to transportation issues. The private school is clearly more convenient in reducing extensive travel time that will cause fatigue due to the individual’s disability. Request the policy and review the procedures to request an exception.
What does the chain of command look like with VR?
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR counselors report to their unit supervisors. Supervisors report to an Area Supervisor who reports to an Area Director. DVR has 6 areas and all of the Area Directors report to the Bureau Chief of Client Services, who is stationed in the Tallahassee State DVR office. The State of Florida DVR Director is Bill Palmer.
Division of Blind Services (DBS) counselors report to their unit supervisors. Supervisors report to District Administrators and there are 12 districts. The District Administrators report to the Bureau Chief of Client Services in the Tallahassee State DBS office. The State of Florida DBS Director is Joyce Hildreth.
If I have a problem with VR agency decisions on my case, whom can I contact to learn more about my rights?
Your counselor and the counselor’s supervisor should help you understand your rights to challenge any decision with which you disagree. The Client Assistance Program (CAP) is also available to provide information, advice, negotiation or possible representation in disputes with VR agencies in Florida. Please call 1-800-342-0823 or call TDD at 1-800-346-4127, if you need additional assistance or information to resolve disputes with either DVR or DBS.
Centers for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD)
The Centers for Autism & Related Disabilities are located at seven state universities and provide community-based information and consultation to individuals with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities, their families, and school districts.
Critical Initiatives in Visual Impairment Project (CIVI)
This project provides teacher training that addresses the critical shortage of highly qualified personnel; effective practices in braille instruction; and the effective use of residual vision for learning by using low vision devices.
Curriculum, Learning, and Assessment Support Project (CLASP)
CLASP is a project focused on students with significant cognitive disabilities. CLASP is designed to support access to the general curriculum for students with significant cognitive disabilities who participate in the Florida Alternate Assessment through appropriate instruction aligned with the Sunshine State Standards Access Points.
Family Café (Cooperation, Advocacy, Friendship, and Empowerment)
The Family Café exists to provide individuals with disabilities and their families with an opportunity for collaboration, advocacy, friendship and empowerment by serving as a facilitator of communication, a space for dialogue and a source of information.
FDLRS Multidisciplinary Educational Service Centers
This network of five regional Multidisciplinary Educational Services Centers provide a range of services for pre-school and school-aged children, including diagnostic and evaluation services, related medical management, consultation services, pre-service and in-service training.
The mission of ISRD is to improve outcomes for students with disabilities in the thirty-four small and rural school districts through staff development, information dissemination, technical assistance, product development, and support for district initiatives.
The purpose of this project is to provide digital audio textbooks and equipment to students who cannot read standard print due to visual, perceptual, physical, or learning disabilities. The project also facilitates support services and training to administrators, teachers, parents, and students on the use of this technology provided by Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.
PBS provides a positive and effective alternative to the traditional methods of discipline. PBS methods are research-based and proven to significantly reduce the occurrence of problem behaviors in the school, resulting in a more positive school climate and increased academic performance.
The mission of Project 10: Transition Education Network, hereinafter referred to as "Project 10," is to assist Florida school districts and relevant stakeholders in building capacity to provide secondary transition services to students with disabilities in order to improve their academic success and post-school outcomes.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 helps to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, including the right to accessible and equal access to transportation. The following information provides a brief overview of various modes of transportation and provides links and resources for additional information.
For individuals who rely on public transportation, the ADA requires that the public transit systems be “accessible” to individuals with disabilities. This means that an individual with a disability is able to get to a bus stop, board the bus and travel to his/her destination successfully. The ADA requires that public transit entities that provide fixed-route bus or rail services, also provide “complementary paratransit” services to individuals with disabilities who cannot, because of their disability, access the fixed-route system. Individuals with disabilities must qualify for ADA paratransit services through a process that is collaboratively developed by the transit system and the local community.
The eligibility determination process for ADA complementary paratransit is developed by the transit system in consultation with the local community.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the administrator for Florida’s Medicaid program, contracted with the Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD) to have the CTD administer and manage the Medicaid Non-Emergency Transportation program. Medicaid recipients may be eligible for Medicaid- sponsored non-emergency transportation services and should contact the CTD for additional information or assistance at 1-800-983-2435 or by visiting the CTD Medicaid Non-Emergency Transportation webpage.
The State of Florida’s Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD) is an independent commission housed administratively within the Florida Department of Transportation. Their mission is to ensure the availability of efficient, cost-effective, and quality transportation services for persons who are “transportation disadvantaged”. Transportation disadvantaged are those who cannot obtain their own transportation due to a disability, age, or income.
The Department of Transportation issued Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations for the motor coach industry in September 1998. These regulations require equal access to new motorcoaches and motorcoach service to individuals with disabilities. ADA regulations for delivering accessible motorcoach service went into effect in October 2001 for fixed route, charter, tour and other demand responsive motorcoach companies. The ADA regulations went into effect for small operators in October 2002. In accordance with these regulations, companies must provide accessible coaches and services to a passenger with a disability upon a 48-hour advance request notice
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) helps to ensure that public transportation systems provide accessible transportation services for individuals with disabilities. For general information visit the FTA website. To contact the FTA Headquarters in Washington DC please call (202) 366-4043, or to contact Region 4 which includes the State of Florida call (404) 562-3500.
Rental car agencies are places of public accommodations and therefore must meet the requirements set forth under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title III ensures that places of public accommodations provide modifications or accommodations to make goods and services available to individuals with disabilities.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986 as amended (May 13, 2009) prohibits discrimination based on disability for air traveling passengers. The ACAA also enhances accessibility for airline travel, for both domestic and foreign carriers as well as within airport terminals.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings Aviation - Consumer Protection Division accepts complaints pertaining to airline/consumer matters and maintains public information on aviation matters.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) strives to provide the highest level of security while ensuring that all passengers are treated with dignity and respect. To that end, TSA launched TSA Cares, a new helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.
National Transition Network (NTN) provides technical assistance and evaluation services to strengthen the capacity of individual states to improve school-to-work transition policies, programs, and practices
University of Minnesota
102 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive SE
Minneapolis MN 55455
Note to active military, veterans and their families. Disability Rights Florida appreciates your service to our country. Now it is our turn to help you pursue your goals of employment, independent living and accessing services.
The following resources may be helpful to military troops, veterans, their families, and those who are working with them. This collection is not meant to be comprehensive but rather a starting point.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event that caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror. PTSD can result from personally experienced traumas (e.g., rape, war, natural disasters, abuse, serious accidents, and captivity) or from the witnessing or learning of a violent or tragic event.
While it is common to experience a brief state of anxiety or depression after such occurrences, people with PTSD continually re-experience the traumatic event; avoid individuals, thoughts, or situations associated with the event; and have symptoms of excessive emotions. People with this disorder have these symptoms for longer than one month and cannot function as well as they did before the traumatic event. PTSD symptoms usually appear within three months of the traumatic experience; however, they sometimes occur months or even years later.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Although the symptoms for individuals with PTSD can vary considerably, they generally fall into three categories:
Re-experience - Individuals with PTSD often experience recurrent and intrusive recollections of and/or nightmares about the stressful event. Some may experience flashbacks, hallucinations, or other vivid feelings of the event happening again. Others experience great psychological or physiological distress when certain things (objects, situations, etc.) remind them of the event.
Avoidance - Many with PTSD will persistently avoid things that remind them of the traumatic event. This can result in avoiding everything from thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the incident to activities, places, or people that cause them to recall the event. In others there may be a general lack of responsiveness signaled by an inability to recall aspects of the trauma, a decreased interest in formerly important activities, a feeling of detachment from others, a limited range of emotion, and/or feelings of hopelessness about the future.
Increased arousal - Symptoms in this area may include difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, becoming very alert or watchful, and/or jumpiness or being easily startled.
People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:
Drinking or drug problems
Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
Relationships problems including divorce and violence
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from "mild," i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to "severe," i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. A TBI can result in short or long-term problems with independent function. Blasts are a leading cause of TBI for active duty military personnel in war zones.
TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behavior, and/or sensation. It can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.
Note: Disability Rights Florida is NOT a crisis intervention agency. If you are thinking of hurting yourself, or if you are concerned that someone else may be suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has founded a national suicide prevention hotline to ensure veterans in emotional crisis have free, 24/7 access to trained counselors. To operate the Veterans Hotline, the VA partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Veterans can call the Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and press "1" to be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Veteran specific risks:
Deployments to hostile environments
Exposure to extreme stress
Physical/sexual assault while in the service (not limited to women)
Under Construction! Please check back for a comprehensive guide to housing programs.
Here is a very small sample of resources to get you started.
There are many programs that may be able help you with living expenses. Be sure to learn about what help you can expect before you turn 18. Ask for assistance to apply for all services and programs you might be eligible for as an adult. Be sure to start early if you need to obtain accessible on-campus housing.
SSI & Medicaid Waivers
If you are eligible to receive SSI as an adult, it is expected that you will use the SSI funds to pay for your living expenses. Adults who are on a Medicaid waiver may have some of their living expenses paid by the waiver. Talk to your support coordinator about what will happen when you turn 18.
Supported Housing and Supported Living
If you are not ready to live on your own, and don’t have a friend or family to help you, you may want to obtain supported housing or supported living. Supported housing and supported living means that people will help you make sure things are ok in your home and that you have the things you need. You will still be responsible for taking care of your home. There are many different organizations that provide supported housing and supported living. Most communities have supported housing for adults with disabilities.
AT is any device or system that can maintain or improve the capabilities of a person with a disability and the training or other support to ensure its availability. When school officials are deciding whether to place a student with a disability in a regular classroom, before they look at other placements, they must consider how assistive technology can help the student succeed in the least restrictive environment.
Florida law requires that if an IEP team makes a recommendation in accordance with State Board of Education rules for a student with disabilities to receive an assistive technology assessment, that assessment must be completed within 60 school days after the team’s recommendation.
A student’s IEP or 504 Team can determine the need for assistive technology based on a professional evaluation. If the student needs the technology to access the curriculum, for home study, or in the transition to adulthood, the school may pay for both the equipment and the training to use it. A student with a disability may also need — and has a right to — some form of technology in order to participate fully in school activities.
In that case, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may require that the school provide the technology, as well as any training necessary to use it. DVR and DBS are required to equip an eligible person for employment.
Assistive technology services include evaluation, maintenance, repair and training for students, their families and the professionals working with them.
Augmentative communication systems, including talking computers
Assistive listening devices, including hearing aids, personal FM units, closed-caption TVs and teletype machines (TDDs)
Specially adapted learning games, toys and recreation equipment
Computer and software
Electronic tools (scanners with speech synthesizers, tape recorders, word processors)
Curriculum and textbook adaptations (audio format, large print format, Braille)
Copies of overheads, transparencies and notes
Adaption of the learning environment, such as special desks, modified learning stations, computer touch screens or different computer keyboards
Durable medical equipment
Who Pays for AT?
Payment for assistive technology may come from any of several sources — the special education system, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Division of Blind Services, Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or the SSI program’s “Plan for Achieving Self Support.”
Which agency will pay? The answer depends on the disability, age and situation of the person who needs it. It also depends on how the technology is expected to impact that person. If, for instance, the technology makes it possible for a student to be educated in the least restrictive environment, as the law requires, then it may be considered the school’s responsibility.
A major source of financing for assistive technology is Medicaid, which regularly pays for such items as custom and power wheelchairs, augmentative and alternative communication devices, specialized beds, bath equipment, high and low-tech lifting devices, and other technology that helps overcome the effects of disabling conditions.
Sources of Medicaid funding vary based on whether the person with a disability is under or over age 21, which state he or she lives in, and which program or waivers he or she qualifies for.
Medicare helps pay for durable medical equipment, defined as equipment that:
can withstand repeated use
is primarily and customarily used to serve a medical purpose
generally would not be useful to a person who isn’t ill or injured
is appropriate for use in the home
Transfer of AT
When an AT device is needed by the student in another district, postsecondary institution, state or community agency, employment facility or community living facility, Florida law requires that state agencies agree to facilitate a student or parent's request to transfer or retain use of the AT device.
Student and parents or guardians must put their request in writing.
Florida's interagency agreement has been signed by five state agencies:
Florida Infants and Toddlers Early Intervention Progarm (Department of Health)
Division of Blind Services (Department of Education)
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (Department of Education)
Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (Department of Education & Agency for Workforce Innovation)
Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (Department of Education)
Most minors who receive a benefit from the Social Security Administration (SSA) receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a needs based program to provide for the person with disability's basic living expenses, such as food, shelter and clothing. A person does not need to have a work history to receive SSI.
Unlike SSI, SSDI is an insurance program. When an individual works, they pay into the system, and when needed, the individual and their dependents receive a benefit. Youth who receive a SSDI benefit usually receive it based on the work record of a parent or grandparent who paid into the system, and is now disabled, retired or deceased. A minor need not be disabled to receive SSDI. Youth who are not disabled can continue to receive benefits until 2 months after age 19 if still enrolled in secondary or elementary school. Youth who are considered disabled under the adult definition can continue to receive SSDI payments after they turn 18 for so long as they remain disabled.
A minor is considered disabled for SSA purposes based on how a physical or mental condition or illness affects development and functioning in typical daily environments (i.e., school, home, community). At age 18, a review is scheduled to determine whether or not the condition or illness meets the SSA definition of disability for an adult.
Disability Definition for an Adult
The Social Security Administration considers an adult to be disabled when the illness or condition prevents substantial work activity for 12 months or longer. Therefore, the main issue for adults is how the condition or illness affects the person’s ability to work.
Work Can Affect Benefits
If you work, whatever your age, it is important to report your earnings to SSA. Earnings can affect the amount of an SSI benefit, and can even affect eligibility for SSI or SSDI. If SSA later finds that you were paid too much, or are no longer considered “disabled” because of work activity, you could be asked to repay the amount that you were overpaid by SSA.
Remember, if you are working, there are many Social Security Work Incentives that can be used to offset your earnings. When reporting income, it is important to also report any work incentives that you would like for SSA to consider, to reduce a portion of your countable earnings. See the Social Security "Red Book" for information on work incentives.
If a finding is made that the person is considered no longer disabled, SSA is required to send written notice of the decision, including all appeal rights. In order to continue the SSI or SSDI benefits during an appeals process, the appeal must be requested within 10 days of the notice of discontinuance.
If a finding is made that the person is considered no longer disabled by their illness or condition, § 301 Continued Payment Under a Vocational Rehabilitation or Similar Program may allow an SSI or SSDI recipient to continue to receive SSI or SSDI benefits. Benefits may continue if the person is participating in a vocational rehabilitation program at the time the disability ended, and the program will increase the likelihood of eliminating the future need for disability benefits. Section 301 Continued Payment Under a Vocational Rehabilitation or Similar Program also applies to Beneficiaries aged 18 through 21, participating in an individualized education program developed under policies and procedures approved by the US Secretary of Education for assistance to States for the education of individuals with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Be aware however that there are many special Medicaid and Medicaid waiver programs in Florida that do not require a person to be eligible for SSI. For more information, see the Florida Medicaid Summary of Services.
SSDI beneficiaries qualify for Medicare benefits following a two year waiting period after first receiving SSDI. There are limited circumstances under which SSDI beneficiaries may qualify for Medicare without the two year waiting period.
Some individuals may be dually eligible for SSI and SSDI, and therefore for Medicaid and Medicare. Some individuals who receive SSDI only, may nevertheless be eligible to have Medicaid pay their Medicare premiums, and in some cases, their copays.
Some individuals, who received SSI benefits as a minor, become SSDI beneficiaries based on the work record of a parent or grandparent who is deceased, disabled or retired. As long as the person’s SSDI benefits are based on the work record of the parent or grandparent, and not on their own work record, the individual should maintain their eligibility for Medicaid. This is called Protected Medicaid.
The Social Security and medical benefits systems are very detailed and complex, and even the agencies that administer these programs sometimes make mistakes. It is always best to consult with a professional for information and advice about these systems and how they relate to each other. With proper planning, an individual can use available benefits to enhance opportunities for independence and quality of life.
What is a Social Security Representative Payee?
SSA’s Representative Payment Program provides financial management for the SSDI and SSI payments to beneficiaries who are deemed incapable of managing their SSDI or SSI payments. A representative payee will always be appointed for a minor receiving benefits. Adults who are deemed capable of managing their own funds do not require a payee.
Generally, SSA will look for family or friends to serve as payee. When friends and family are not able to serve as payee, Social Security looks for qualified organizations to be a representative payee. The beneficiary may appeal SSA’s decision to appoint a representative payee.
Disabled Adult Child (a Social Security Administration term)
Division of Blind Services
Department of Children & Families
Disability Navigator Program
Department of Education
Department of Juvenile Justice
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)
Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis & Treatment (Medicaid)
Exceptional Student Education
Florida Academic Counseling and Tracking for Students
Family and Supported Living Waiver
Home and Community Based Services Waiver
Individual Development Account
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Individualized Education Program or Individualized Education Plan
Individual Plan for Employment
Plan for Achieving Self Support
Social Security Administration
Social Security Disability Insurance
Supplemental Security Income
Transition Individualized Education Program
Work Incentives Planning and Assistance
Glossary A - L
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Enacted in 1990, the ADA guarantees people with disabilities civil rights protections in employment, public accommodations, government services and telecommunications. Title II of the ADA covers public programs, activities and services such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division of Blind Services. Most requirements of Title II are based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination based on disability in federally assisted programs and activities. The ADA then extended Section 504’s non-discrimination requirement to all activities of public entities – such as the State of Florida – and not only those receiving federal funds.
Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD)
APD is the Florida state agency that administers the state and federal funds provided to individuals with developmental disabilities.
Any item, equipment, or product system, whether bought off the shelf, modified or custom built, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a student with a disability.
Augmentative/Alternative Communication Systems (AAC)
Systems of communication, such as communication boards, that can help with writing, spelling, typing, word selection, conversation, speech synthesis, manual reading or other communication needs resulting from a disability.
Department of Children & Families (DCF)
DCF is the Florida state agency that administers the child welfare system, along with some mental health and substance abuse programs for children and youth. DCF also determines eligibility for welfare programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Due Process Rights
Rights that give youth, caregivers, school or agency personnel ways to solve problems and settle disagreements. In the education setting, they include the right to participation, the right to have notice, the right to give consent and the right to a due process hearing. The hearing is a formal meeting run by an impartial hearing officer, where parents, caregivers and school officials can resolve disagreements fairly.
Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT).
Comprehensive health services for Medicaid-eligible children – up to age 21. It includes routine medical check-ups, as well as treatment for illness, injury and chronic medical conditions. Almost all youth in the dependency system are eligible for Medicaid. Young adults who exit the foster care system at age 18 remain eligible for Medicaid up to age 21. Florida also calls this the “Child Health Check Up”.
Exceptional Student Education (ESE)
In Florida, special education services and programs for students who have a disability or who are gifted.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
An individualized plan for a student with a disability who may not meet the eligibility criteria for Exceptional Student Education (ESE), but who requires accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
A federal regulation (34 CFR 300.17) specifying that all children with disabilities aged 3 through 21, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school, are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Districts must provide FAPE to all students with disabilities who have not reached age 22 and have not earned a regular high school diploma.
Independent Living (IL)
This term is used generally to describe services provided to youth who will exit the foster care system at age 18. It is also used to refer to specific programs available to young adults such as the Road to Independence program.
Individualized Education Program / Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
A written plan to identify the specially designed instruction and related services designed to meet the individual unique needs of a student with a disability. The IEP is developed by the student , LEA, and his or her teachers, parents, caregivers and others as appropriate. It is reviewed annually, but may be revised at any time, upon request.
Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)
A vocational rehabilitation plan that targets a specific job goal and services that are necessary in order to reach the goal. The plan can be amended at any time and should be reviewed annually.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
Placement of a student with disabilities in a regular education class with their non-disabled peers or in a special program for the amount of time that is appropriate for the child. Taking a child out of a regular school setting should only be done when the nature and severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Glossary M - Z
Medicare is the federal program that provides health care coverage to Americans who are 65 or older, or who have a disability, no matter what their income. Adults with disabilities may be eligible for Medicare if they became disabled before age 18 and have a parent who paid into Social Security and is deceased, disabled or retired.
Medicaid is a jointly-funded, Federal-State health insurance program for certain low-income people. It covers children, the aged, people with disabilities, and people who are eligible to receive federally assisted income maintenance payments. Almost all youth in foster care are eligible for Medicaid and Florida now covers youth until age 21.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, amended in 1998, prohibits any recipient of federal funds from discriminating against persons with disabilities. Section 504 requires that all children with disabilities be provided a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment.
Special Diploma, Option I (Florida)
A type of diploma for students with a disability who are not able to meet all requirements for a standard high school diploma. Students must meet district credit requirements and master the Sunshine State Standards for Special Diploma.
Special Diploma, Option II (Florida)
A type of diploma for certain students with a disability who are not able to meet all requirements for a standard high school diploma. An individual employment and training plan is developed by the IEP team. It lists specific competencies related to job preparation skills and adult living skills for the individual student. The student must master all competencies included in the plan and be successfully employed for at least one semester. Districts may offer Option 2, but are not required to do so.
Special Education Services
Specially designed instruction for a student with a disability. Special education adapts lesson delivery, content and instructional methods to the student’s unique needs and provides services such as instruction in Braille, additional individualized practice or social skills training.
Standard Diploma (Florida)
The type of diploma earned by most Florida high school students. The state legislature and the local school district set the requirements. Other diploma options include a college-ready, vocational diploma and an international baccalaureate diploma. Students are required to earn at least 24 credits in a set of required and elective courses, have a 2.0 Grade Point Average, and pass the high school graduation test.
Supported employment is a service that supports competitive work in an integrated setting for individuals with the most significant disabilities. These individuals, because of the nature and severity of their disability, need on-going work supports which may include job coaching services for an extended period of time. At these work sites, most co-workers do not have disabilities. And workers with disabilities have regular contact with people who do not have disabilities.
A surrogate parent makes education related decisions for children under the age of 18 who do not have a parent, relative or legal guardian to make those decisions.
Ticket to Work
The Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program is the centerpiece of new legislation enacted under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. It is a nationwide initiative designed to assist people with the training and support they need to go to work by increasing their choices. SSA beneficiaries with disabilities can find employment, vocational rehabilitation (VR) and other support services from public and private providers.
A set of coordinated activities designed to help a student move from school to post-school activities. These may include independent living, work or continued education after high school, instruction, related services, community experiences, work toward post-school goals, and, if appropriate, daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation, all based on the student’s needs and preferences.
Transitional IEP (TIEP)
An IEP that addresses the student’s need for transition planning and services. The student’s IEP must address these issues by the student’s 16th birthday, or younger if deemed necessary by the student’s IEP team. This IEP deals with issues related to making the transition to adult life after high school, including diploma decisions.
The youth's goals and all the supports and services that the young person with a disability will need to prepare for the fullest possible life as an adult.
The plans should be designed individually and reflect each young person’s visions and values.
A transition plan looks ahead to the needs, changes and possibilities of adulthood. An IPE, or employment plan, focuses on preparing for work as an adult.
If the education system, vocational rehabilitation agencies and private and government social services can provide a service or support, and the person covered by the plan needs it, the plan should show the way to get it.
all the student’s unique educational needs related to his or her disabilities
the supports and related services to be provided and when they are expected to start and end
which agencies or individuals will provide the services and who will pay for them
measurable goals for the student, with dates to begin working toward them and to reach them (assessments conducted by professionals can be a basis for the goals, and new assessments and data can measure the progress and inspire new goals)
program accommodations, modifications and supports that will be needed to help the student reach the goals in the least restrictive environment. “Least restrictive environment” means that, as much as possible, the student learns in the regular curriculum, learns alongside other students (those who have disabilities and those who do not) and participates in extracurricular activities with other students (those who have disabilities and those who do not)
technology devices or other assistance that might make it possible for the student to participate fully and equally in mainstream school life, and who, or what agency, will supply it
TIEP and 504
A transition plan should cover not only schooling but also vocational training and living skills – in short, whatever the young person will need to make a successful transition to adult life. The transition plan — whether a TIEP or a portion of a 504 plan — should spell out:
the high-school program the student needs and the type of diploma the student will is working towards
the student’s desired post-school outcome
the kind of work the student wants to do and can do with the right training, supports and services, and how he or she will prepare for that work
any job training the student will need, whether it will be in a formal classroom setting, in the community, or both
post school adult living arrangements, including campus housing if needed
functional vocational assessments if needed
evaluations to support requests for post-secondary accomodations if needed
any life skills the student has yet to learn, such as organization, communication, daily living, transportation or socializing in groups
services or assistive technology devices the student will need and which agencies can supply them
The IPE should state the student’s employment goal and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or Division of Blind Services (DBS) services the student will need to achieve it.
It is important that the student with a disability and his or her vocational rehabilitation counselor choose an employment goal specific enough to make it clear which services will be needed to reach it.
The goal should not be, for example, "health care." It should be a particular job in health care — nurse’s aide, records technician or surgeon. Instead of "business," the goal should be receptionist or comptroller. Instead of "law enforcement," it should be security guard, detective or prosecutor. The goal can always be changed if it proves to be too much, too little or simply the wrong direction.
With a specific goal, an IPE can then list in detail the services that are needed and who will pay for them. The services can include further education, transportation, mental-health therapy, medical treatment, technology and anything else necessary for the student to reach his or her goal. The IPE can also specify responsibilities of the young person, such as reporting progress to the counselor or regular attendance at classes.
How Is Transition Planned?
The transition team should meet regularly to figure out what will work for the youth, and then commit to executing its strategy. The school has primary responsibility for creating and maintaining IEP or 504 plans and TIEPs, although many other institutions and agencies should help. The IPE is primarily the responsibility of the vocational rehabilitation counselor. The student with a disability and his or her vocational rehabilitation counselor write the IPE together, generally with the advice and counsel of others. If educators do not begin transition planning by age 16 or younger, they can be prompted to do so. Family members and other adults close to the student’s family, along with the student him-or herself, can make a request to the school. The request should be written, and the person making it should keep a dated copy. The first step in the planning process is a comprehensive evaluation of the student. It should be done as soon as the youth enters school or as soon as the question of a disability arises. Either the parents or the school staff may initiate it. If the school asks for an evaluation, the staffers must obtain prior consent from the parent or guardian. The evaluation will help determine whether the student has a disability, whether the disability is covered by IDEA and State Board of Education Rules or the Rehabilitation Act, and what education services the student needs in order to succeed. When the student is determined to have a disability, the school staff calls a meeting to write an IEP or a 504 plan, depending on the nature of the disability. (Before the meeting, the parent or adult responsible for the youth’s education should receive a copy of the assessment in time to study it, and understand it.) If they don’t agree with the findings of the assessment they can request and independent educational evaluation (IEE). The meeting should include (and under IDEA is required to include) the parents, or person acting as the parent, local education agency representative , teachers, counselors and anyone with special expertise and knowledge pertaining to the student. The same professionals, depending on the needs of the student, should help develop and maintain a 504 plan. Together, the members of the team decide what the student needs, what services will be provided and what outcomes are anticipated. The meetings are repeated at least annually through the school years. The written record of the decisions made at the meetings becomes the current IEP (or 504 plan) document. The same process produces the TIEP.
The student’s team, composed of the student, his or her main advocate (a family member or other determined advocate) and all professionals necessary to provide educational and other services.
Include the Student
Federal law requires a public agency (such as a school) that is planning for a student with a disability to invite him or her to the IEP meeting if transition will be discussed.
If the student does not attend the meeting, the public agency must take other steps to ensure that the student’s preferences and interests are considered.
Include the Family
Federal laws, especially IDEA and its later amendments, state clearly the importance of parental involvement in planning for children with disabilities.
For several reasons, parental participation and leadership can make a big difference.
First, the parent is almost always the best-informed and most-focused specialist when it comes to the needs, desires and strengths of the student. Teachers and other professionals, since their focus is broader, may overlook unique characteristics. A parent, other family member or advocate will have a better chance of ensuring that all the right options are included. A parent should insist on including everyone who might be important.
Parents should ask questions, read all documents slowly and carefully, and schedule as many meetings as necessary until they are satisfied that their son or daughter will have the best available preparation for adult life. As the student matures and becomes more involved in the planning, he or she may assume the leadership role.
Parents may need to enlist other professionals who know what services different agencies can or must provide under the disability laws.
If no one on the team is taking the leader’s role energetically, one or both parents can learn to champion the rights and needs of their soon-to-be adult son or daughter. In fact, any young person will benefit enormously if at least one parent or other family member takes that role, even if the professionals on the team are also doing so.
Under IDEA, the TIEP team should include the student, parents (or persons acting as the parent), Local Education Agency (LEA) and school staff who know the student best. It should include the general education and special education teachers and counselors who know the student best, evaluation specialists and related service providers, as well as representatives of every agency that might play a role in meeting the student’s needs. These agencies can include:
developmental services agencies
alcohol, drug abuse and mental health programs
the Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS)
the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
deaf service centers
children’s medical services
children and family services
community mental health services
the Centers for Independent Living (CIL)
Social Security programs (SSA)
any other agency with services or programs that might contribute to the student’s successful transition to adult life.
The 504 Team
The composition of the 504 team is less formally dictated by law than the IDEA team, but it’s a good idea to have the same sort of mix and cover all the services and opportunities the student might need and want. The student or anyone responsible for that person can request the participation of experts.
The IPE Team
The Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) is written by the student and his or her vocational rehabilitation or blind services counselor. The counselor enters the picture when the student is determined eligible for services from DVR or DBS. The earlier that counselor is involved, the more helpful they will be.
Involved family members and members of the student’s IEP or 504 teams should also contribute to drafting the IPE, but it’s the student and VR counselor who must agree on the final version.
TIEP Meetings & Tips for Helping Youth Prepare For Transition
IDEA requires that a TIEP meeting be designed as a result-oriented process, that focuses on improving academic and functional achievement to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living or community participation.
Get a copy of your IEP and go over it with your caregivers, teachers or other trusted adults until you understand it.
Get a copy of any evaluations or reports that will be discussed at the meeting.
Ask questions about the parts you don’t understand.
Think about what you want to do. Write out your ideas ahead of time, and practice what you want to tell your team about your goals.
Do your homework by learning what classes or training you need to achieve your goals.
Invite someone you trust to attend the meeting to encourage and support you. It could be a relative, friend, guardian ad litem, or attorney.
Be sure you get enough sleep the night before and eat a good breakfast the day of your transition IEP meeting.
During the Meeting
Discuss with your team how your disability will affect your goals and plans.
Know your strengths and your weaknesses.
Focus your abilities and possibilities, but be realistic.
Know your rights. What will you do if your IEP team makes a decision you don’t agree with? Remember: If you have concerns, the law guarantees you another meeting, and you have a right to a hearing if you disagree.
Believe in yourself and your success.
One of the choices a student must make is what type of diploma to work towards. In Florida there are several options:
Special Diploma Option One
Special Diploma Option Two*
* Some small districts do not offer an Option Two Special Diploma
Students should consider the choices carefully. Often, students with disabilities are behind in high school credits. Finishing school with peers by obtaining a special diploma sounds like a good idea. But, young people have been unpleasantly surprised to learn that they have to take the GED in order to get into community college.
Special diplomas may or may not be accepted by vocational school, community college, or military recruiters. Certificates of completion are not accepted by community college, military recruiters and are not recognized by employers.
Learn more at:
High School Diploma Options for Students with Disabilities: Getting the Right Fit. (FDOE 2004)
Here are a few tips for the team leader, whether it is the student, a family member, a friend or professional advocate ...
Read and get familiar with the laws that cover the youth’s rights. Bring copies to the meetings.
If an agency representative says, “It’s not our job,” research the issue and you may be able to respond, “Yes, it is”.
Know the agencies and organizations that are equipped to help. Some will give you invaluable information, some will provide services and some will advocate to enforce the law if necessary. Others may need prodding.
Remember that any of the plans can be amended to add services whenever necessary. Should you learn of one that would help you attain your goal, get it written into the plan.
Make your requests in writing and get the answers in writing. If the youth is denied services, request in writing that the decision, its reason and the grounds for denial be provided in writing.
Go up the chain of command. If an agency representative denies a service and you disagree, go to that person’s supervisor, then to the agency head. Then follow the agency’s appeal procedures. If you don’t know the rules and procedures, ask for them. They should be available in writing.
In dealing with denial of services and other problems, you can obtain information and referral, and possibly legal representation from Disability Rights Florida or your local legal aid program.
Make certain the plans contain measurable goals. Without measurability, it is difficult to determine if the student is making adequate progress toward his or her goal.
Ask for an evaluation to show the need for services. For example, instead of requesting speech therapy for a child, request a speech evaluation. Then, if you disagree with the evaluation, you have the right to an independent evaluation at public expense.
Ask for evaluation reports prepared by professionals who can accurately measure the student’s needs and abilities. Future evaluations will measure his or her progress. Services should be provided based on the evaluation findings. Evaluations are mandatory for students covered by IDEA, and are both desirable and available for 504 students.
Ask for a copy of all evaluations before any meeting at which it will be discussed. Study the evaluation and be ready to proceed with it or ask for another if it doesn’t seem adequate and correct.
Take other stakeholders to the planning meetings. While advocating you’ll be more effective if you’re not alone. Take experts who will back up your judgment, friends or counselors who can speak knowledgeably about the situation, professionals who know the system and other advisers who can help the team stay on track. Your companions may not need to speak at all, yet may nonetheless give weight to your analysis of the situation.
Don’t back down to please the professionals working with you. Back down only when you decide you’ve been wrong about the youth’s needs and strengths.
Generally, you’ll accomplish more if you show respect for the professionals, even if they become impatient with you — but respect does not mean you have to agree with them. You may go online and read the Web sites of advocates and lawyers who have worked successfully with people with disabilities. Many of their tips are excellent and of no cost to you.
Remember that most decisions are not final. Stick with what works. Keep your written records in order. Should you encounter resistance, call another meeting, ask for another assessment, be persistent, quote the laws again, pull out the regulations. If you have tried to resolve the conflict yourself and have been unsuccessful contact Disability Rights Florida for advocacy and legal help.
Tips For Helping Youth Prepare For Transition
Talk to young people about their hopes and dreams for adulthood.
Assist the young person to develop goals for the future.
Encourage the youth to participate in community activities.
Have high expectations of the young person’s abilities.
Help the youth meet adults with disabilities who can serve as mentors and role models.
Work with the young person to learn about his or her disability, the transition process and self-advocacy.
Observe the youth’s skills at socializing, organizing, workplace behaviors and independent living.
Assign the young person chores.
Give the young person the opportunity to budget and spend money.
Role-play situations that the youth might encounter.
Help the youth learn to use public transportation.
Discuss the youth’s medical and transition needs with his or her physician.
Call the young person’s teachers to request that transition and financial planning begin as soon as possible.
Help the youth plan for future living arrangements by budgeting with real numbers. (example: build a budget using newspapers to research what jobs pay and the cost of apartments).
Take field trips to find prices for the items needed for a home.
Be proactive and plan early.
How to Get the Most Out of Vocational Rehabilitation
Anyone with a disability who wants to work and can, with the right supports and services.
According to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a person who is determined by qualified personnel to require services because of a physical, mental, or emotional disability that interferes substantially with employment is eligible for vocational rehabilitation.
People with visual disabilities in both eyes are eligible for vocational rehabilitation via the Division of Blind Services (DBS), housed at the state Department of Education (DOE). Those with any other disabilities who are eligible for vocational rehabilitation receive services from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), also at DOE.
Those who have Social Security benefits (SSI or SSDI) based on their own disabilities are presumed to be eligible for vocational rehabilitation, unless there is clear and convincing evidence that they are too significantly disabled to benefit from DVR or DBS services.
Fill out an application for Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or Division of Blind Services (DBS) services so that an official decision can be made on your eligibility. Students and their parents should complete the application well before the student with a disability leaves high school.
Obtain as much information as possible about DVR and DBS so you understand the eligibility criteria and your ability to negotiate services as an eligible client. Be a wise consumer!
Youths with disabilities must be able to describe their disability and how the disability may prevent them from working without DVR or DBS services. This is one of the questions that will be asked in order to determine eligibility. Prepare to answer this question realistically.
The Rehabilitation Act requires that a student found eligible for DVR or DBS services must leave the school system with a completed Individualized Program for Employment (IPE). It is in your interest to work with DVR or DBS to establish eligibility while you are still in school so that you will be approved to receive services under an IPE by the time you leave school.
If you are determined eligible, an IPE will be developed and you should be given “informed choice” in selecting the services you require to become employed. You should be allowed informed choice when selecting services, vendors, providers, and the job goal.
DVR and DBS are employment programs. Agreeing to an employment goal is central to receiving services. Focus on establishing an employment goal. DVR and DBS can pay for career assessments or work evaluations to help you identify your employment goal. Training will be provided if it is necessary to achieve your employment goal. Be ready to explain why any requested training will help you obtain your employment goal.
Plan for a meaningful career. Set a long-range goal other than entry-level employment. If you have the ability, capability and interests to succeed in an occupation that requires advanced training, make sure to negotiate this from the beginning with your DVR or DBS counselor.
Your IPE can be amended if there are additional services you require to become employed. Make sure to stay in close communication with your DVR or DBS counselor.
Know your rights and exercise them when necessary! Use the DVR or DBS chain of command if you encounter problems that you cannot resolve with your counselor’s assistance.
If you are verbally denied a service, always request the decision in writing with the reason and the policy that is being used to deny you. Don’t take no for an answer if services will help you become employed. You have the right to appeal the counselor's decision to a higher authority. Your rights should be provided to you in writing and in an accessible format.
When to Apply
When Should A Young Person Apply?
Early. Normally at age 16, but before the last year of high school. If the student is at risk of dropping out of school, long before.
The time to apply for vocational rehabilitation should be specified in the student’s IEP or 504 plan. A state DVR or DBS counselor or a member of the Transition IEP team can recommend the best time.
It is better for a student not to wait until his or her senior year to apply.
Federal law requires DVR and DBS to establish eligiblity within 60 days of application. The student, parent, or advocate should be in close contact with education and DVR or DBS officials to apply for services and to monitor the process after applying.
If the vocational rehabilitation agency is prepared to participate in the student’s transition process, an early application can make an important difference in the outcome. In Florida, DBS is prepared with transition programs and counseling for students age 14 and DVR is ready at age 16.
The process takes time — time to apply for services, time to undergo any evaluations that may be required, time for the eligiblity decision, time to be assigned a counselor, time to formulate a strategy, and time to write and negotiate the employment plan or IPE.
Some students have benefited from applying as early as age 14. Others — especially those seeking services from DVR instead of DBS — have found that applying for DVR services in the junior year of high school leaves enough time to take advantage of the entire transition process. That can change, so it’s a good idea to discuss the timing with counselors at school and the state agencies.
A student who does not apply for DVR or DBS services while he or she is in school can still apply later and be approved — there is no age limit for eligibility — but in most cases, the sooner the services begin, the better the outcome.
Ticket to Work
People with disabilities who are also beneficiaries of Social Security may receive employment-related services and supports under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. The Ticket is a voucher for services that will help eligible beneficiaries with their transition to work.
The Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Florida Division of Blind Services are providers to whom eligible clients may choose to assign their Ticket, but there are dozens of other providers in the state of Florida. To learn more about other providers, please visit http://www.ssa.gov/work/ServiceProviders/providers.html or http://www.yourtickettowork.com.
People with disabilities can lose their eligibility for Medicaid and Medicare if they go to work. If you are receiving benefits and thinking about employment, be aware that working could affect your benefits. Please talk to your benefits planner. If you have problems, call Disability Rights Florida at 1-800-342-0823.
To learn more, please contact the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program serving your area:
Work with your teachers and school administrators to make sure that applying for Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or Division of Blind Services (DBS) is on your IEP or Section 504 plan. Don’t wait until late in your senior year to apply. Make sure you fill out an application so that DVR or DBS can make a formal decision on your eligibility well before you leave the school system.
What is the advantage of having DVR or DBS make a decision on my eligibility for services before I leave high school?
The federal law requires that if you are eligible, you must leave school with an approved DVR or DBS Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). With an IPE, you can begin receiving services from DVR or DBS. Otherwise, you may experience unnecessary delays.
What help can I request from DVR or DBS if I am determined eligible?
If you are found eligible, you and your counselor will develop and agree to an IPE that will list your employment goal and the services you need to reach it. The services are individualized and unique to your situation, so feel free to discuss your specific needs with your counselor. You should be able to explain why your requests will help you succeed in your rehabilitation program.
What services can DVR and DBS provide me?
Vocational exploration, career and interest assessments, trial-work experiences, on-the-job training, job coaching, supported employment, career planning, counseling and guidance, assistive technology (aids, devices and training), assistance with transportation to participate in your rehabilitation program, vocational training programs, college training, medical and psychological diagnosis and treatment, support services, rehabilitation engineering evaluations and services, and job placement.
Remember, services may be unique to you. Don’t hesitate to discuss your needs with your counselor.
Does DVR and DBS only help with entry-level employment?
No. The Rehabilitation Act requires that individuals with disabilities have an active voice in choosing employment goals and meaningful careers consistent with their interests, strengths, resources, priorities, concerns and capabilities. VR and DBS will pay for an advanced degree if that is appropriate.
If I have a problem with DVR or DBS decisions on my case, whom can I contact to learn more about my rights?
Your counselor and the counselor’s supervisor should help you understand your rights to challenge any decision you disagree with. The Client Assistance Program at Disability Rights Florida is also available to provide information, advice, negotiation or possible representation in disputes with VR agencies in Florida. Please call 1-800-342-0823 if you need additional assistance or information to resolve disputes with DVR or DBS.
DVR and DBS are required to serve all eligible clients. If DVR or DBS can’t pay for everyone, the agency must — under federal supervision — go to a process called an “order of selection,” serving the most severely disabled clients first. Florida has implemented a “Financial Needs Participation” Policy requiring some clients to help pay for services. Florida has also implemented an “order of selection.”
What Does DVR and DBS Do?
They help people with disabilities choose the kind of work they’d like to do, learn to do it and get the chance to do it.
DVR and DBS Provide or Arrange for Many Services Including:
assistance with transition
career and interest assessments
counseling, guidance and referrals
technology (aids, devices and training)
assistance with transportation to rehabilitation
medical and psychological diagnosis and treatment
physical and mental restoration services
help with additional costs during rehabilitation
interpreters for the hearing impaired and readers for the visually impaired
personal assistance (including training in directing personal assistance) during rehabilitation
support services (group homes, sheltered workshops, supported work programs, job coaches, for example)
assistive technology evaluations and services
The choice of services in the plan should be reviewed at least annually. Amendments are possible whenever they are needed.
A Career or a Job?
DVR and DBS should help with both.
The purpose of vocational rehabilitation is greater than landing a first job. The Rehabilitation Act requires that people with disabilities have an active voice in choosing employment goals in keeping with their interests and abilities.
DVR and DBS do not set time limits on services and will help as long as the person is progressing toward his or her employment goal and participating actively in that direction. Someone with the desire and aptitude to be a lawyer, doctor, scientist, or minister should not settle for a job as a receptionist in the firm where those professions are practiced, unless it is only a step in a plan that goes further. Career goals should be consistent with the student’s strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice.
Are There Ways To Make the Process Work Better?
For applicants who want to be approved as eligible — and then, when approved, for persons receiving vocational rehabilitation — there are ways to make working with DVR or DBS more successful.
DVR and DBS determine eligibility according to the person’s disability and barriers to employment. Applicants, with help from their families and teams, are more likely to succeed if they:
obtain as much information as possible about DVR and DBS services and eligibility criteria (see Resources Section for contact information)
prepare to describe their disabilities without exaggerating or minimizing the effects
are ready to explain how a disability prevents them from working
Being prepared will help not only with one’s eligibility determination but also with negotiating services after eligibility is determined.
Negotiating the services:
A DVR or DBS client is more likely to succeed and benefit from the support provided by a counselor or other advocate if he or she:
Establishes a job or career goal FIRST — for example computer programmer, truck driver, or chef.
Explains why the requested training (such as a 4 year college degree or 2 year degree or certificate) will help achieve that goal.
Sets a career goal that is the most advanced and meaningful work the participant hopes to do, not just entry-level employment.
Targets that occupation from the start with the DVR or DBS counselor.
Stays in close communication with the counselor, since an IPE can be amended if additional services are needed.
The Client Assistance Program at Disability Rights Florida (toll free 1-800-342-0823) can provide information and referral to DVR and DBS clients and those trying to enter the programs. After investigating the facts of a case, CAP may also offer to negotiate or advocate for a client, or represent that person in appealing a decision made by the DVR or DBS agency.
An 18-year-old is an adult and presumed to be able to handle his or her own affairs unless a legal proceeding gives some or all the responsibility for him or her to a parent or guardian.
An 18 year old person has more rights, more risks and more responsibilities.
There are several things that change when youth turn 18:
1. When they turn 18, young people acquire the rights and access to records that their parents or guardian had exercised, including:
the right to be notified and consent to evaluations;
the right to invite additional participants to IEP meetings;
the right to be notified and consent to specialized education and related services. Parents are still notified of meetings regarding their child’s education, even after he or she turns 18, but the rights of the parent are transferred to the student.
Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, an 18-year- old can give his or her parents or other adults access to educational records by signing a release.
2. Young people who received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for a disability may lose them as adults, depending on the nature of their disabilities. An 18-year-old receiving SSI benefits should expect to have his or her eligibility re-determined — using a different, adult disability standard — in the month before the 18th birthday.
3. The health insurance may change. Florida law requires dependent coverage to be offered until the dependent is age 30. Adults whose health insurance covers youth should check their policies.
4. An 18-year-old is old enough to vote. Americans may vote at age 18 unless declared incompetent by a court of law. To register in Florida, one must turn 18 by Election Day and be a U.S. citizen and a legal resident of the county in which one plans to vote. Young people are eligible to register to vote at age 16, or anytime thereafter. Voter registration forms are available at many government offices, and from county supervisors of elections. Voting is an important way to have a say about the laws and policies that affect you.
See our Voting Rights topic for more information about voting rights.
5. Young men are required to register for military service. All males are required to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18 unless institutionalized or hospitalized.
Types of Guardianship under Florida Law
What is Guardianship?
Guardianship removes an adult’s right to make decisions about the areas of his or her life that a court has decided the person is not competent to make their own decisions about. The law refers to a person for whom a guardian has been appointed as a “ward” of that guardian.
Each of Florida’s guardianship statutes require that even when a right has been taken from an individual and given to a guardian or guardian advocate, that guardian is still required, to the extent possible, to consider the individual’s wishes and to allow the individual to participate in decisions affecting their life.
Whether an individual can give consent to a decision depends on the complexity and the seriousness of the decision to be made. Those who can recognize their own need for help with decision-making may not require guardianship, but only advice, information, and assurance when evaluating other options that may be available rather than pursuing guardianship. There are ALTERNATIVES to guardianship that can serve to meet these needs.
Below are the types of guardianship that exist under Florida law. See the next tab for more information on alternatives to guardianship.
A person(s) is appointed by the court to exercise all delegable legal rights and powers of the person who has a disability. It requires that there be an adjudication of the person as incapable of handling any personal decisions, money and property; i.e., what the Florida law once called incompetent and now calls incapacitated. Few people require this type of guardianship.
Guardian Advocate, Florida Statute 393.12 or Limited Guardianship, Florida Statute 744.102(8)(a) are preferred as less restrictive alternatives to full guardianship.
A person(s) is appointed to exercise only specified rights and powers which are named by the court. A limited guardianship occurs when the court has found that the individual is partially incapacitated and lacks the capacity to make some, but not all, of the decisions necessary to care for his/her person or property.
A temporary guardian may be appointed for the person or property, or both, for a person who is alleged to be incapacitated, prior to the appointment of a full guardian. A temporary guardian may be appointed only after a petition for incapacity has been filed. In order to appoint a temporary guardian, the court must find specifically that there appears to be imminent danger that the physical or mental health or safety of the person will be seriously impaired or that their property is in danger of being wasted, misappropriated, or lost unless immediate action is taken.
If the court determines that the individual is not incapacitated, and the individual files a voluntary petition for guardianship, the court may appoint a guardian or co-guardians of the property of a person who, though otherwise mentally competent, is unable to manage property. A voluntary guardianship may be terminated by the ward.
A Probate court may appoint a guardian advocate without an adjunction of incapacity if the person lacks the capacity to make some, but not all, of the decisions necessary to care for his/her person, property or estate. Any interested person may petition for the appointment of a guardian advocate. The ward may also voluntarily petition. Only those rights the person cannot manage are removed.
The four areas that some people with developmental disabilities may have difficulty handling, or for which society insists they have a substitute decision maker are:
Giving informed consent for medical, dental and surgical procedures
Managing money and/or property
Applying for governmental benefits or entitlements
Deciding on residential choices
There are important procedural differences between a Limited Guardianship under Chapter 744 and Guardian Advocacy under Chapter 393. Chapter 744 requires a three member examining committee to make a recommendation that the person lacks certain capacities before a court can order appointment of a guardian. Under Chapter 744, the examiners may have little or no expertise in disability, and the process may be much more time consuming and expensive for the petitioner. On the other hand, the potential ward has due process protections that do not exist under Chapter 393. Under Chapter 393, there is no requirement for an examining committee to be appointed, or for any court finding of incapacity of the ward before a guardian advocate is appointed. Instead, the Court may look at the individual’s support plan, their IEP or other documents to determine the level of disability and need for assistance.
Under either procedure, once a guardianship is established, the bottom line is the same. The individual loses their right to make important decisions about key aspects of their own life.
Alternatives to Guardianship
Family and Friends
Sometimes attentive support from family and friends can be enough to assist the person to manage his own personal and financial affairs.
This is a document that expresses a person’s desires concerning healthcare, or other affairs. As the term indicates, this option is written in advance of the need. The person must be competent at the time he or she signs the directive and capable of giving informed consent. Examples of these directives include:
Durable Power of Attorney
This legal document gives the designated person the legal authority to make decisions of specific matters for the person who created it. A DURABLE power of attorney can be exercised until the death of the person who gave it, even if the person becomes incapacitated.
A legal document that directs the providing, withholding, or withdrawal of life-prolonging medical procedures if you are unable to make your own decisions and you have a terminal illness or are in a persistent vegetative state.
Health Care Surrogate
A written document naming another person as your representative to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. You can include instructions about any treatment you want or do not want, similar to a living will. You can also designate an alternative surrogate. If you designate a health care surrogate and alternate be sure to ask them if they agree to take this responsibility, discuss how you would like matters handled, and give them a copy of the document.
It is important that any advance directive be witnessed by at least two individuals. Laws on health care advance directives are in Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes (available at your local library or at www.leg.state.fl.us).
Restraint and Seclusion in School
Florida Statute 1003.573 addresses widespread concern about the use of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities in public school. The law went into effect on July 1, 2010.
The law establishes standards and procedures regarding the use, monitoring, documentation, and reporting of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities.
The law establishes <strong>three important rights</strong>:
- notification and copies of incident reports.
- protection against mechanical restraint that restricts a student’s breathing.
- protection against manual or physical restraint that restricts a student's breathing.
On July 1, 2011 the law was revised to improve monitoring, documentation and reporting. The law also now requires districts to develop plans for the prevention and reduction of restraint and seclusion use and produce those plans to the Department of Education no later than January 31, 2012.
Parents and guardians are entitled to notification so that they can learn about what is happening in school and take appropriate action.
The notification must be in writing and provided before the end of the school day on which the restraint or seclusion occurs. Reasonable efforts must also be taken to notify the parent or guardian by telephone or computer e-mail or both. These efforts must be documented. The school shall obtain and keep in its records, the parent's or guardian's signed acknowledgment that he or she was notified of his or her child's restraint or seclusion.
Schools must write incident reports and send them to parents and guardians, principals, district special education directors and the state special education bureau chief.
The question often comes up - what can a parent do to help reduce restraint and seclusion use, prevent abusive restraint and seclusion use, and to respond to it when it occurs?
The TASH website is an excellent resource about how to write a No Consent Letter, how to monitor your child's program and some basic guidance about reporting abuse. Read each section of this Disability Topic to learn more about how to advocate for your child.
Abuse & Noncompliance
If you suspect abusive use of restraint or seclusion or non-compliance with Florida law governing use of restraint and seclusion in school, there are many ways to seek assistance.
Abuse Hotline - Department of Children and Families
The Department of Children and Families will investigate suspected cases of abuse in the school. If your concerns meet the definition of an emergency situation, first call 911 or your local law enforcement agency.
Office of Professional Practices Services - Florida Department of Education
325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0400
Office of Professional Practices Services investigates alleged misconduct by educators who hold a Florida Educator Certificate or a valid application for a Florida Educator Certificate. To read more about professional practices, visit this website.
IDEA State Complaint - Florida Department of Education
Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services
Florida Department of Education
325 West Gaines Street, Suite 614
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0400
Fax #: 850-245-0953
The Florida Department of Education maintains a state complaint procedure whereby parents and other interested parties may file a written complaint alleging that a public agency has violated state or federal requirements regarding the education of students with disabilities or gifted students.
The signed, written state complaint must:
be clearly identified as a complaint
include a statement which describes how the district has violated a requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and/or the corresponding state requirements
include an explanation of the facts on which the statement is based
include a signature and contact information for the complainant(s)
allege a violation that occurred not more than one year prior to the date that the complaint is received
if alleging violations with respect to a specific child, include:
the name and the address of the residence of the child
the name of the school the child is attending
a description of the nature of the problem of the child, including facts relating to the problem
a proposed resolution of the problem
In addition, the party filing the state complaint must forward a copy of the complaint to the school district serving the child at the same time the complaint is filed.(Section 300.153 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations)
Office of Civil Rights - U.S. Department of Education
To file a complaint, people may mail or fax a letter or use OCR’s Discrimination Complaint Form available from one of OCR’s enforcement offices. In your correspondence, please include:
The complainant’s name, address and, if possible (although not required), a telephone number where the complainant may be reached during business hours;
Information about the person(s) or class of persons injured by the alleged discriminatory act(s) (names of the injured person(s) are not required);
The name and location of the institution that committed the alleged discriminatory act(s); and
A description of the alleged discriminatory act(s) in sufficient detail to enable OCR to understand what occurred, when it occurred, and the basis for the alleged discrimination (race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age or the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act).
You may may file a complaint with OCR online at this web site.
Incident reports must contain the following:
The name, age, grade, race, ethnicity, gender and primary exceptionality of the student restrained or secluded.
The date and time of the event and the duration of the restraint or seclusion.
The location at which the restraint or seclusion occurred.
A description of the type of restraint.
Which Crisis Management Training Strategy?
Whether seated, standing, rpone, supine, mechanical or in transport?
If mechanical, the form of the mechanical restraint used must be described.
The name of the person using or assisting in the restraint or seclusion of the student.
The name of any nonstudent who was present to witness the restraint or seclusion.
What was happening before
Given an instruction
Interacting with peers
Given/serving a consequence
Faced with unexpected change
Transitioning to another activity
What strategies were used to prevent and deescalate the behavior.
Offered choices/preferred activities/breaks
What behavior warrented the use of restraint or seclusion?
Verbal threat/agression (NOTE - R/S should not be used for this reason - so if your incident report indicates this reason, that is a serious problem)
Property destruction (NOTE - R/S should not be used for this reason unless there is also imminent risk of serious injury or death - so if your incident report indicates this reason, that is a serious problem)
Who was at risk of immediate harm?
How was it determined that there was imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others?
What occurred with the student immediately after termination of the restraint or seclusion?
Return to activity/situation
Removal by parent
Removal by law enforcement
Did the student or anyone else have injuries, visible marks, or medical emergencies that occurred during the restraint or seclusion.
Illegal restraints are:
Mechanical restraint that restricts breathing
Manual or physical restraint that restricts breathing
Breath restriction risks are highest among people who have:
Obesity or are overweight
Required medications or drugs
Resistance to the restraint
Any weight placed on a person restrained prone or on their torso regardless of position is a risk factor for causing breath restriction during a restraint.
Illegal seclusions are:
Closing, locking or blocking a student in aroom that does not meet State Fire Marshal rules for seclusion time-out rooms and is unlit.
According to the Florida Department of Education's interpretation of state and federal laws and rules, "restraint" is an emergency intervention sometimes used in schools when students are exhibiting disruptive or dangerous behavior. Restraint is not an instructional tool for the development of pro-social behavior. Rather, it is one method to prevent students from harming themselves or others. It should only be used in emergency situations when an imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others exists.
Section 1003.573, F.S., does not provide a definition for restraint but does require documenting, reporting, and monitoring of restraint with students with disabilities. The Department of Education has determined that all documenting, reporting, and monitoring requirements for restraint, discussed later in this TAP, shall be based upon the same definitions issued by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for reporting instances of restraint and seclusion for all students. For the purpose of this TAP and the documenting, reporting, and monitoring requirements for restraint, definitions are as follows:
Physical restraint immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head freely. The term
When reporting the physical restraint, there is a requirement to document the type of restraint using terms in accordance with terminology defined by the Bureau. Those terms include seated, standing, prone (lying face down), supine (lying face up), immobilization during transport and mechanical restraint (see definition below).
physical restraint does not include a physical escort. "Physical escort" means a temporary touching or holding of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, or back for the purpose of inducing a student who is acting out to walk to a safe location.
Mechanical restraint is the use of any device or equipment to restrict a student’s freedom of movement. The term does not include devices implemented by trained school personnel or devices used by a student that have been prescribed by an appropriate medical or related service professional and are used for the specific and approved purposes for which such devices were designed, such as:3
• Adaptive devices or mechanical supports used to achieve proper body position, balance, or alignment to allow greater freedom of mobility than would be possible without the use of such devices or mechanical supports
• Vehicle safety restraints when used as intended during the transport of a student in a moving vehicle
• Restraints for medical immobilization
• Orthopedically prescribed devices that permit a student to participate in activities without risk of harm
Seclusion is an emergency intervention sometimes used in schools when students are exhibiting disruptive or dangerous behavior. Seclusion is not an instructional tool for the development of pro-social behavior. Rather, it is one method to prevent students from harming themselves or others. It should only be used in emergency situations when an imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others exists.
Section 1003.573, F.S., does not provide a definition of seclusion. However, OCR now requires that the FDOE report all instances of seclusion and restraint for all students (not just those with disabilities). Documentation, reporting, and monitoring requirements for seclusion, discussed later in this TAP, are based on the definition issued by OCR with additional parameters described in section 1003.573, F.S.
The OCR defines seclusion as “the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving. It does not include a time-out, which is a behavior management technique that is part of an approved program, involves the monitored separation of the student in a non-locked setting, and is implemented for the purpose of calming.” This definition may also be found on the FDOE website at http://www.fldoe.org/eias/dataweb/database_1011/st81_1.pdf.
Prevention & Reduction
School districts must write a plan for the reduction of restraint and seclusion. Those plans are due to the Department of Education by January 31, 2012.
The plans must particularly focus on settings in which restraint and seclusion is happening most frequently and with students who are restrained repeatedly and to reduce the use of the most dangerous practices - prone restraint and mechanical restraint.
Districts should plan and implement at least the following activities:
Additional training in positive behavioral support and crisis management
Updates of students' functional behavioral analysis and positive behavior intervention plans
Additional student evlautions
Debriefing with staff
Use of schoolwide positive behavior support and
Changes to the school environment
Most restraint and seclusion van be prevented through the use of positive behavior intervention and appropriate services, when qualified school staff is appropriately trained.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) promotes the use of positive behavior interventions. When a student is exhibiting challenging behaviors in the education setting the school should conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) of the student. The FBA will determine the cause of the behavior and a Positive Behavior Intervention Plan can be developed with intervention strategies to replace the challenging behaviors with appropriate behaviors.
For example, a student may be presented with a non-preferred task that the student finds very frustrating. In order to avoid that task, the student will act out and the student will be removed from the task. Without analyzing the behavior the school would not recognize the pattern and the student’s behavior will continue to become more challenging.
Behavior is a form of communication. For non-verbal students, behavior is often their only method of communication. A student should not receive negative consequences for manifestations of their disability. A Positive Behavior Intervention Plan should be developed on the data collected in the FBA. The Plan must be individualized to meet the unique needs of the student.
Florida Positive Behavior Support Project
PBS has held a distinctive place in special education law and is the only approach to addressing behavior that is specifically mentioned in the law, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The emphasis on using functional assessment and positive approaches to encourage appropriate behavior remains in the current amended 2004 version of the law.
The Florida Positive Behavior Support Project (FPBSP) is part of the Department of Child and Family Studies of the Louis de la Parte Institute at the University of South Florida. The FPBSP is funded by the Florida Department of Education, Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, using federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) dollars. The project works to increase the capacity of Florida's school districts to address problem behaviors using Positive Behavior Support.
The FPBSP website includes information about how districts and schools may request training and technical assistance. The website also contains on-line training modules in school-wide PBS and individual PBS, information about how to access funding, and public recognition of model schools.
This Facilitator’s Guide was developed at FPBSP to build capacity in positive assessment based approaches to support students with significant behavioral challenges. It provides districts with a five step process that includes; relevant literature, narrative forms, and case examples to ensure that districts design and develop an individualized plan for each student. It is derived from evidenced-based practices and provides an easy step by step process that can be implemented in the school, home, and/or community.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on a disability in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance including <strong>public preschool, elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools</strong>.
Under Section 504, students with disabilities have rights to reasonable accommodations. These accommodations should be outlined in a 504 Plan.
A student with a disability is defined as a student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment.
Major life activities included are: caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
Details can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 34 C.F.R. 104.33.
How does my child with a disability obtain a 504 Plan?
If your child has a disability and needs an accommodation, ask your school for the contact information of the 504 Coordinator. Then send the 504 Coordinator a written request for a 504 evaluation and plan.
If your child’s disability substantially limits any of the "major life activities" listed above, your child has a right to a determination of eligibility for Section 504 reasonable accommodations. Your child's disability does not have to impact "learning" to be eligible for a 504 plan, if the disability impacts one of the other activities.
Current medical and other evaluations may be required. You can help speed up the process by preparing to provide school officials with current medical or other evaluations that you believe would be helpful.
If you do not have current medical records, school officials are required to assist you with the necessary evaluations. School districts are required to establish specific procedures for initial evaluations and periodic re-evaluations and should draw from a variety of sources in the evaluation process (34 C.F.R. 104.35(c)).
Once your child has been determined eligible, a meeting should be scheduled to develop a 504 Plan. At 504 Plan meetings, a representative from school administration, guidance counselors, teachers and a 504 coordinator typically will attend. Remember that you and your child are important participants and your input is valuable to the 504 Team.
In preparation for the 504 Plan meeting, outline the issues and needed 504 accommodations in relation to your child’s disability. It may be helpful to obtain recommendations of accommodations for your child from qualified professionals such as your treating physician, specialist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other qualified professional.
You may also request and obtain a draft 504 Plan worksheet from the school in advance of a 504 Plan meeting. The worksheet will help you understand the process and identify all the detailed accommodations that are needed. Write a draft. Bring and present your draft 504 Plan to the 504 Plan meeting. Once a 504 Plan is developed, review all the details and make sure you agree with them before signing.
If your child has a disability and requires reasonable accommodations under Section 504, familiarize yourself with your child’s rights under Section 504. A good place to start is the Code of Federal Regulations at 34 CFR § 104.31 - § 104.39.
To prepare for your 504 Plan meeting, write a list of the issues and the accommodations you believe are required to address your child’s disability.
What accommodations does your child require to make meaningful academic progress?
What accommodations does your child require to access the educational campus?
Accommodations are used to level the playing field. Do not let anyone make you feel like asking for accommodations is asking for your child to receive an unfair advantage.
Accommodations are required for your child to receive a free and appropriate public education.
Here are a few examples of accommodations (not an exclusive list):
cart text-to-speech technology
books on tape
interpreters (oral or sign)
extended test time
extended time for assignments, projects and home work
lessens broken down into smaller segments
tests broken down into smaller segments
preview vocabulary words
preview spelling words
color-code or highlight key words
adaptive writing tools
increased space between lines
raised lines on paper
fewer items on a page
paraphrase or repeat directions
directions repeated, summarized, or clarified
highlighter or highlighter tape
Grievances & Complaints
Complaints (sometimes called "grievances") about a school's lack of compliance with a student's Section 504 rights may be filed with the school’s 504 Coordinator, the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) or in some cases with the Department of Administrative Hearings (depending on how your district handles 504 hearings).
How do I file a complaint against school officials?
Request (in writing) a copy of the School District Policy on filing a grievance or complaint and follow the district’s established procedure. Ask for a copy of school records to compare and contrast with documents you have.
You may also access your School District's Policy at the tab titled "Find Your District 504 Coordinator and More!" in this Disability Topic.
If you file a complaint with the school's 504 coordinator, it must be in writing and include your name and address. The complaint must state the problem or action (or inaction) alleged to be discriminatory.
The complaint must also state what correction (remedy or relief) is desired.
The Section 504 Coordinator (or her/his designee) must conduct an investigation. This investigation may be informal, but it must be thorough and afford all interested persons an opportunity to submit relevant evidence.
The Section 504 Coordinator should issue a written decision on the complaint.
You can also file a complaint with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights about the allegation of discrimination on the basis of disability.
How can the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) help?
The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has the authority to investigate Section 504 and ADA Title II complaints and order a correction action.
How do I get technical assistance?
OCR can provide technical asstistance to you regarding a Section 504 or Title II ADA concern regardless of where you file your complaint. OCR can also provide technical assistance to school district officials.
How can I protect my child’s rights and begin to document disability discrimination?
To help protect your child’s rights to a free and appropriate public education, make it a habit to keep a detailed journal of events pertinent to your child’s education. Write the journal as a chronological record with dates, times, places, and events. Note names and titles of school officials and others involved with school events. This information may be useful if you need to document disability discrimination.
If you believe disability discrimination is occurring or you have specific concerns with school officials and the education of your child, document your specific concerns in writing to the school officials. Date your correspondence, make a copy for your records, request a written response and if possible send your correspondence return receipt requested.
How do I verify agreements with school officials?
To memorialize important conversations and any negotiations with school officials, follow up by sending a detailed letter to confirm each agreement. Put in writing any requests you have made for services for your child. Ask school officials for a timely written response. If possible send your correspondence return receipt requested so you can verify school officials received the correspondence.
The Code of Federal Regulation and other federal regulations discussed in this disability topic can be found at http://www.ed.gov/index.jsp, select the Search function in the top right hand corner and for example, type 34 C.F.R. 104.33, and select the 34 C.F.R. Part 104. Or go directly to the Section 504 Regulations here.
You can also access the regulations from the US Department of Education OCR website.
We thought this ABC News report on the use of restraint and seclusion was so good, we put it on our website. We applaud ABC for interviewing children who have been restrained.
If you would like to learn how your county is doing with their efforts to reduce restraint and seclusion use, check the tabs below, including the Data tabs and Links tab. Every county's plan for reduction of restraint and seclusion can be accessed from the ESE Policies and Procedures link provided.
If you do not see your county profiled below, follow us on Facebook or Twitter and ask us to profile your county.
For more information, please also visit our general Disability Topic page on Restraint and Seclusion in School.
From January 2012- April 2012, Alachua County reported that 4% of the 27 restraint incidents were prone restraints.
Alachua County's new July 2012 policies indicate prone restraint is prohibited.
Alachua County policy does indicate use of physical/mechanical restraint and seclusion.
For Aug 2011-June 2012, Alachua County reported 71 instances of restraint on 33 students. 63% of these students were students with emotional behavioral disorders or autism.
Alachua County also reported 17 instances of seclusion on 10 students. 60% of those students were students with emotional behavioral disorder or autism.
Alachua County’s formal Non-Violent Crisis Intervention training from Crisis Prevention Institute is provided through annually through the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System (FDLRS). 6 hours of update training is also offered annually.
Employees receive training in the safe use of seclusion and physical or mechanical restraint. Superintendents shall require that appropriate training is provided for the immediate supervisors to ensure that measures are implemented according to the policy.
To reduce the use of restraint and seclusion, Alachua County’s plans include:
Additional training in positive behavioral support and crisis management
Updates on students’’ functional behavioral analysis
Additional student evaluations
Debriefing with staff
Use of school-wide positive behavioral support
Changes to the school environment
The County further plans to provide schools with guidance by district staff to assure accurate reporting and maintenance of records.
Bay County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
The two places you need to look to find Bay County's policies and procedures are:
a) Bay County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated in March 2012 and
b) Bay County's Policy for Manual Physical Restraint and Seclusion located in Appedix D of the SP&P.
Both documents can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
Bay County reports that it does not use prone or mechanical restraint and the reporting data available seems to confirm that.
From August 2011 – June 2012, Bay County reported 138 incidents of restraint on 67 students. Of those students, 75% are diagnosed with autism or an emotional behavioral disorder. Bay County reports that most of the restraints occur in their Center Schools.
Bay County does use seclusion. From August 2011 – June 2012, Bay County reported 87 incidents of seclusion on 38 students. 84% of those students are diagnosed with autism or have an emotional behavioral disorder. Bay County also reports that all of their seclusion incidents occur in Center Schools.
Bay District Schools use Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) as its program to train personnel. Both Initial trainings and refresher training are conducted annually.
If you would like to learn more about CPI, their website may be helpful:
From January 2012 - April 2012, Broward County reported no use of mechanical restraint. According to their policies and procedures, Broward County does not use mechanical restraint.
They do use prone restraint and seclusion.
August 2011 - June 2012, Broward County reported 237 restraint related incidents on 137 students. 91% of those students were either students who have autism or emotional behavioral disorders.
During that same time period, Aug 2011 - June 2012, Broward County reported 93 instances of seclusion on 53 students. 94% of those students were students who have autism or an emotional behavioral disorder.
From January - April 2012, Broward also reported the second highest rate of prone restraint use in the state. They reported that 94% of all restraints performed during that period were prone restraints.
Broward County uses Professional Crisis Management Associates (PCM) as their restraint training program.
District PCM Instructors receive initial training and required annual recertification directly from the Professional Crisis Management Association (PCMA). If you would like to learn more about PCMA, their website might be helpful. http://www.pcma.com/
School-based practitioners receive training from the District PCM instructors. Outside of the annually required recertification, refresher training is provided as needed.
According to Broward County’s Policy and Procedures, ESE Center schools and any school with an ESE Cluster Program with a high number of students with emotional behavioral disabilities are required to have a PCM trained team. At all other schools, a team is only trained if there is a student specific need as identified in the crisis section of the student’s PBIB.
Broward County plans to reduce restraint and seclusion by at least 5%.
To reduce restraint and seclusion, Broward County’s plan includes the following:
Implement student-specific strategies
Implement district and school strategies for increasing parental involvement
Introduce or strengthen multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), which could include school wide positive behavioral support
Provide additional professional developmental training in positive behavioral support
Clay County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
The two places you need to look to find Clay County’s district policies and procedures are:
a) Clay County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a – 4n) updated February 2012 and
b) Clay County’s Policies and Procedures for the use of Crisis Management based on HB 1073 effective July 2010, which is located in Appendix D of the SP&P.
In 2011-2012, Clay County reported no use of prone restraint or mechanical restraint. According to their policies and procedures, Clay County does not use prone restraint or mechanical restraint.
They do use physical restraint and seclusion.
For Aug 2011-June 2012, Clay County reported 155 instances of physical restraint on 65 students. 86% of these students were either students who have emotional behavioral disorders or students who have autism. Clay County also reported 78 instances of seclusion on 32 students. 81% of those students were students who have emotional behavioral disorders or students who have autism.
Clay County uses a curriculum called Safe Crisis Management (SCM) to train its staff in prevention, de-escalation and emergency intervention including restraint. Miami-Dade County also uses SCM.
Clay County requires its trainers to be recertified by SCM once a year during 2-day training. Other certified staff members, such as behavior assistants and ESE teachers, are required to take an annual refresher conducted by the county trainers. If you would like to learn more about SCM, their website might be helpful: http://www.jkmtraining.com/
Clay County requires that behavior assistants be trained in SCM. In addition, they require that any ESE teacher assigned to a student whose behavior profile indicates a high likelihood of the need for R/S be trained. School administrators are also offered training.
Clay County had a measurable goal for 2011-2012 to reduce the number of students who are restrained more than one time as compared to 2010-2011 and their plan to accomplish overall reduction of R/S includes these activities:
engage in additional professional development in positive behavior support and safe crisis management
review data and target students who are restrained repeatedly for student-specific strategies such as evaluating the effectiveness of Positive Behavior Intervention Plans; conducting evaluations/reevaluations and Functional Behavioral Assessments and reviewing IEPs and/or health care plans
strengthen systems of support including school wide positive behavior support
collaboration with school-based leadership teams to make data-driven decisions regarding school environments
increase efforts to improve parent involvement.
Clay County allows seclusion if the facility meets the standards published by the DOE and which has been periodically inspected by the Fire Marshall. Parents/guardians must consent in writing before seclusion can be used.
Duval County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
You can find Duval County’s district policies and procedures in:
Duval County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a – 4n) updated February 2012.
The document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
From January – April 2012, Duval County reported that 37% of its restraints were prone restraints. According to their policies and procedures, Duval County does use prone restraint, but not mechanical restraint.
They also use physical restraint and seclusion.
For August 2011-June 2012, Duval County reported 628 instances of physical restraint on 217 students. 89% of these students were either students who have emotional behavioral disorders or students who have autism. Duval County also reported 304 instances of seclusion on 120 students. 68% of those students were students who have emotional behavioral disorders and 15% were students who have autism.
Duval County uses a curriculum called Professional Crisis Management Associates (PCM). Broward, Hardee, Manatee, Martin, Monroe, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Seminole Counties also use PCM. However, a few of these counties also use a second curriculum.
Duval County requires its trainers to be recertified by PCM once a year. Duval does not outline which staff it requires to be trained. If you would like to learn more about PCM, their website might be helpful: http://www.pcma.com/
Duval County only allows use of seclusion in Day Treatment and Center School settings. Training is offered annually but it is unclear who performs the training. Duval County policy requires implementation of the procedures outlined in FLDOE’s Guidelines for the Use of Time-out Technical Assistance Paper (October 2011).
Duval County only allows use of prone restraint in self-contained settings - Day Treatment, Communication/Social Skills, and Center Schools.
Duval County had a measurable goal for 2011-2012 to reduce the number of students who are restrained by 1%.
Their plan to accomplish overall reduction of R/S includes these activities:
analysis of incidents
use of data
review settings and components
identification of teachers or other staff in need of additional support and/or training
reviews of IEPs and behavior plans
complete required forms
For students who have had eight or more R/S incidents within one month, a review and update of the Positive Behavior Management Plan and Functional Behavioral Analysis/Behavior Intervention Plan is required if deemed appropriate. If no current FBA/PBIP exists, the teacher will schedule an IEP meeting to obtain consent to initiate the FBA within ten days of the incident.
Hillsborough County – Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
The two places you need to look to find Hillsborough County’s district policies and procedures are:
a) Hillsborough County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a – 4n) updated March 2012 and
b) Hillsborough County’s Reasonable Force and Restraint Policy, which is located in Appendix D of the SP&P as well as on the School Board of Hillsborough County’s Bylaws & Policies website.
Both documents can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
From January – April 2012, Hillsborough County reported that 49% of its restraints were prone restraints and 6% were mechanical. According to their policies and procedures, Hillsborough County uses both prone and mechanical restraint.
They also use physical restraint and seclusion.
Hillsborough County policies state they encourage that prone restraint only be used to prepare to transport an individual to a safe area. The policies state that ESE Teams provide direct support to school site personnel to help reduce the number of prone restraints.
Hillsborough County policies also say that mechanical restraint is only used when law enforcement or a resource officer is involved and uses handcuffs. The policies also state that ESE Teams provide direct support to school site personnel to help reduce the number of mechanical restraints.
For August 2011-June 2012, Hillsborough County reported 897 instances of restraints on 355 students.
Hillsborough County also reported 362 instances of seclusion on 177 students.
Hillsborough County uses the Techniques for Effective Aggression Management (TEAM) and Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI) programs.
Hillsborough County allows either program to be chosen by the school or the participant, but recommends the TEAM program if staff is dealing with “physically challenging behaviors”.
If you would like to learn more about TEAM and NCI, their websites might be helpful:
Please note that NCI is a specialized offering from Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI).
Six other counties (Indian River, Lake, Lee, Okeechobee, Sarasota, and Sumter) also use the TEAM program.
TEAM is a 3-day training offered every month. NCI is offered six times each year. The TEAM program requires annual recertification.
Hillsborough County does not require annual recertification for NCI. However, the district’s NCI trainers must be annually certified.
Hillsborough County requires schools to identify staff members assigned to students who may exhibit behaviors that can pose an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others. Those staff members are required to be TEAM certified.
Training in NCI appears to be optional and voluntary.
Hillsborough County’s goal was to achieve a 10% reduction in R/S use.
Their plan for reduction of R/S includes these activities:
Review behaviors, strategies, PBS and progress monitoring
Communicate with parents/guardians when behavior issues become evident
Create/revise FBA/BIP when warranted
Convene IEP teams
Develop emergency plans
Initiate reevaluation if more data and info is needed to address a student’s behavioral needs
Provide additional professional development in various areas
Problem solve to make data driven decisions
Meet monthly at the district level and offer recommendations to area ESE teams
Hillsborough County also has a district policy titled Reasonable Force and Restraint that states that staff may apply reasonable force and restraint “to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to others, to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects upon or within the control of the student, to defend themselves, or to protect other persons or property”.
Lake County – Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
The two places you need to look to find Lake County’s district policies and procedures are:
a) Lake County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a – 4n) updated March 2012 and
b) Lake County’s Use of Time-Out, Seclusion and Physical Restraint for Students with Disabilities (Policy 5.341), which is located as an attachment at the very end of the SP&P as well as on the School Board of Lake County’s School Board Policies website.
Both documents can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
According to their policies and procedures, Lake County does not use mechanical restraint.
From January – April 2012, Lake County reported that 12% of its restraints were prone restraints.
They also use physical restraint and seclusion.
From August 2011-June 2012, Lake County reported 395 instances of restraints on 175 students. 84% of the students were either students with emotional behavioral disorders or students with autism spectrum disorder.
Lake County also reported 29 instances of seclusion on 16 students. 75% of those were students with intellectual disabilities and 19% were students with autism spectrum disorder.
Lake County uses the Techniques for Effective Aggression Management (TEAM), Nonviolent Crisis Intervention by Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) and Professional Crisis Management (PCM) programs.
If you would like to learn more about TEAM and NCI, their websites might be helpful:
Please note that NCI is a specialized offering from CPI.
Six other counties (Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Okeechobee, Sarasota, and Sumter) also use the TEAM program.
Lake County offers CPI initial certifications and annual recertifications and uses CPI for the majority of its school personnel. CPI is offered to all district personnel.
Lake County offers TEAM training to all teachers and staff at two special day school sites (initial and refresher) and all staff who serve ASD and EBD students are included in those trained, as well as school administrators at these two schools.
Lake County uses PCM training at its Lake Hills Center school and all Lake Hills Center school staff are PCM trained.
Lake County’s goal was to achieve a 25% reduction in R/S use.
Their plan for reduction of R/S includes these activities:
Student specific strategies
Having IEP teams meet and consider need for FBA/BIP if there are more than 3 restraints on one student in a month.
Having IEP teams meet and implement proactive supports where there are more than three restraints during a school year.
Involving the ESE director or designee and additional resources if there are more than five (5) restraints on one student in a month.
Strengthen implementation of multi-tier systems of support
Providing additional professional development in PBS
More schools, increased competency (through the various PBS tiers), training in decision making and progress monitoring, ongoing support and training to school based PBS coaches.
Increase professional development opportunities for NCI.
Lee County- Newest School District Restrain and Seclusion Policies and Procedures.
You can access Lee County’s policies and procedures in:
Lee County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (paged 4a-4n) updated April 2012.
This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
For August 2011 - June 2012, Lee County reported 134 incidents of restraint on 88 students. 74% of these students were either diagnosed with autism or had an emotional behavioral disorder.
From January 2012 - April 2012, Lee County reported 44 incidents of restraint. 9% of those restraints were reported as prone restraint.
Lee County reported fewer than 10 incidents of seclusion between August 2011 - June 2012.
Lee County’s updated Policies and Procedures state that neither prone restraint nor mechanical restraint will be used.
Lee County uses both Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), and Techniques for Effective Adolescent and Child Handling (TEACH). If you would like to learn more about CPI and TEACH, these websites might be helpful:
Lee County's policies and procedures state that schools that do not have separate classrooms for students with autism or behavioral needs may opt to offer CPI training. Conversely, schools with separate classes for students with disablities where the school anticipates high levels of behavior may choose either CPI or TEACH. Lee County delegates the decision regarding which program to the school but requires that ESE teachers and paraprofessionals working in seperate classes be trained as well as the administrators of those schools. Additionally all behavior specialists, autism and behavior learning resource specialists, and all DJJ and center school teachers, helpers and administrators are trained.
Training opportunities for both programs are scheduled throughout the year for all teachers.
By the end of the 2011-2012 school year, Lee County plans to reduce use of restraint and seclusion techniques by at least 10% from 1.37 incidents per 100 students with disabilities to less than 1.23 incidents per 100 students with disabilities.
Their plans include:
Student specific strategies such as reviewing the Individualized educational plans (IEP) and 504 plans
Meeting to review positive behavior intervention plans (PBIPS) and health plans for effectiveness
Manatee County policy states permitted use of both prone and mechanical restraint.
The policy states that when using prone restraint it is “extremely encouraged that prone restraint only be used to prepare for ‘transport’ to a safe area.”
Furthermore, for mechanical restraint, the policy states that “the district only uses mechanical restraint when a law enforcement resource officer is involved and uses hand cuffs.”
From January 2012 – April 2012, Manatee County reported 145 incidents of restraint. 70% of these incidents are prone restraint.
Manatee County also reports 442 incidents of restraint on 205 students from August 2011 – June 2012. Of those students, 53% are diagnosed with autism or emotional behavioral disorder.
Seclusion is used in Manatee County.
From August 2011 – June 2012, 189 incidents of seclusion are reported on 40 students. Of those students, 75% have an emotional behavioral disorder and 3% are diagnosed with autism.
Manatee County uses Aggression Control Technique Training (ACTT) and Professional Crisis Management (PCM) training programs.
According to their policy and procedures on training, “either program can be selected by the school or participant. However, it is recommended that a schools staff utilizes the same program if they are going to use a technique that requires 2 or more persons implement a restraint.” Trainings are three day sessions offered bi-monthly during the school year.
Manatee County plans to reduce the number of restraints and seclusions by 2%.
Plans to reach this goal include:
Review and monitor student behavior and the use of strategies and positive behavior supports
Interventions and progress monitoring
Communicate with parents/guardians
Create/revise FBA/BIP when warranted
Convene an IEP team meeting to discuss needs in regards to behavioral support
Develop and emergency plan
Initiate reevaluation if more data is needed
Marion County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
You can find Marion County’s policies and procedures in:
Marion County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated in 2012.
This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
Marion County does use prone restraint. From January – April 2012, Marion County reported 165 incidents of restraint. 18% of the reported incidents are of prone restraint.
Mechanical restraint is allowed with “express consent of the ESE director, a written plan provided by a district approved board certified Behavior Analyst, and physician’s order.” There we no reported incidents of mechanical restraint between January - April 2012.
From August 2011 – June 2012, 472 incidents of restraint are reported on 214 students. Of those students, 60% are diagnosed with autism or an emotional behavioral disorder.
Marion County also uses seclusion. From August 2011 – June 2012, Marion County reported 425 incidents of seclusion on 111 students. Of those students, 67% are diagnosed with autism or an emotional behavioral disorder.
Marion School District uses Techniques for Effective Adolescent and Child Handling (T.E.A.C.H.) as its training program. The district employs 3 Behavior Analysts, who are approved trainers, to offer advance level 1 and refresher training.
Trainings are open to all district staff involved with students.
Marion County’s goal is to reduce the incidents of restraint and seclusion by a minimum of 5% across the 2012 – 2013 school year.
Monthly training to all employees
Restraint data is monitored and reported on a bi-monthly basis
Intensive behavior intervention plans will be made to reduce prone restraint
Continue with T.E.A.C.H.
Individualized training on campuses that are not meeting the district’s targeted reduction status
Also regarding prone restraint, the plan includes offering more intensive training regarding the de-escalation process to schools reporting the use of prone restraint. And the behavior specialist assigned to the school will be made aware and an intensive behavior intervention plan will be developed to reduce the need for such a strategy to be used.
Miami-Dade County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
You can find Miami-Dade County's policies and procedures in:
Miami-Dade County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated in April 2012.
This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
According to their updated policies and procedures, Miami-Dade does not use prone and/or mechanical restraint.
From August 2011- June 2012, Miami-Dade County reported 207 incidents of restraint performed on 155 students. 93% of those students were either diagnosed with autism or had an emotional behavioral disorder.
From January 2012- April 2012, Miami-Dade reported 91 incidents of restraint. None of these reports were from use of prone or mechanical restraint.
Miami-Dade County does use seclusion.
From August 2011- June 2012, Miami-Dade County reported 13 incidents of seclusion on 12 students. All of these incidents were performed on students diagnosed with autism or on students with emotional behavioral disorders.
Miami-Dade County uses Safe Crisis Management (SCM), as its training program for restraint and seclusion. The training is provided as a 3-day professional development session with annual refresher training available to trained SCM personnel.
With attention to the training process, participants are chosen by a survey completed by school administrators. According to the district’s policies and procedures, the survey asks for the names of staff that come in contact with students who have physical restraint on their IEP or BIP.
Miami-Dade County School District plans to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion by 3% from the baseline data for the 2011-2012 school year.
Activities planned include:
Reviewing and revising, if needed, BIPs of students with three or more restraint or seclusions
Public access to the FDOE Brochure for Documenting, Reporting and Monitoring the Use of Seclusion and Restraint (located on the District Special Education Website)
Use of School-wide positive behavior support
Problem solve with school administrator to make data-driven decisions regarding school environments
Monroe County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
You can find Monroe County’s district policies and procedures in:
Monroe County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated in February 2012.
This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
Monroe County does not currently use prone restraint or mechanical restraint.
Seclusion and Physical restraint are used. However, all restraint and seclusion reports spanning from August 2011-June 2012 indicated less than 10 incidents filed, if any.
Monroe County uses Professional Crisis Management (PCM), as their current certification program, selected for its “strong legally defensible nature and de-escalation techniques.” Training and re-training is required and the district monitors when teachers’ certifications expire.
Monroe County’s policies and procedures state that “all staff members, parents or administrators can join the training depending on the availability. The district goal is to have a team at each school whom are trained and certified.”
This district aims to reduce the overall use of restraint and seclusion by 1%.
Plans for this goal include:
Reviewing and monitoring student behavior and the use of strategies and positive behavioral supports
District wide training on FBA/BIP’s is ongoing throughout the district
Monroe Counts School District reports six schools that are active Positive Behavior Support sites with two schools being Bronze Medal PBS schools.
Nassau County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
The two places you need to look to find Nassau County’s district policies and procedures are:
a) Nassau County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updates November 2011 and
b) Nassau County's General Disciplinary Rule 5.50 - Manual Physical Restraint, which is located in Appendix D of the SP&P and on the Nassau County School Board's website.
Nassau County's General Disciplinary Rule 5.50 states that "manual physicial restraint will be used only as a last resort measure in emergency situations in which aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior presents significant and imminent threat to the physical safety of the student and/or others."
Nassau County’s policies and procedures state that the district does not use mechanical restraint and that prone restraint use is permitted "when absolutely necessary and appropriate.”
From August 2011 - June 2012, Nassau County reported 10 incidents of restraint.
Nassau County's policies and procedures indicate they do not use seclusion. Data from August 2011 - June 2012 indicate less than 10 incidents of seclusion were documented.
Professional Crisis Management Associates (PCM), is used for training in Nassau County. The district maintains its own trainer and requires staff to pass a written test and practical exam. Initial training is a 3-day process.
If you would like to learn more about PCM, their website might be helpful:
From August 2011- June 2012, Okaloosa County reported 49 incidents of restraint on 31 students. 80% of those students were either students with autism or an emotional behavioral disorder.
Okaloosa County’s policy prohibits the use of mechanical restraint.
Regarding prone restraint, Okaloosa County's policy states that it uses "prone restraint only in the most dire circumstances when a student is in the process of seriously endangering/injuring himself and/or others.” The policy further states that it is a goal to decrese the incidents of prone restraint as much as possible, keeping the student and others as safe as possible and that through training, staff are learning the skills to recognize triggers and intervene with resarch based strategies/interventions to avoid prone restraint.
Restraint reports from January 2012 - April 2012 show that of the 19 reported incidents, none were mechanical restraint and 5% were from prone restraint.
Okaloosa does use physical restraint and seclusion.
From August 2011- June 2012, there were 20 incidents of seclusion reported from Okaloosa County. It should be noted that for the purposes of Florida's reporting requirements, restraint, seclusion and time out are defined in the below Technical Assistance Papers from FLDOE. All seperation that meets the definition of seclusion must be reported as such.
The Okaloosa County School District uses two programs: Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) and Professional Crisis Management Associates (PCM) (at one center school).
Training and required refresher training is held annually. Training is open to all school personnel. As a site-based management district, each school determines the appropriate persons to be trained.
Okaloosa County’s goal is to decrease restraint incidents by 10% for the 2011-2012 school year and seclusion incidents by 20% for the 2011- 2012 school year.
To help achieve these goals, Okaloosa County has stated that they will be “providing professional development through Dr. Sylvia Rockwell, a nationally recognized classroom management expert, to teachers, principals and classroom assistants who have difficult students in their classes. Dr. Rockwell is providing face to face training, as well as visiting classrooms and conducting webinars.”
Orange County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
You can find Orange County's policies and procedures in:
Orange County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated March 2012.
The document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
From January – April 2012, Orange County reported that 17% of its restraints were prone restraints and 20% were mechanical restraints. While not the highest prone use in the state, it is by far the highest use of mechanical restraints.
They also use physical restraint and seclusion.
For August 2011-June 2012, Orange County reported 946 instances of restraints on 300 students. 72% of those students have an emotional behavioral disorder or are diagnosed with autism.
Orange County reports less than 10 occurrences of seclusion used on students.
Orange County uses both Professional Crisis Management Associates and Crisis Prevention Institute programs. Orange County allows either program to be chosen by the school or the participant, but recommends the PCM team focused program if staff is dealing with “ESE students who have intensive behavioral needs that cannot be met safely with CPI.”
Orange County states that CPI is used on all regular education campuses at the discretion of the school site administrator, and PCM is used on all separate day school campuses and designated intensive classrooms.
If you would like to learn more about PCM and CPI, their websites might be helpful:
From August 2011- June 2012, Osceola County reported 84 restraint incidents on 59 students. 64% of these students were students with autism or emotional behavioral disorder.
Of the restraints reported between January 2012 - April 2012, 3% were prone restraint.
According to the current Policies and Procedures, Osceola County does not use prone restraint or mechanical restraint.
Osceola County does use physical restraint and seclusion.
From August 2011 - June 2012, Osceola County reported 16 incidents of seclusion.
Osceola County has selected Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) for training. Trainers are certified and are required to go through an annual re-certification process. Annual refresher training is also required.
Osceola County’s goal is to reduce the number of restraints and seclusions by 3% for the 2011-2012 school year. Plans include:
Continuing to provide CPI training
District staff will monitor restraint and seclusion incidents to provide targeted assistance
Workshops for administrators on the needs of students with ASD
Training offered to ESE teachers providing support facilitation
Pinellas County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
The two places you need to look to find Pinella County's current policies and procedures are:
a) Pinellas County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated January 2012 and
b) Pinellas County's Use of Seclusion and Restraint on Students with Disabilities Policy adopted December 2010.
Both documents can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
The policies indicate that seclusion may only be used at Center Schools.
The policies also indicate that restraint shall only be used as a last resort, which is defines as an imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others. The policies direct that restraints only be used until the student is no longer an immediate threat. The policies require that students who primary mode is sign language be permitted to have hands free for brief periods unless a supervisor determines a likelihood of harm to self or others.
The policies limit use of mechanical restraint to students residing in contracted residential facilities when authorized by the student's treating physician.
From January 2012 – April 2012, Pinellas County reported 355 incidents of restraint. Of the reported incidents, 9% are from mechanical use and 12% are from prone use.
Pinellas County's current policy indicates that prone restraint will not be used and mechanical restraint will be used.
From August 2011- June 2012, 732 incidents of restraint are reported on 272 students. 72% of those students are diagnosed with autism or have an emotional behavioral disorder.
From August 2011 – June 2012, Pinellas County reported 572 incidents of seclusion on 192 students. 89% of those students are diagnosed with autism or have an emotional behavioral disorder.
Pinellas County uses the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention CPI training program and by policy no employee is permitted to use seclusion or restraint until they are trained.
Pinellas County’s goal is to continue to measure the disaggregated data across variables and focus on an overall 10% decrease in incidents of restraint/seclusion.
Plans to achieve this goal include:
Review and Discuss disaggregated data on a monthly basis with district leadership
Follow-up with school administration for schools with high incidents of restraint/seclusion
Follow-up with school administration for schools with 0 incidents of restraint/seclusion
Additional professional development
Santa Rosa- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
You can find Santa Rosa's policies and procedures in:
Santa Rosa County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated March 2012.
This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
From January 2012 – April 2012, Santa Rosa County reported 13 incidents of restraint. 8% of those incidents were from use of prone restraint while none where from use of mechanical restraint.
Since updating their Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures, Santa Rosa County prohibits any use of prone restraint.
Mechanical restraint is allowed but only permitted “based on a recommendation from a licensed Occupational or Physical Therapist for an individual student.”
Santa Rosa County reported 24 incidents of restraint on 14 students from August 2011 – June 2012. Of those students, 43% are diagnosed with autism or have an emotional behavioral disorder.
Santa Rosa County also uses seclusion.
Conversely, Santa Rosa reports less than 10 seclusion incidents, if any, from August 2011 – June 2012.
This School District uses Non-violent Crisis Intervention (CPI) training. Recertification for CPI, 3 hour trainings, must be completed by September 30th or each school year. Recertification must be completed annually in order to keep certification. If recertification is not achieved, initial certification courses are to be taken. Initial certification must be completed by November 15th of each school year. These are 12 hour courses with a required 90% passing rate.
Mandates for CPI certification include:
All Curriculum Behavior Social and Academic Classroom Teachers and Paraprofessionals
All Self-Contained Behavioral Focus Classroom Teachers and Paraprofessionals
All Behavioral Resource Technicians
One member of Administration from each school
Ever Dean for Discipline
Each school in Santa Rosa must have a CPI certified team of 5 or more individuals
Santa Rosa School District’s goal is to reduce the number of restraint incidents by 10 for the 2011 – 2012 school year. Santa Rosa also plans to reduce the use of secured seclusion from 31 incidents to 25 or less incidents for the 2011 – 2012 school year.
Focusing intensive positive behavioral supports on Elementary Schools due to the high percentages of restraint and seclusion reported there.
St. Lucie - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures
The two places you need to look to find St. Lucie County’s district policies and procedures:
a) St. Lucie County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (4a-4n) udpated February 2012 and
b) Chapter 3.44 Use of Reasonable Force, Seclusion, and Manual Physical Restraint in Regular and Special Education.
According to St. Lucie County’s policies, prone restraint is used. From January - April 2012, St. Lucie County reported 4% of its restraints were prone restraint.
For August 2011 - June 2012, St. Lucie County reported 280 restraint incidents on 142 students. Of those incidents, 54% of the students were either diagnosed with autism or had an emotional behavioral disorder.
St. Lucie County does not use mechanical restraints.
For August 2011 - June 2012, St. Lucie County reported 66 instances of seclusion on 15 students. 80% of these students had an emotional behavioral disorder. However, none of the incidents involved students diagnosed with autism.
St. Lucie County trains for and uses both Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) and Professional Crisis Management (PCM). System selection is based on “identified needs of the school considering a continuum of least to most restrictive techniques.” Annual recertification is required for both programs and refresher training is provided between the required recertification.
In St. Lucie County each school site has an identified team of personnel trained in crises prevention to respond to emergency situations. Employees working in classes with students whose behavioral profiles indicate a high likelihood for restraint or seclusion are trained. St. Lucie County’s policy states that School administrators who supervise the instructional personnel of these students are offered training but there is no statement that training is required.
All behavior technicians are required to participate in trainings.
St. Lucie County plans to reduce the number of students with disabilities receiving restraints more than one time by 10%. They also plan on reducing the total number of restraints by 10%.
St. Lucie County’s plans include:
Reviewing Individual Education Plans and Behavioral Intervention Plans for effectiveness
Increasing Parental involvement
Provide additional training to school sites for establishing crisis response teams (FAST) and crisis management
Problem solve with school administrators regarding school environments
To the best of our knowledge, these nine (9) counties are the only counties that have authorized use of mechanical restraint in their 2012 updated policies and procedures.
To check on the rate of reported use of mechical restraints by these counties during the 2011-2012 school year, visit the Data tab of this topic. And for details regarding each counties policies and procedures, check the Florida Department of Education Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services ESE Policies and Procedures (SP&P) website.
To the best of our knowledge, these twenty-six (26) school districts are the only counties that have authorized use of prone restaint in their 2012 updated policies and procedures.
FAU Lab School
To check on the rate of use of prone restraint by these counties during the 2011-2012 school year, visit the Data tab of this topic.
Florida Department of Education aggregated data for the 2011-12 school year:
Transition is the process that supports young people with disabilities into adulthood and promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including independent living, work, continuing education and other undertakings. Planning should include everyone involved in the young person’s life: the youth, his or her caseworkers, educators, service providers, family and friends. The participants should agree on the contributions they will make and how they will work together. They should design a plan with timelines and measurable outcomes and agree to follow up with support. Plans should be coordinated so that the goals are consistent and everyone working with the young person knows who is responsible for each activity.
We hope these Disability Topics pages will provide you with the detailed information you need to make a successful transition or help a young person with the process.
Anything works better if it is planned. Besides, it’s the law. There are many ideas, services and technologies for people with disabilities and planning can put them within reach. For example, creative planning can open the door to assistive technology, additional services or expert advice that may give a student more freedom and personal power in adult life.
Students in special education are required by federal law (IDEA) to have an Individualized Education Program (in Florida this is called an Individualized Education Plan or IEP). As adulthood approaches, the law also requires transition IEPs (TIEPs).
The IEP defines the type of education and goals a student needs, along with the support services and accommodations required to achieve it. Later plans – both transition and vocational — deal with the student’s goals and needs for adulthood.
Students with disabilities who are not covered by IDEA — that is, students who need accommodations in education but do not need specially designed instruction — have a plan similar to the IEP. Covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, it is usually called a "504 Plan."
Begin Planning Early!
The planning for a child’s education should begin when he or she enters school or is discovered to have a disability. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that school-based transition planning begin by age 16.
Youth with disabilities need everyone to plan ahead. The list includes parents, caregivers, caseworkers, teachers and other supportive adults who understand how they learn, how much they can learn (often more than teachers think), how they can prove what they’ve learned and how they can use that information as adults. They also need adults to understand what skills they will need to live in the community and plan for how those skills will be aquired.
The earlier the transition team understands a student’s needs, the more likely they are to be fulfilled.
If you need to begin at age 14 or before, insist on early transition planning. Although the law requires that students covered by IDEA begin their transition services no later than the year that the IEP will be in effect when the child is 16, planning can begin at age 14 (younger if deemed necessary).
How Long in School?
Students who are covered by IDEA may receive different kinds of diplomas. If they do not receive a standard diploma, they are entitled to remain in school until their 22nd birthday. However, many schools continue services until the end of the semester or school year in which the student turns 22.
Courts sometime order compensatory education for a student who did not receive appropriate education services at the appropriate time. When that happens, educational services may be delivered after the student turns 22 or receives a standard diploma.
Unless compensatory education is ordered, public schools are not responsible for determining and meeting a student’s educational needs if he or she has a standard diploma or is older than 22.
Post-Secondary Education (After High School)
After high school, a student may seek a post-secondary education in a college, university or trade school program. The program would be responsible for any accommodations necessary for the student to have equal access. Such programs are required by law to support a student with disabilities with reasonable accommodations such as a reduced course load, recording devices, sign-language interpreters, readers, extended time for testing, or adaptive software and hardware for computers. Post-secondary programs are not required to lower academic standards or fundamentally alter the nature of programs.
To receive accommodations, the student must notify the school's Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD) that he or she has a disability and requires certain accommodations, services or technology. Usually there would not be team meetings or written plans, but the student would receive instructions and assistance from the OSD. The student must be prepared to provide a recent evaluation that supports the need for the requested accommodations. Post-secondary institutions will require an evaluation that is no more than 3 years old. If the student is interested in on campus housing, that process should also start early. The student should contact campus housing and start discussing and requesting needed accommodations. The institution may require documentation regarding any requested accommodations in campus housing.
How Soon to Work?
Some students with disabilities may choose to go directly to work when they finish high school. Others may first seek to attend community college, university, vocational training, or some other adult education. If the transition planning has gone well, youths who finish school will move into the next stage as planned — with employment, vocational rehabilitation and/or a combination of services that will make it possible to perform to their greatest potential.
Educators and vocational experts should work together to ensure that the transition from school to work is smooth and seamless.
Two state agencies in Florida may help young people prepare for and find employment. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) serves people with “physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.” The Division of Blind Services (DBS) serves individuals with bilateral visual disabilities.
DVR and DBS offer a broad range of services based on the student’s vocational goals and barriers to employment. To make the most of these services, the student needs a DVR or DBS representative on his or her IEP team long before leaving school.
People with disabilities who are eligible for services have the right to choose among many public and private providers. Services should be customized to each person’s needs and include the full range of available services.
Vocational rehabilitation is a process that provides the services needed to reach an employment goal, including transportation assistance, education and vocational training, tuition, books and fees, physical and mental restoration services, assistive technology, vehicle and home modifications, equipment, tools, uniforms, durable medical equipment, family care services, help to establish a small business, job placement services, job coaching/supported employment and more. People who are eligible for vocational rehabilitation services may choose to receive these services from either a state agency or a private provider.
The Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Florida Division of Blind Services are state agencies mandated to provide such services to eligible clients. Remember, you have the right to choose. You can ask for a vendor list, which may include doctors, medical professionals and many other types of vendors who are approved to accept DVR and DBS fees.
You can also choose among many private providers, including Employment Networks (EN), which are providers certified under the Ticket to Work Program to provide rehabilitation and employment services to Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities. The Social Security Administration pays ENs participating in the Ticket to Work Program. However, ENs only receive payment when their clients achieve certain employment related milestones and outcomes. If you are not willing or able to reach these benchmarks, ENs may not be willing to serve you. ENs have the right to choose not to work with you, just as you have the right to choose not to work with them.
Other resources include the One-Stop centers, which provide job referrals and placement assistance, employment counseling, testing, job development, labor market information, employment skills workshops, support services, and business services. Often the two state agencies will contract with one or more of these organizations to provide services. In some cases, a client may be involved with one or more service providers without being involved with the state agencies.
The Individualized Education Program, or IEP — is a detailed, legal document that indicates the supports and services a student with a disability will receive to be provided a free and appropriate public education.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) requires that all students in special education have IEPs. IEPs are updated at least every year. If you feel your plan needs to be changed or clarified, you can request an interim review.
Students who are covered by IDEA and required to have IEPs are students between the ages of 3 and 22 who have been evaluated by the appropriate professionals and determined by a multidisciplinary team to be eligible because of one or more of 13 specific categories of disability. The categories are: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (DHH), Dual Sensory Impaired (deaf-blindness), Intellectual Disabilities, Orthopedic Impaired, Other Health Impaired, Emotional/Behavioral Disability, Developmental Disability, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech and/or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Visually Impaired.
Those who are covered by IDEA are also eligible for assistance under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. During the student’s school years, the requirements of IDEA are more specific. To be sure a child receives the services he or she needs, IDEA requires schools to follow a concrete and specific process. That process guarantees that useful steps will be taken to give the child access to a free and appropriate public education.
For more information about IEPs, please visit our other Special Education Disability Topics.
A child with a disability who does not need special education and services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may be eligible under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
A child must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one major life activity, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, writing, performing math calculations, working, caring for oneself and performing manual tasks.
Students with disabilities eligible for Section 504 but not IDEA – that is, students who need accommodations in education but do not need specially designed instruction — have a plan similar to an IEP called a “504 Plan.”
A 504 plan, like an IEP, specifies the steps to be taken to give the young person equal access to education. It describes the accommodations to make that education possible.
A 504 plan can and should be handled as carefully and thoroughly as the law requires for an IEP. The person with a disability, his or her parents and advocates have a right to insist on a thorough process and all necessary services and benefits for which the student is eligible.
Students who have 504 plans are not legally required to have separate transition plans, but they are entitled to transition planning as part of their 504 plan.
By age 16, students covered by IDEA are required to have a further plan as they grow into their late teens. In Florida, it’s called a Transition Individualized Education Plan (TIEP). The TIEP is designed to be a result-oriented process, that focuses on improving academic and functional achievement to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living or community participation.
A student who has an IEP or a 504 Plan at school is likely to leave school with a new kind of plan — an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE).
The IPE is a blueprint for successful employment for a person who uses the services of the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or the Division of Blind Services (DBS).
A student who is eligible for DVR or DBS has a right to an IPE developed by DVR or DBS before he or she leaves school. Without the IPE, the student cannot gain access to services from DVR or DBS.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA)
The Individual with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA) is our nation's special education law. The IDEA guides how states, school districts, and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.
IDEA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children. The IDEA law has been revised several times over the years. The most recent revisions were passed in December 2004, with final regulations published in August 2006.
Every child with a disability who is eligible for exceptional student education (ESE) will have an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). The IEP is an individualized written plan that supports the need for specialized supports and services. Parents and teachers consider the IEP to be their child’s educational road map. In this section we will provide you with information and resources on the ESE process and developing an appropriate IEP for your child.
The following documents provide help in developing an effective and efficient IEP for your child
The rules are different depending on whether or not the conduct was a manifestation of the student’s disabilities.
Within 10 school days of any decision to change placement of child with a disability because of a violation of code of conduct, the local educational agency (LEA), parent and relevant members of the IEP team (determined by parent and LEA) shall review all relevant information in the student’s file, including IEP, teacher observation, and any relevant information provided by the parents to determine if the action or conduct was a manifestation of the student’s disability.
If the LEA, parent and relevant members of the IEP team determine that either reason 1 or 2 below apply, the conduct shall be determined to be a manifestation of the student’s disability.
If the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the student’s disability; or
If the conduct in question a direct result of the LEA’s failure to implement the IEP.
When Conduct is a Manifestation
A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) must be conducted,
A Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan (PBIP) must be implemented, and
The Student must return to his/her current placement unless the parent and school district agree otherwise as part of the modification of the PBIP.
When Conduct is Not a Manifestation
School may discipline student in the same manner and for the same duration as a student without disabilities.
Educational and related services must still be provided.
Student is still entitled to a free and appropriate public education.
IAES & Appeals
School personnel may remove a student to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) for not more than 45 school days without regard to whether the behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability, in cases where a student:
Carries or possesses a weapon at school or school function.
Knowingly possesses or uses illegal drugs or sells at school or school function.
Has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person at school or school function.
Here is a list of the most important rules governing Interim Alternative Education Settings (IAES):
IAESs are determined by the IEP team.
Parents can appeal any decision regarding placement, including a decision to place a student in an IAES.
Parents can also appeal the outcome of manifestation determinations.
LEAs that believe that maintaining the student’s current placement is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or to others may request a hearing.
Students shall remain in the IAES pending the decision of the hearing officer or until the expiration of the permitted time for the placement.
FLDOE or the LEA must arrange for these hearings to be expedited.
Expedited IAES hearings must occur within 20 school days of the date the hearing is requested and must result in a decision within 10 days after the hearing.
Suspensions, Expulsions & the 10-Day Rule
Suspension is the temporary cessation of educational services.
State law regulates the length of suspensions, reason suspensions may be ordered and procedures schools must follow.
All students must meet the requirements of the Student Code of Conduct.
Students with disabilities must have their disability considered when implementing the Code of Conduct.
Students with disabilities can receive the same Code of Conduct consequences as other students.
If under 10 consecutive/cumulative days
IDEA and other legal protections become very significant when the 10-Day Rule is triggered
If the number of days of suspension reaches 10, it is legally considered a change of placement.
When this happens, a variety of steps must take place – Manifestation determination/IEP/FBA/BIP.
Expulsion is a complete termination of educational services for a definite period.
Generally longer than a suspension.
Law requires that greater due process rights be afforded to all students who are at risk for expulsion.
A child with a disability can be expelled, but the district must continue to provide services related to his/her IEP (FAPE) in a manner to be determined by the district.
Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and Positive Behavior Intervention Plan (PBIP)
Functional Behavior Assessment: A process for identifying relationships between a person’s behavior and aspects of their environment.
Positive Behavior Intervention Plan: Strategies for effectively addressing behavioral problems that are proactive, educative, and functional in nature.
When are FBAs and PBIPs warranted?
Pattern of disciplinary removals*
Considering a change in placement
Intrusive methods to manage behavior of harm to people or property
Exclusion from integrated activities
Less systematic strategies have failed
Components of an FBA
Strengths of student
Function of the behavior
Based on data
Features of a Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan
Practical, workable, reasonable
Specifics: time, duration, setting, roles
Buy-in from persons implementing plan
Activities should target student needs identified from FBA
Determine what is reinforcing to child
Consistent and reasonable duration for intervention implementations
Possible initial escalation of behaviors
Evaluate effectiveness of BIP
If a student’s IEP or behavior intervention plan addresses a particular behavior, it generally would be inappropriate to utilize some other response, such as suspension, to that behavior.
Inclusive education, according to its most basic definition, means that students with disabilities are educated in age-appropriate general education classes in their home schools and receive the specialized instruction identified and outlined in their individualized education plan (IEP).
Inclusion – What does the law say? IDEA does not use the term "inclusion”. IDEA uses the term Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). IDEA defines this to mean that to the maximum extent appropriate, school districts must educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom with appropriate aids and supports, referred to as "supplementary aids and services," with their non-disabled peers in the school they would attend if not disabled, unless a student's individualized education program (IEP) requires some other arrangement.
IDEA does not require that every student with a disability be placed in the regular classroom regardless of individual abilities and needs. IDEA recognizes that not all students can be served appropriately through this model therefore school districts must make available a range of placement options, known as a continuum of alternative placements, to meet the unique educational needs of students with disabilities. This requirement continues to reinforce the importance of individualized supports and services and that education is not a “one size fits all” model for determining placement for students with disabilities. The options on this continuum must include the alternative placements listed in the definition of special education under 300.17 (instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions).
Inclusion is not the same as mainstreaming or integration. Mainstreaming attempts to move students from special education classrooms to regular education classrooms only in situations where they are able to keep up with their typically developing peers. Integration provides only “part-time” inclusion, which prevents the students from becoming full members of the classroom community.
Best practice and research shows that inclusion benefits all students involved in the process. Students with disabilities who are taught within the general education classroom with supports and systematic instruction achieve better outcomes in the areas of academics, communication, social, and behavior. Teachers who teach students with disabilities become more confident about their ability to teach students with diverse and unique needs. Research studies also show the distinct benefits that inclusion provides to students without disabilities. These students typically experience growth in social and emotional well being and gain a greater understanding and acceptance of students with disabilities and of diversity in general. Students without disabilities also experience increased self-esteem and overall improvement in their own self-development. There are no studies that document unfavorable academic or social effects on students without disabilities when students with disabilities participate in the general education classroom.
The FCAT is an annual test given to students in grades 3-11 that measures their skills in the areas of reading, math, science and writing according to Florida’s Sunshine State Standards. All public school students are required to take the FCAT. The FCAT is given to students each year in February (writing) and in March (reading, math, and science). The areas of reading and math are tested each year in grades 3 through 10. The area of writing, in addition to reading and math, is tested in grades 4, 8, 10. The area of science is tested in grade 5, 8, 11. In grade 5 and 8, science is tested in addition to reading and math. In grade 11, only science is tested.
Students with disabilities can take the FCAT and can be provided accommodations while taking the FCAT.
These are Florida’s standards for determining what a child should know and be able to do at each grade level. The areas of social studies, science, language arts, health/physical education, the arts, foreign language, and math are the seven academic areas under the Sunshine State Standards (SSS). These standards are then divided into benchmarks. The benchmarks outline the specific content, knowledge, and skills that students are expected to learn in school. Each student’s performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in the areas of reading, math, writing, and science indicates his or her progress in reaching these benchmarks.
Similar to having accommodations for the classroom, students with disabilities may be provided with accommodations for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Just like the student’s accommodations for the classroom, the accommodations for the FCAT should also be listed on the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The student’s IEP must determine what accommodations the student will need. Accommodations are changes in how the test is given and not in what is tested on the FCAT. The purpose of providing accommodations is to enable the student to demonstrate knowledge and skills without affecting the validity or reliability of the test. Some accommodations allowed in the classroom are not allowed on the FCAT.
Examples of accommodations not allowed on the FCAT include: use of calculator for basic computation in grades 3 through 6, use of spelling or grammar check on written responses, graphic organizer software to assist in preparing responses, text-to-speech software for the reading portion of the test, having a proctor read aloud items that test reading skills.
Students requiring unique accommodations not found on the publication must be approved by the Commissioner of Education.
3rd grade FCAT
In order for students in grade 3 to be promoted to grade 4, they must score at least a level 2 in reading on the 3rd grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). If a student does not receive a level 2 or higher in the 3rd grade reading portion of the FCAT, the student will be retained in the 3rd grade. There are, however, good cause exemptions that may allow a student in these circumstances to still be promoted on to the 4th grade. Students who meet one of the following criteria may be considered for a good cause exemption:
English Language Learners (ELLs) with less than two years in an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program,
students with disabilities whose individual educational plan (IEP) indicates that participation in the FCAT is not appropriate,
demonstration of an acceptable level of performance on an alternative standardized reading assessment approved by the State Board of Education,
demonstration of proficiency in accordance with the Sunshine State Standard Benchmarks of Language Arts through a student portfolio,
students with disabilities who participate in the FCAT, but still demonstrate a deficiency in reading after more than two years of intensive remediation, and were previously retained in kindergarten, first, second, or third grade, or,
students who still demonstrate a deficiency in reading after two or more years of intensive remediation and who were previously retained in kindergarten, first, second, or third grade for a total of two years.
Mid-year promotion is available to a retained 3rd grader who, during the first semester of the school year, demonstrates mastery of the 3rd grade Language Arts SSS benchmarks and beginning mastery of the 4th grade Language Arts SSS benchmarks (mastery should be consistent with the month of promotion to 4th grade). One way the student may show this is by completing a portfolio that demonstrates mastery of the appropriate benchmarks.
Students must pass the grade 10 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) to graduate high school with a standard diploma. A passing score on the grade 10 FCAT is a developmental scale score of 1926 (scale score of 300) or above in reading and a developmental scale score of 1889 (scale score of 300) or above in math. But for those students with disabilities who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and who are in their senior year of high school, and who have taken the grade 10 FCAT at least two times, and who have not been able to pass it the FCAT with allowable accommodations, the IEP team may decide to provide the student with an FCAT waiver. That is, the student may have the FCAT requirement for graduation waived. To qualify for the waiver, the student must meet all other graduation requirements, must have participated in intensive remediation, must have taken FCAT during March of his/her senior year in high school, and must be in the 24-hr credit graduation program. The student’s IEP team must determine that the FCAT does not accurately measure the student’s ability and that the student has mastered the Sunshine State Standards (SSS). Students with disabilities and who have an IEP may also receive a special exemption from the FCAT graduation requirement if the student asks the school district’s Superintendent and he/she requests this on behalf of the student. The Superintendent must send documentation to the Commissioner of Education showing that the student has mastered the SSS and that the FCAT scores reflect the student’s disability in sensory, manual, or speaking skills rather than the student’s academic achievement.
For approximately the past year, Florida has been transitioning from the FCAT to the FCAT 2.0 and End-Of-Course (EOC) Assessments. The transition from the FCAT to the FCAT 2.0 began last year in 2011 with the administration of the FCAT 2.0 Reading and Mathematics. FCAT 2.0 Science will be administered to students for the first time in the spring of 2012, and the writing assessment will continue to be administered through 2014. The FCAT 2.0 measures students’ mastery of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS), which are meant to replace the previous Sunshine State Standards assessed by the FCAT, and which are held to be more rigorous. The Florida EOC Assessments are tests also designed to assess students’ mastery of the NGSSS for specific courses. The first EOC assessment was the 2011 Algebra 1 EOC Assessment. In May 2012, students will take the Biology 1 and Geometry EOC Assessments. There are plans to implement additional EOC assessments in U.S. History and Civics.
The purpose and design of the statewide assessment program is articulated in Section 1008.22, Florida Statutes.
According to the Florida Department of Education’s FAQs, the major differences between the FCAT and the FCAT 2.0 are:
Some test items in Session 2 of the Grades 3 and 4 FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessments require the use of the provided ruler to answer questions. These test items may include measurements in either metric or customary units.
The Grade 4 FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessment includes not only multiple-choice test items, but also gridded-response test items.
The gridded-response test items in FCAT 2.0 Mathematics for grades 5 through 8 have different grids than those on the FCAT. Additionally, the option for negative answers for gridded-response items is now included for grades 7 and 8.
For the Grade 5 FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessment, students are provided a reference sheet that contains information and formulas they may need to complete some test items.
The FCAT 2.0 Reading assessments in grades 3 through 10 include a greater number of reading passages from the public domain, such as historical documents and works by classical authors.
The FCAT 2.0 Reading assessments in grades 3 through 10 include a greater number of test items that require reasonable inferences and reasonable prior knowledge.
Reference sheets are not provided for the Grades 5 and 8 FCAT 2.0 Science assessments, but grade 8 students will receive a Periodic Table of the Elements.
FCAT Mathematics was administered at grades 9 and 10, but there are no FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessments for grades 9 and 10. The Algebra 1 and Geometry End-of-Course (EOC) Assessments have replaced these tests as the high-school-level mathematics assessments.
FCAT Science was administered at grade 11, but there is no Grade 11 FCAT 2.0 Science assessment. The Biology 1 EOC Assessment has replaced the grade 11 test as the high-school-level science assessment.
FCAT 2.0 tests do not have any performance task items.
Discuss with the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team the ways the school can teach the student to learn the skills needed for all content areas tested on the FCAT.
Remember that students with disabilities may also take the FCAT and earn a standard diploma unless the IEP team, on which the parent is a required member, determines that the student should be exempted from the taking the FCAT. An IEP team should not automatically determine that a student should be exempted from taking the FCAT just because the student is one with disabilities or because the student’s disability is “severe”.
Discuss with the IEP team what accommodations the student will need for the classroom and for the FCAT. Remember that not all accommodations for the classroom are allowed during the FCAT.
If the student has not passed the grade 10 FCAT after taking it at least twice, ask the IEP team to consider the FCAT waiver and/or special exemption.
If you have any other questions concerning the FCAT, you may contact the Florida Department of Education at 850-245-0513 or visit www.fldoe.org.
The Bureau of K-12 Assessment is responsible for all aspects of Florida's K-12 statewide student assessment programs, including developing, administering, scoring, and reporting the results for the FCAT/FCAT 2.0 program, as well as assisting with the administration and reporting of several other K-12 student assessment programs. Services are provided both by Florida Department of Education (FDOE) staff and through various contracts with assessment vendors. The primary goal of these assessments is to provide information about student learning in Florida, as required by Florida law (see Section 1008.22, Florida Statutes).
Florida’s Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act
Bullying has become a systemic problem nationwide. The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act is a memorial to Jeffrey Johnston.
Under the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, each school district must adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment of any student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution. The law requires that each school district’s policy be in substantial conformity with the Department of Education’s model policy.
Read more about the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act (1006.147, Florida Statutes) here:
Florida’s Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act defines bullying and harassment as follows:
(a) “Bullying” means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve:
Sexual, religious, or racial harassment
Public humiliation, or
Destruction of property
(b) “Harassment” means any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of data or computer software, or written, verbal, or physical conduct directed against a student or school employee that:
Places a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property;
Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities, or benefits; or
Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school.
(c) Definitions in s. 815.03 and the definition in s. 784.048(1)(d) relating to stalking are applicable to this section.
(d) The definitions of “bullying” and “harassment” include:
Retaliation against a student or school employee by another student or school employee for asserting or alleging an act of bullying or harassment. Reporting an act of bullying or harassment that is not made in good faith is considered retaliation.
Perpetuation of conduct listed in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) by an individual or group with intent to demean, dehumanize, embarrass, or cause physical harm to a student or school employee by:
Incitement or coercion;
Accessing or knowingly causing or providing access to data or computer software through a computer, computer system, or computer network within the scope of the district school system; or
Acting in a manner that has an effect substantially similar to the effect of bullying or harassment.
The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act states that bullying of any student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution is prohibited:
(a) During any education program or activity conducted by a public K-12 educational institution;
(b) During any school-related or school-sponsored program or activity or on a school bus of a public K-12 educational institution; or
(c) Through the use of data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, or computer network of a public K-12 educational institution.
District Policies and Procedures
The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act requires that each policy include the following:
The school district bullying and harassment policy shall afford all students the same protection regardless of their status under the law. The school district may establish separate discrimination policies that include categories of students. The school district shall involve students, parents, teachers, administrators, school staff, school volunteers, community representatives, and local law enforcement agencies in the process of adopting the policy. The school district policy must be implemented in a manner that is ongoing throughout the school year and integrated with a school’s curriculum, a school’s discipline policies, and other violence prevention efforts. The school district policy must contain, at a minimum, the following components:
(a) A statement prohibiting bullying and harassment.
(b) A definition of bullying and a definition of harassment that include the definitions listed in this section.
(c) A description of the type of behavior expected from each student and employee of a public K-12 educational institution.
(d) The consequences for a student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution who commits an act of bullying or harassment.
(e) The consequences for a student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution who is found to have wrongfully and intentionally accused another of an act of bullying or harassment.
(f) A procedure for reporting an act of bullying or harassment, including provisions that permit a person to anonymously report such an act. However, this paragraph does not permit formal disciplinary action to be based solely on an anonymous report.
(g) A procedure for the prompt investigation of a report of bullying or harassment and the persons responsible for the investigation. The investigation of a reported act of bullying or harassment is deemed to be a school-related activity and begins with a report of such an act. Incidents that require a reasonable investigation when reported to appropriate school authorities shall include alleged incidents of bullying or harassment allegedly committed against a child while the child is en route to school aboard a school bus or at a school bus stop.
(h) A process to investigate whether a reported act of bullying or harassment is within the scope of the district school system and, if not, a process for referral of such an act to the appropriate jurisdiction.
(i) A procedure for providing immediate notification to the parents of a victim of bullying or harassment and the parents of the perpetrator of an act of bullying or harassment, as well as notification to all local agencies where criminal charges may be pursued against the perpetrator.
(j) A procedure to refer victims and perpetrators of bullying or harassment for counseling.
(k) A procedure for including incidents of bullying or harassment in the school’s report of data concerning school safety and discipline required under s. 1006.09(6). The report must include each incident of bullying or harassment and the resulting consequences, including discipline and referrals. The report must include in a separate section each reported incident of bullying or harassment that does not meet the criteria of a prohibited act under this section with recommendations regarding such incidents. The Department of Education shall aggregate information contained in the reports.
(l) A procedure for providing instruction to students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers on identifying, preventing, and responding to bullying or harassment.
(m) A procedure for regularly reporting to a victim’s parents the actions taken to protect the victim.
(n) A procedure for publicizing the policy, which must include its publication in the code of student conduct required under s. 1006.07(2) and in all employee handbooks.
Other Key Requirements
The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act also requires the following:
(6) A school employee, school volunteer, student, or parent who promptly reports in good faith an act of bullying or harassment to the appropriate school official designated in the school district’s policy and who makes this report in compliance with the procedures set forth in the policy is immune from a cause of action for damages arising out of the reporting itself or any failure to remedy the reported incident.
(7) (a) The physical location or time of access of a computer-related incident cannot be raised as a defense in any disciplinary action initiated under this section.
(b) This section does not apply to any person who uses data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, or computer network when acting within the scope of his or her lawful employment or investigating a violation of this section in accordance with school district policy.
(8) Distribution of safe schools funds to a school district provided in the 2009-2010 General Appropriations Act is contingent upon and payable to the school district upon the Department of Education’s approval of the school district’s bullying and harassment policy. The department’s approval of each school district’s bullying and harassment policy shall be granted upon certification by the department that the school district’s policy has been submitted to the department and is in substantial conformity with the department’s model bullying and harassment policy as mandated in subsection (5). Distribution of safe schools funds provided to a school district in fiscal year 2010-2011 and thereafter shall be contingent upon and payable to the school district upon the school district’s compliance with all reporting procedures contained in this section.
(9) On or before January 1 of each year, the Commissioner of Education shall report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the implementation of this section. The report shall include data collected pursuant to paragraph (4)(k).
Stop Bullying Now Campaign: The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has adopted U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) the “Stop Bullying Now” Campaign to launch Florida’s Statewide Campaign to Stop Bullying Now!
6A-19.008 Educational and Work Environment: It is the policy of the State of Florida, and institutions have an affirmative duty, to create an educational and work environment free of harassment on the basis of race, sex, national origin or handicap
Dr. Phil offers insight and advice, including how to launch an anti-bullying campaign in your school
Diabetes - Unique Problems and Legal Protections in School
Diabetes is recognized as a disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Students with diabetes are also specifically protected by Florida law. These state and federal laws outline the rights and responsibilities of students with diabetes and their parents.
Florida Statute 1002.20(3)(j) states that a school district may not refuse to assign a student to a school on the basis that the student has diabetes, that the school does not have a full-time nurse, or that the school does not have trained diabetes personnel.
Florida law further states that a student with diabetes (with parent and physician authorization), may carry diabetic supplies and equipment. Students may also manage and care for their diabetes while in school, participating in school-sponsored activities, or in transit, to the extent authorized by the parent, physician and State Board of Education rule.
Florida law governs how non-medical personnel may assist. According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida's Nurse Practice Act allows nurses to train and delegate insulin administration to unlicensed school personnel where the person has demonstrated competence in blood glucose monitoring and insulin administration. To read further on this topic, visit the Links tab to access the Department of Health's Nursing Guidelines for the Delegation of Care for Students with Diabetes in Florida Schools from the Department of Health's School Health Services Program website.
Parents do not have the right to insist that insulin administration be performed by a nurse at school, but they do have the right to require that it be performed by an appropriately trained adult.
In summary, Florida law:
Parents and self advocates should be familiar with their rights and responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. A student with diabetes must have at least a 504 Plan. If the student is also eligible for special education under IDEA, they must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the diabetes issues may be covered by that plan instead.
forbids school districts from transferring children with diabetes due to diabetes or a need for diabetes services.
places responsibility on school districts to find and train sufficient staff to meet the needs of students with diabetes.
allows unlicensed personnel to be trained to administer emergency injectable medication, such as glucagon.
The written authorization from the parent and doctor needed to allow a student to carry diabetic supplies and equipment and perform activities without assistance must identify the supplies and equipment and describe the activities. These activities may include performing blood-glucose level checks, urine ketone tests, administering insulin through the delivery system used by the student, and treating hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Individualized Health Care Plan
Florida law requires that each student's doctor's orders be prepared on a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) form. The DMMP (or a seperate signed document) is also where the doctor should explain the extent to which the student's diabetes care can be performed by trained unlicensed school personnel.
Florida law also requires that each student with diabetes have an Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP). An IHCP explains how the DMMP will be implemented and includes things like an Emergency Care Plan explaining step by step what school personnel should do in an emergency.
IHCPs should be developed by the school's registered nurse. Every school has an RN assigned, whether or not that RN works there full time. The student's 504 Plan or IEP should should incorporate the IHCP by reference.
The Department of Health also recommends that a Brief Alert or Health Alert be written and provided to the school personnel who might interact with the student.
Development of the IHCP should be a collaborative process between the RN and the parent based on the doctor’s orders (DMMP). It is acceptable for the nurse to prepare an IHCP in advance and present it to the parent. But parents should not sign an IHCP they disagree with. Instead, the nurse should call a meeting with the parents and the doctor to work together to write an agreeable plan.
The student's 504 plan or IEP should also list and describe the supports, services, and accommodations needed by the student.
Common accommodations include access to testing supplies, snacks, water, bathroom breaks, and testing accommodations.
It is important that one of the accommodations related to testing be that the student's blood sugar levels be checked prior to any major test or exam, particularly a standardized test, to make sure their blood sugar level is in the healthy range as specified by the doctor on the DMMP.
Possible Rights Violations
The following is a list of possible rights violations that parents, self-advocates and others should be aware of:
No Individual Health Care Plan (IHCP) developed
Denial of coverage under 504 and refusal of a 504 Plan
Denial of student's participation in extra-curricular activities and field trips
Requiring parent to go on field trips or provide coverage during extra-curricular activities
Refusal of needed accommodations on 504 Plan
Requiring all diabetes management to take place in health clinic resulting in lost educational time
Requiring transfer to a school with full time nurse
Requiring parent to provide insulin administration
Pushing student to self-manage before they are really ready
Pressure for the doctor to change the student's diabetes regimen to accommodate school
Refusal to have all staff that will be responsible for the student trained in general and student-specific diabetes care
Refusal to provide an appropriately trained adult to serve as back up to the staff person regularly assign to provide the insulin administration
Refusal to allow participation in certain school activities
Refusal to honor accommodations listed on the student’s 504 Plan, such as asking the student to take the FCAT when they are not within the required blood sugar range
As previously mentioned, parents and self-advocates should be familiar with their rights under Florida law as well as under the IDEA and Section 504.
Please visit these Disability Rights Florida's Disability Topics pages for more information about IDEA and Section 504.
American Diabetes Association's Advocate website. The American Diabetes Association advocates around the country to increase funding for diabetes research and programs; prevent diabetes; improve access to health care and eliminate discrimination against people with diabetes at school, work and elsewhere in their lives.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, or IDEA, students with disabilities are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE. Parents of students with disabilities and school districts will often disagree as to what services are appropriate. While it is always best practice to discuss disagreements and make attempts to reach a resolution at an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting, sometimes a resolution is not possible at the IEP meeting. It is for this reason that alternative options are available for parents who want to dispute a school district’s decision regarding the student’s education. As you will learn by clicking on the tabs below, there are three (3) formal forums available in Florida for disputing IDEA claims. These are: 1) mediation, 2) state complaint, and 3) due process hearing.
Mediation is available to parents of students with disabilities who disagree with a decision made by a school district involving any matter related to a proposal or refusal to initiate or change the student’s identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of Free and Appropriate Public Education.
Mediation is free to parents.
Parents can apply for mediation by contacting the Florida Department of Education and submitting a Request for Mediation form.
Mediation must be voluntary on the part of both parties. That is, both the school district and the parent must agree to use mediation as a way to resolve the dispute.
Mediation cannot be used to deny or delay a parent’s right to a due process hearing (explained below).
The mediator must be a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques.
Mediation must be held at a time and location that is convenient to the school district and the parents.
If the parties reach an agreement during mediation, the parties can execute a written and legally binding agreement enforceable in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.
Mediation is confidential so any statements made during mediation may not be used as evidence in subsequent due process hearings or civil proceedings.
State Complaint procedures are available to parents of students with disabilities and other interested persons, including an organization or an individual from another state, to resolve any complaint that a school district has violated a requirement of Part B under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, or IDEA.
Parents can file a State Complaint for free with the Florida Department of Education.
The complaint can be in a regular letter format but must include: a statement that a school district has violated a federal requirement under Part B of the IDEA, the facts of the matter, the signature and contact information of the one making the complaint. If alleging violations with regard to a specific student, the complaint must include: the name and address of the residence of the student, the name of the school the student is attending, a description of the nature of the problem of the student, and a proposed resolution to the problem.
Within 60 (sixty) calendar days of a complaint being filed with the Florida Department of Education, the Department must: carry out an independent on-site investigation if the Department deems it necessary; give the the person making the complaint the opportunity to submit additional information; provide the school district the opportunity to respond to the complaint; review all relevant information and make a determination as to whether the school district violated a federal requirement under IDEA; issue a written decision to the person making the complaint containing findings of fact, conclusions, and the reasons for the Department’s final decision.
If any allegation in the complaint is also the subject of a due process hearing request, the Department must set aside that allegation in the complaint until the conclusion of the hearing. Any allegation that is not part of a due process hearing request must be resolved by the Department.
State Complaints must contain only those allegations that occurred not more than 1 (one) year prior to the date that the complaint is received by the Department.
Parents of students with disabilities or a school district can request a due process hearing regarding any matter involving the student’s identification, evaluation, or educational placement, or the provision of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
A due process hearing request must allege violations that occurred not more than 2 (two) years before the date the parent or the school district knew or should have known about the alleged violation that forms the basis of the complaint. There are some exceptions to this time limitation.
A due process hearing request must contain: the name of the student; the address of the residence of the student; the name of the school the student is attending; a description of the nature of the problem; a proposed resolution to the problem.
Within 15 (fifteen) days of receiving notice of a parent’s due process hearing request and prior to convening a due process hearing, the school district must convene a resolution meeting with the parents and the relevant members of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team. The purpose of this resolution meeting is to allow the school district the opportunity to resolve the dispute that is the basis of the due process hearing request.
A school district cannot bring an attorney to the resolution meeting unless the parents also bring an attorney.
The resolution meeting does not need to be held if: the parents and school district agree to waive the meeting or if the parents and school district agree to use the mediation process instead.
If the parties reach an agreement at the resolution meeting, the parties can execute a written and legally binding agreement enforceable in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.
If the parties cannot reach an agreement at the resolution meeting, then the parties will go before an Administrative Law Judge who will preside over the matter and will decide on the allegations present on the request for due process hearing.
Parents may represent themselves at the hearing or may hire an attorney or a qualified representative.
At the hearing, parents will have the opportunity to present evidence, confront, cross-examine, and compel the attendance of witnesses; to prohibit the introduction of any evidence at the hearing that was not disclosed to the parents at least 5 (five) business days before the hearing; to obtain written or electronic verbatim record of the hearing at no cost to the parents; and to obtain written or electronic findings of fact and decisions at no cost to the parents.
Parents have the right to have their student who is the subject of the hearing present at the hearing; have the hearing open to the public; and have the record of the hearing and the findings of fact and decision described above provided at no cost to the parents.
Before selecting an alternate dispute resolution forum, attempt to resolve your concern at the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting by bringing to the table all of the relevant documentation you need to prove your point and/or by inviting other relevant team members (i.e. student’s private therapists/physicians, etc…) who can help bolster your position. Remember to let the school know that you want to invite these members and that you have a right to invite these members.
Keep excellent documentation. Keep a great paper trail. This will be helpful not only for IEP meetings but also for mediations, state complaints, due process hearings.
If you choose mediation, remember that the mediator is unbiased and is there to assist you and the school district reach an agreement. Remain calm and listen carefully to what the school district has to say. Remember that everything you say at mediation is confidential and may not be used as evidence in a future due process hearing request or any other civil proceedings. Typically, the mediator will hand you paper at the start of the mediation for you to take notes. The mediator will ask for this paper back and will trash it and the conclusion of the mediation to further make sure that everything said and done at the mediation remains confidential.
If you choose the state complaint procedures, remember to state your position clearly in your complaint. If you can, attach documentation to your complaint that will help defend your position.
If you choose the due process hearing request, hiring a special education attorney to represent you is a wise decision. While you can legally represent yourself, a due process hearing may become very complex and difficult to understand if you do not have a legal background and/or sufficient knowledge of IDEA. Contacting the Florida Bar and browsing through your yellow pages are ways of finding a special education attorney.
Title II Disabled Adult Child/ Childhood Disability Benefit
18 years of age or older;
disabled by SSA's definition before age 22;
the child of insured workers who are either disabled, retired or deceased;
have filed an application for child's benefits; and
be unmarried (some exceptions - if adult child marries, benefits end, unless marriage is to another social security beneficiary).
POMS DI 10115.001, 20 CFR 404.350 - .352.
An individual who was receiving SSI benefits is eligible for Protected Medicaid if they meet the following:
is over the age of 18;
has blindness or a disability which began before the age of 22;
the individual is entitled to Title II benefits on a parent's record due to the retirement, death or disability of a parent, and loses SSI due to receipt of that benefit or increase in that benefit; and
the individual would continue to be eligible for SSI in the absence of the Title II disabled adult child's benefit or such increases to that benefit.
The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act requires that all youth who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) go through a redetermination process for their benefit eligibility at age 18.
At age 18, a review is scheduled to determine whether or not the condition or illness meets the SSA's definition of disability for an adult. The purpose of the Age 18 Redetermination is to review the current medical evidence to determine whether the young adult meets the criteria for disability under the adult criteria.
Continuing Disability Review
During the initial determination process, when someone is found disabled by SSA their file is set to be reviewed periodically. How often depends on their Medical Improvement Expected (MIE) date.
At that time, SSA will do an inquiry of their status of disability. This is called a Medical Continuing Disability Review (Medical CDR).
Since engaging in earned income is part of the initial determination process, when someone on benefits goes to work or is found to be working; SSA does a Work Continuing Disability Review (Work CDR).
Medical CDR vs. Work CDR
Medical CDR: To see if you have medically improved. Leads to termination of benefits.
Work CDR: To see if you are working at a substantial level. Leads to suspension.
Benefits payable for first SGA months + 2 “grace” months
Suspension vs. termination
Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE) and Subsidies
IRWE: SSA deducts the cost of certain impairment-related items and services needed to work from gross earnings in determining “countable earnings” for SGA.
Must be needed to enable work, be impairment-related, paid by the individual and “reasonable” expense.
Subsidy: Supports the individual receives on the job that may result in the individual receiving more pay than the actual value of the work performed. SSA uses only earnings that represent the real value of the work to determine SGA.
At least 93 months (8 ½ years) including the TWP
May purchase Part A & B thereafter
Individual must remain disabled by SSA rules
SSI Work Incentives
$65 Earned Income Exclusion (EIE)
Student earned income exclusion: For 2011 $1,700mo/ $6,840yr
Impairment-related work expense
Blind work expense
1619B continuation of Medicaid eligibility
Plan for Achieving Self- Support (PASS)
If you lose all or part your SSI check because of your wages, you can keep your Medicaid under 1619(a) or (b).
If you lose your SSI check for any other reason, you may also lose Medicaid.
Social Security Benefits are the combination of the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program (OASDI), the Medicare program, Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.
Please note that 2013 brings some changes to Social Security. We will soon integrate those changes into the pages listed below. Until then, we suggest you review the 2013 Social Security Changes Fact Sheet for more information.
Disability Insurance Benefit (DIB commonly called SSDI)
Must be fully insured.
Must also meet a Disability Insured Status requirement:
must have worked in covered employment for at least 5 of the 10 years (20 out of 40 quarters) before the onset of disability or
for persons who are blind or became disabled before age 31, a less restrictive insured status requirement must be met.
20 CFR 404.110, 404.120, 404.130
Definition of Disability
The medical standards for disability are the same for all three Title II groups and SSI for individuals age 18 or older.
Definition of Disability
Children--There is a separate definition of disability under SSI for children from birth to age 18.
Definition of Disability - Adult
"The inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
Medically determinable physical or mental impairment
The disability can be documented by a qualified medical examiner
Based on the definition of disability, a sequential evaluation process involving five distinct steps is applied in making the disability decision
Substantial Gainful Activity
“The performance of significant physical and/or mental activities in work for pay or profit, or in work of a type generally performed for pay or profit, regardless of the legality of the work.”
$1,010 per month in 2012 for an individual with a disability other than blindness.
$1,690 per month in 2012 for a person who is blind.
Individuals who are blind and applying for SSI do not need to meet an SGA test but rather a test to ascertain level of blindness.
Individuals cannot be working at the time of application or, if working, cannot be earning more than the substantial gainful activity level or SGA.
Medicare is a nationwide health insurance program for the aged and certain disabled persons.
Automatic enrollment after receiving Title II disability benefits for 24 months. Exception, no wait for those with ERSD and ALS.
Automatically enrolled in Medicare with RIB at Full Retirement Age (not w/Early Retirement).
The program consists of four parts Part A, hospital insurance (HI), Part B Medical Insurance, Part C Medicare Advantage Plans, Part D Medicare Prescription.
SSI eligibility results in categorical eligibility for Medicaid. Medicaid eligibility flows from SSI eligibility.
Rights in a Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) for Children under 18
Services for Individuals under 18 Years Old
Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) services are provided in an intensive residential setting and include: crisis intervention; bio-social and or psychiatric evaluation; close monitoring by staff; medication management; individual, family, and group therapy; and connection to community based services. These services are expected to be relatively short termed (less than six-months). Youth must have a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV) diagnosis other than substance abuse, developmental disability, or autism. The youth must be expected to benefit from residential treatment and a less restrictive setting is not available. All referrals must be approved by the Circuit Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) Program Office. SIPP is a Medicaid Waiver program.
There are six-circuits in Florida serving 67 counties and 15 Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Programs (SIPPs) serving the needs of Florida’s youth:
Jackson Memorial Hospital
Alternate Family Care
Manatee Palms Youth Services
Central Florida Behavioral Hospital
University Behavioral Center
River Point Behavioral
A designated staff person in the local Department of Children and Families (DCF) District Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) office completes referrals to the Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP). The parent, guardian, or family member will be told the availability of treatment programs in their area. The youth and the youth’s responsible party will be able to tour the facility and receive an assessment from the provider to determine if all parties involved agree that this is an acceptable course of action. Once the SAMH staff, the youth, responsible party, and the provider determine that admission is appropriate, the SIPP provider will contact the state utilization management contractor for prior authorization of the admission. Then scheduled admission is discussed.
Each provider will supply:
A brochure in English and other lanuages
The youth will be given the choice of enrolled providers in his/her area and will be encouraged to select the closest one to his/her residence. Special needs populations will be accommodated.
The Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Programs (SIPPs) offer the following services:
Inpatient psychiatric services for youth under the age of 18 years of age.
A clearly defined treatment philosophy and approach that includes:
Review or completion of assessments and evaluations including medical, psychiatric, neurological, psychological , social, educational and substance abuse;
Treatment planning developed by a team comprised of the child, child psychiatrist, parents, legal guardian or child welfare counselor, primary clinician, direct child care staff, recreational staff, school personnel, and other persons involved in the care.
Psychiatric and medical services including medication management and routine care services;
Clinical therapy services, including behavioral programming by a certified behavior analyst;
Therapeutic home visits with approval of a clinician and treatment team with clinical on-call support staff;
Parent educational and parenting classes;
Peer and group interaction activities;
Overall coordination of a child’s care while participating in the SIPP Program;
Detailed discharge planning;
Provision of outpatient aftercare;
Vocational Rehabilitation services; and
Toll free help lines for aftercare, 7 days a week/24 hours a day.
Denial of Services
Whenever the Department denies a request for service, the youth has the right to exercise a formal appeal process mandated under federal law. The process commences with a file review but can go as far as a formal hearing known as a “fair hearing”.
How to Request Reconsideration of the Denial
The youth, legal guardian, attending physician or provider has the right to request a formal reconsideration of any denial of services. The formal reconsideration must be made in writing to the Agency for Healthcare Administration’s (AHCA’s) utilization management contractor within forty (40) calendar days of the date of the notice of initial determination. The date of notice is the date of the letter plus five additional days for mailing. The medical records must be submitted with the request for reconsideration.
The Process for Reviewing the Reconsideration
Upon receipt of the request, a board-certified psychiatrist, not involved in the initial determination, will review all submitted documentation and render a determination within thirty days of receipt. If the second psychiatrist agrees with the original determination, the decision is upheld and the reconsideration process is completed. If the second psychiatrist reverses the original adverse determination, the case is overturned and the reconsideration process is complete.
The Utilization Manager contractor will approve written notification of the reconsideration determination within thirty (30) working days of the dated receipt.
The written request for reconsideration must be sent to Florida’s current Utilization Manager First Health Services of Florida, Inc. at:
First Health Services of Florida, Inc.
4300 Cox Road
Glen Allen, VA 23060
How to Request a Fair Hearing
After the reconsideration process, a youth can exercise his/her right to appeal the determination further by submitting a request for a fair hearing. A fair hearing is a formal process that allows each party a forum to present witnesses and evidence in support of their positions on provision of services that are at issue. A request for a Fair hearing must be sent to the:
Department of Children and Families
Office of Public Assistance Appeal Hearings
1317 Winewood Boulevard, Building 1, Room 309
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0700
Access to Care
The youth’s access to quality medical services must, at a minimum, not be adversely affected by a 1915 (b) (4) waiver program. A waiver must ensure an adequate amount of services during reasonable time periods and within reasonable geographic distance from the residence of the individual enrolled under the waiver. Furthermore, access to emergency services and family planning services must not be restricted.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government”.
Under the ADA, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or be regarded as having such an impairment.
An individual who is disabled under the ADA can use a service animal in a public place with public accommodations. While working, the service animal’s behavior must be under the control of its owner. A service animal should not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Feeding, walking, and general caring for the service animal is the sole responsibility of its owner/user.
Businesses that are open to the public cannot exclude a service animal from entering their establishments. Examples of businesses that are required to provide public accommodations to individuals with trained service animals are: restaurants, theaters, hotels, grocery stores, hospitals and medical offices, department stores/malls, health clubs, parks, zoos, sporting facilities, and all public transportation systems such as airlines, car rentals, trains/metro systems, buses/shuttles, taxi services, etc. Essentially, wherever any qualified individual with a disability under the ADA is allowed to enter, a working service animal should be allowed to enter.
Business representatives are allowed to ask if an animal is a service animal and what tasks the animal has been trained to perform. A business representative cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the individual’s disability.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against an individual who is renting or buying property on the basis of a disability. An example of such discrimination would be: A blind applicant for rental housing wants to live in a dwelling unit with a “seeing eye dog”. The building has a no pets policy. It is a violation for the owner or manager of the apartment complex to refuse to permit the applicant to live in the apartment with a seeing eye dog because, without the seeing eye dog, the blind person will not have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
The Fair Housing Act toll-free Discrimination Hotline handles Fair Housing Act complaints at 1-800-669-9777 [use 1-800-795-7915 (TTY: 800-927-9275) for disability discrimination calls]. Also, there is a Fair Housing toll-free Information Hotline at 1-800-767-7468.
The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) also investigates Fair Housing discrimination complaints in Florida at 1-800-342-8170 or (800) 955-1339 (TTY), or visit the FCHR website.
Local County Legal Aid offices can handle Landlord Tenant Act disputes and through Florida Bar attorney referrals (800-342-8011).
For additional information about service animals and requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may contact the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY) or visit their website.
The National Service Dog Center (NSDC), a web-based Delta Society Program, provides information and resources for people with disabilities who areconsidering obtaining a service dog or who are currently partnered with a servicedog. The NSDC also provides resources for people with disabilities who haveaccess problems entering the workplace and other public places with theirservice dogs. Also see the Service Dog Frequently Asked Questions website.
Seclusion in Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Programs (SIPP) for Children under 18
In Florida, an individual who has a mental health illness and is in a Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) can only be secluded to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Seclusion is enforced isolation or confinement of a person in a room or area away from other people. Seclusion, however, does not mean “time out”, “time out from positive reinforcement”, or “isolation for medical reasons”.
Each facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of seclusion.
Every effort should be made to avoid unnecessary use of seclusion, therefore, staff should try to redirect and diffuse the situation before engaging in seclusion.
Every facility or program should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a youth in the facility or by a parent, guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual. Sometimes this is called a “grievance” or “complaint” process. If you believe that a person has been unjustly restrained, or secluded in a manner that violated the person’s rights you may also contact:
Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873, or
Disability Rights Florida 1-800-342-0823
Rights in a Civil Mental Health Facility
Florida's Mental Health Act (also known as the Baker Act) helps protect the rights of individuals in a civil mental health facility by outlining the Rights of Patients. The rights include the right to dignity, treatment, quality of treatment, communication, abuse reporting, visits, personal property, voting, and habeas corpus.
Mental health treatment programs are required by law to honor and help protect the rights of individuals who have a mental illness or psychiatric disability. Such programs are also required to include comprehensive health, social, educational, and rehabilitative services to people who need intensive short-term or longer mental health treatment. The law also requires the programs to encourage and support self-determination in treatment and recovery.
Everyone living in the United States of America has certain legal rights, including individuals detained in a forensic mental health facility. In Florida, individuals in mental health facilities get their rights from various sources including the Florida Statutes, the Florida Department of Children & Families policies, and from court decisions.
When an individual believes that his/her rights have been violated, he/she has a right to report that violation and seek resolution.
Some specific rights of individuals residing in forensic mental health facilities are:
Access to a telephone to call family, friends, etc. during specific hours;
Access to a telephone to report abuse or to call an attorney at anytime;
Visitation with family and friends;
Access to speak privately during calls and visits;
Protection of confidential records;
Information on how to report a complaint;
Access to voting in national, state and municipal elections;
Provision of express and informed consent to medications by a competent individual;
Access to grounds unless restricted for medical or safety reasons;
To be free from abuse and neglect;
To be treated respectfully;
Provision of reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Identification of a representative to be notified in case of emergency; notified of admission and/or invited to Treatment Team meetings;
Placement in the least restrictive (limiting) and most appropriate and available setting;
A physical examination within 24 hours;
Participation in the development of a treatment plan and a discharge plan;
To keep clothing and personal items unless removed for safety or medical reasons;
To contact the court to request a review of the reason and legality of his/her detention, a denial of a right or privilege, or a procedure that is not being followed.
How to Report a Rights Violation
How to report a Rights Violation: An individual can report a rights violation by contacting Disability Rights Florida at 1-800-342-0823. An individual can also write to the court by filing a Writ of Habeas corpus or a Petition for Redress of Grievance to:
question placement in this facility
question a denial of a right or privilege
question a procedure not being followed
Staff members at the facility will provide the individual a copy of a Writ and will assist in filing the Writ with the Clerk of the County Court.
An individual also has the right to contact an attorney.
Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Residential Services provides a continuum of care for youth with disabilities committed to the care and custody of the Department, beginning with commitment management services through placement within residential commitment programs.
The commitment management system is designed to place youth in the most appropriate program to meet the youth’s special needs and to promote public safety.
DJJ’s Health Service Manual defines a developmental disability (DD) as a disorder or syndrome that is attributable to retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida or Prader Willi syndrome and constitutes a substantial handicap that can be expected to continue indefinitely.
Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Residential Services must adhere to the following basic principles:
All detention center and residential commitment programs need to provide effective healthcare and services to youth with Developmental Disabilities (DD) and therefore must:
provide training for staff on the special need populations;
conduct effective ongoing assessments of mental health and medical treatment; and
provide individual treatment plans that meet the mental and medical health care needs of each youth with a developmental disability.
Youth with developmental disabilities shall receive equivalent preventative, gender and age related health care services while residing in the residential program.
Individual treatment plans for developmentally disabled youth may focus on assisting the youth to cope with the correctional environment as well as educating staff to the special needs including:
Special Medication Administration requirements
Laboratory and other diagnostic monitoring
Frequency of follow up visits
Be aware that youth with developmental disabilities may encounter difficulty communicating with or understanding staff. The youth may easily become a victim in the correctional environment and may need special housing arrangements.
ID of DD Youth
A youth may have problems cognitively and may have difficulty understanding rules, following direction and adapting in the correctional setting. Early identification of youth with DD is critical to providing appropriate care and access to necessary services.
Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) staff must be aware of information and behavior that suggest developmental disabilities such as:
Psychological or mental health evaluation that indicates an IQ of below 70;
School records showing Exceptional Student Education (ESE) classes and Individualized Education Program (IEP);
Youth having difficulty understanding and answering questions;
Youth having difficulty understanding directions; and
Youth whose abilities appear far below other youths of the same age.
Once DJJ identifies a youth with developmental disabilities, then:
All programs/facilities will have programs in place to serve the needs of all youth.
All programs/facilities will have a procedure to identify placement for youth with severe developmental disabilities who:
lack basic survival and self care skills,
are dependent on others to assist with personal care,
are at risk of arm to self or others.
Upon admission into a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) program, youth are assessed for the following:
Medical and Mental Health concerns.
Symptoms and signs of:
Speech and posture irregularities
Impaired level of consciousness
Disorganization and memory defects
Neglect of physical health
Neglect of personal hygiene
Youth with DD may respond adversely to the admission screening because of physical and emotional trauma, therefore staff may utilize the components below.
Reduce environmental noise.
Explain to the youth what is being done.
Include the youth in decision making.
Plan ahead for how to cope with challenging behavior.
Every youth in a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) program, has a right to file a grievance, if he/she feels his/her rights have been violated.
A youth has the right to grieve the actions of program staff, conditions, and circumstances in the residential commitment program that the youth believes violates his/her rights.
DJJ requires each residential commitment program to have a written procedure for a grievance and appeal process. The procedure must ensure that DJJ staff handle grievances without interference or delay. Grievances can be appealed up to the Program Director.
Restraint in Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) for Children under 18
In Florida, an individual who is in a Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) can only be restrained to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Restraint means the immobilization of a person’s body in order to restrict movement by physically holding or by the use of mechanical or chemical restraints. This does not include protective medical devices used for the protection of injury. Any form of restraint requires a doctor’s order and specific documentation. Restraint is not to be used as punishment, to compensate for inadequate staffing or for the convenience of staff.
It’s important to remember that every effort should be made by staff to avoid unnecessary use of restraints, and should therefore try to redirect and diffuse problem behavior before it reaches crisis proportions.
Each facility or provider has developed its own policies and procedures related to the use of restraint. If you want to know what they are, ask the facility administrator for a copy.
Every Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a youth in the facility or by a guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual. Sometimes, this is called a “grievance” or “complaint” procedure.
If you believe that a youth has been unjustly restrained in a manner that violated the youth’s rights, you may also contact:
Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873, or
Disability Rights Florida 1-800-342-0823
Restraint in Mental Health Facilities
An adult in a public or privately contracted state mental health facility has a right not to be restrained unless he/she is determined to be an immediate danger to self or others. Restraint means the control of a person’s body in order to restrict movement by physically holding or by the use of mechanical or chemical restraints. This does not include protective medical devices used for the protection from injury. Any form of restraint requires a doctor’s order and specific documentation. Restraint is not to be used as punishment, due to lack of staffing, or for the convenience of staff.
Physical and mechanical restraint can only be implemented in emergency situations and the attending physician must be consulted as soon as possible to execute a physician’s order.
While in restraints, a person must be observed at least every 15 minutes for injury or problems with breathing.
At least once per hour, a nurse must do an observation to check for injuries and to take vital signs.
Persons in restraint must be offered the opportunity to drink and to use the toilet upon request and have range of motion, as needed, to promote comfort.
Persons in restraint must be clothed appropriately.
Persons must be informed of the behaviors that caused the restraint and what is necessary for release.
The person must be released from restraints within 15 minutes of meeting release criteria.
Limitations on Restraint
People cannot be restrained in a prone (face-down) position nor can anything be draped across a person’s face.
Adults, 18 years of age and older, may be restrained for up to 4 hours but must be released as soon as safely possible.
If a person’s behavior continues to be a threat, the doctor can extend the order every 4 hours for a total of 24 hours.
If the person continues to meet criteria for restraint after 24 hours, the physician must physically observe and evaluate the person to determine if the person remains a danger to himself or others. If so, a new physician’s order must be written.
Restraint of Minors
Minors, age 9 to 17 years of age, may be restrained for up to 2 hours.
Release from Restraint
Upon release from restraint the person’s physical condition and psychological condition must be observed, evaluated, and documented. A therapeutic debriefing lead by senior management must be conducted to ensure that proper documentation took place and to determine if there were any other interventions that could have been used to keep from restraining the person. The person will be asked to meet with the Treatment Team on the next business day after the restraint to review the incident, to discuss the incident, identify alternative methods for handling crisis situations, address trauma needs, review and update the Personal Safety Plan and modify the person’s plan of care, treatment and services as needed.
Personal Safety Form
A Personal Safety Form is a document that persons entering a mental health treatment facility are asked to complete. It allows the person to provide staff with information on the best methods to:
help lessen a stressful situation so that restraint and seclusion can be avoided;
recognize signs of distress or triggers that upset the person;
document information on medications that have helped the person in the past;
understand history of trauma;
understand history of restraint and seclusion; and
obtain information on medical conditions.
Every facility must have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a person in the facility or by a guardian, family member, friend, or other interested individual on the person’s behalf.
If you believe that a person has been unjustly restrained or restrained in a manner that violates the person’s rights, contact can be made with the:
Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice Refers to Restraints as Protective Action Response (PAR).
In Florida, an individual who is court ordered to a juvenile justice facility can only be restrained to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Protection Action Response (PAR) means “The department-approved verbal and physical intervention techniques and the application of mechanical restraints used in accordance with Florida Administrative Code. Any form of physical restraint requires that staff obtain prior authorization for the use of intervention techniques and mechanical restraints from a supervisor or acting supervisor unless doing so could result in physical harm to the youth, employee or another person, property damage, or of the youth escaping or absconding from lawful supervision. PAR has three levels of response:
Level 1 - Verbal intervention.
Level 2 - Physical intervention techniques may encompass the use of touch, countermoves, control techniques or take down.
Level 3 - Mechanical restraint.
It’s important to remember that every effort should be made by staff to avoid unnecessary use of PAR, and therefore staff should try to redirect and diffuse problem behavior before it reaches crisis proportions.
Each facility or provider has developed its own policies and procedures related to the use of PAR. If you want to know what they are, ask the facility administration for a copy.
Requirements for Use of Protective Action Response (PAR)
Each Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of PAR that follows the standards outlined in the Florida Administrative Code. Each provider will have an approved list of holds or techniques they can use called a “Matrix”. This Matrix is the authorized list of holds the DJJ facility or provider can use on a youth.
Staff Requirements for Use of PAR
PAR can only be used by an authorized staff that is certified in PAR and has passed the state performance test. Staff must be trained in using an emergency procedure curriculum that has been approved by DJJ.
Use of the PAR for Assessing Appropriate Intervention Techniques
DJJ facility staff or provider use the PAR Escalation Matrix for guidance in selecting the level of technique they can use based upon the youth’s level of resistance. Then staff began using verbal interventions listed below :
Level 1 - Verbal intervention shall be utilized in response to all levels or resistance by youth. Verbal intervention techniques shall be the initial response by an employee to resistance by a youth except where physical interventions are necessary to prevent physical harm to the youth, employee or another person, property damage, or of the youth escaping or absconding from lawful supervision.
Level 2 - Verbal attempts to diffuse a youth or situation have been exhausted, and the youth has initiated active, combative, or aggravated resistance. There will be no physical intervention for passive resistance without a clear and identifiable risk to safety and security. Physical intervention techniques may encompass the use of touch, countermoves, control techniques or take down as described in the Florida Administrative Code
Level 3 - Mechanical restraint. The use of mechanical restraints is authorized in situations where a youth has initiated active, combative or aggravated resistance and in situations where the youth poses a physical threat to self or others.
Staff will provide complete documentation of the event including medical status, incident report, maxtric of events, and staff notes. The Program Director or their designee will review the documentation for accuracy procedure compliance.
PAR was authorized by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and each provider submits a plan on what techniques they will use in their program. The techniques can include those listed below. The Assistant Secretary of Staff Development and training or designee will approve the matrix of each provider. PAR techniques include the following:
Mid-range –Straight Arm Blows
Mid-range- Roundhouse Blows
X Block Leg Raise
Front Coke Releases
Full Nelson Escape
Double Arm Lock Escape
Double Arm Lock Escape
Straight Arm Escort
Supportive Hold stage 1
Supportive Hold Stage 2 & 3
Straight Arm to a Takedown
Basket hold to a takedown
Arm Bar to a takedown
Wrap around to a Team Takedown
Supportive hold to a Takedown
Immediate Team Takedown
Wrap around control
Handcuffs and leg cuffs
The Department authorizes the following mechanical restraints within the facility: handcuffs, leg restraint, restraint belt, soft restraints and waist chain. There are two authorized methods that can be used for handcuffs “in front of the youth and behind the youth”. All facilities except for low risk shall use mechanical restraints to transport youth. Low risk facilities can use handcuffs and leg cuffs if the youth is assessed as a security risk.
No more than two youth can be chained or handcuffed together. Pregnant youth must be handcuffed in the front.
The Florida Administrative Code prohibits authorization of the use of:
Taser on a youth;
Aerosol or chemical agents, including but not limited to oleoresin capsicum spray;
Ammonia capsules, unless required for medical treatment of the youth by a licensed medical professional;
Mechanical restraints including neck restraints, restraint chair, and the securing of youth to a fixed object are prohibited;
Waist chain or restraint belt prohibits the hand of the youth to be in the back; and
Leg and waist chains are prohibited on pregnant youth.
Supervision of youth in mechanical restraints requires:
Youth must at no time be without constant, full, and direct visual supervision by an employee.
Youth are not allowed to be on upper bunks.
Staff are required to verbally explain to the youth why the mechanical restraints were placed on him/her and when they can be removed.
Every 10 minutes circulation checks are documented in the supervisor’s log.
30 minutes after the youth remains in restraints the supervisor shall interview the youth to determine if they can be released. This must be documented in the supervisor’s log. Any extension must be authorized by the Superintendent, the Residential Director, or the designee.
After 60 to 120 minutes of youth restraint, the Superintendent, Residential Director, or designee must get licensed medical and or mental health professional authorizations for additional restraint time.
Every facility or program should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a youth in the facility or by a parent, guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual. Sometimes this is called a “grievance” procedure.
If you believe that a person has been unjustly restrained, or secluded in a manner that violated the person’s rights you may also contact:
Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873,
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Incident and Complaint Hotline 1-800-355-2280
Disability Rights Florida 1-800-342-0823
Restraint in Developmental Disability Facilities
Including group homes, Developmental Disability Centers (DDC), and the Comprehensive Transitional Education Program (CTEP or “Carlton Palms”)
In Florida, an individual who has a developmental disability (DD) can only be restrained to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Restraint means the immobilization of a person’s body in order to restrict movement by physically holding or by the use of mechanical devices or medications. Restraint does not include health related protective medical devices, orthopedic equipment, or other restraints used for medical treatment, devices used to support functional body position, or equipment used for safety during transportation. Chemical restraint requires a doctor’s order, and other forms of restraint require the authorization of a Certified Behavior Analyst or other qualified individual as outlined in the state rules. All forms of restraint require specific documentation. Restraint is not to be used as punishment, to compensate for inadequate staffing or for the convenience of staff.
It’s important to remember that every effort should be made by staff to avoid unnecessary use of restraints, and should therefore try to redirect and diffuse problem behavior before it reaches crisis proportions.
Each facility or provider has developed its own policies and procedures related to the use of restraint. If you want to know what they are, ask the facility administrator for a copy.
Restraint must not be implemented automatically or as part of a slow-down plan for undesirable behavior. Each facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of restraints (physical, including four point restraint, mat wrap, range of motion, and chemical restraint) that follow the standards outlined in the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) 65G-8. Upon initiating a restraint procedure on a person with developmental disabilities (DD), staff must immediately notify the highest-level direct care supervisor. Restraints must be terminated immediately when the emergency ends.
Staff Requirements for Use of Restraint
Restraints can only be used if a sufficient number of trained and certified staff is available to ensure its safe implementation. Staff must meet certain qualifications that are outlined by the State of Florida. Staff must be trained using an emergency procedure curriculum that has been approved by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD).
Length of Time for Use of Restraint
Restraints lasting longer than one hour require approval by a designated staff person, or “authorizing agent”. A person cannot be restrained for more than two hours without the authorizing agent performing a visual review and approval of the procedure. Each use of restraints, however, requires continuous staff monitoring.
Conditions for Use of Restraint
Any room used for restraint must have sufficient lighting and ventilation to permit a person to see and breathe normally.
The room must have enough space so that the person can lie down comfortably.
Before initiating a restraint procedure, staff must inspect the environment and the individual and remove any objects that might present a hazard to the individual’s safety.
A person mechanically restrained for more than one hour must be given an opportunity for motion and exercise for at least ten minutes of each hour that the individual is restrained.
Limitations on Use of Restraint
If a person with a developmental disability is restrained more than two times in any thirty-day period or six times in any twelve-month period, then the facility or provider should submit a request for behavioral analysis services for that person, including documentation of the frequency of “reactive strategies” (seclusion and restraint) use. This means that a behavioral assessment must be conducted to determine why the individual is engaging in the dangerous behavior, and that an individualized behavior intervention plan must be put in place.
Release While in Restraint
Restraint must be ended when the emergency ends. Facilities and providers must have pre-determined behavioral criteria for ending restraint, plus release the individual within five minutes of meeting those criteria, unless an exemption applies. Facilities and providers may request an exemption by Florida Law (Section 120.542, Florida Statute.) if they believe strict adherence to the rules governing restraint and seclusion can lead to undesirable negative outcomes.
Restraint should be limited to one hour in duration, but additional time may be added by the authorizing agent if that person determines an emergency situation still exists.
When a person is admitted to a facility or program, the facility or program must obtain information about the individual that relates to the use of “reactive strategies” (seclusion and restraint). This information should come from a variety of sources, be documented in the person’s records, and be updated at least annually. Information should include:
Medical conditions or physical limitations that would place him or her at risk during seclusion or restraint; and
History of trauma, including sexual or physical abuse and past trauma through seclusion or restraint
Restraint cannot be used on a “PRN” or “as required” basis. Restraint cannot be used if it may worsen a known medical or physical condition. Any procedure that might restrict or obstruct an individual’s airway or impair breathing, including techniques where staff applies pressure to the head, neck, back, chest, abdomen, or joints may not be used. In addition, a person’s hands may not be restrained behind his or her back.
Every facility or program should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a person in the facility or by a guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual. Sometimes this is called a “grievance” process. If you believe that a person has been unjustly restrained, or secluded in a manner that violated the person’s rights you may also contact:
Including group homes, Developmental Disability Centers (DDC), and Comprehensive Transitional Education Program (CTEP or “Carlton Palms”)
In Florida, an individual who has a developmental disability (DD) can only be secluded to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Seclusion is forced isolation or confinement of a person in a room or area away from other people. Seclusion, however, does not mean “time out”, “time out from positive reinforcement”, or isolation for medical reasons. People in DD facilities cannot be secluded automatically or as part of a slow-down plan for undesirable behaviors, as punishment, as a substitute for an implementation plan, or for the convenience of staff. It’s important to remember that every effort should be made by staff to avoid unnecessary use of seclusion, and should therefore try to redirect and lessen problem behavior before it creates a crisis situation.
Each facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of seclusion that follow the state standards. If you want to know what they are, ask the facility or provider for a copy.
Seclusion lasting longer than one hour requires approval by a designated staff person, or “authorizing agent”. This person must meet certain qualifications that are outlined by the State of Florida. A person cannot be secluded for more than two hours without the authorizing agent performing a visual review and approval of the procedure. Each use of seclusion, however, requires continuous staff monitoring.
Staff Qualifications for Use of Seclusion
Each facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of seclusion that follow the standards outlined in Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) 65G-8. Seclusion can only be used if a sufficient number of trained and certified staff are available to ensure it is safe. Staff must be trained in an emergency procedure course that has been approved by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD).
Conditions for Seclusion
Any room used for seclusion must have sufficient lighting and ventilation to permit a person to see and breathe normally.
The room must have enough space so that the person can lie down comfortably.
Foreign objects that might be a hazardous/dangerous to the safety of the individual must be removed.
The door to the room must not be locked, however, it can be held shut by a staff person using a spring bolt, magnetic hold, or other mechanism.
Forensic facilities may seek a waiver or variance from this requirement from APD.
Limitations on Use of Seclusion
If a person with a developmental disability or disabilities is secluded more than two times in any thirty-day period or six times in any twelve-month period, then the facility or provider should submit a request for behavioral analysis services for that person, including documentation of the frequency of reactive (restraint and seclusion) strategy use. This means that a behavioral assessment must be conducted to determine why the individual is engaging in the dangerous behavior, and for an individualized behavior intervention plan to be put in place.
Release from Seclusion
Seclusion must be ended when the emergency ends. Facilities and providers must establish desired behavioral criteria for ending seclusion, and the person must be released within five (5) minutes of meeting those criteria. However, providers and facilities can seek an exemption from this requirement through a process outlined in Florida Statute.
Seclusion should be limited to one (1) hour in duration, but additional time may be added by the authorizing agent if that person determines an emergency situation still exists.
When a person is admitted to a facility or program, the facility or program must obtain information about the individual that relates to the use of “reactive strategies” (seclusion and restraint). This information should come from a variety of sources, be documented in the person’s records, and be updated at least annually. Information should include:
Medical conditions or physical limitations that would place him or her at risk during seclusion or restraint
History of trauma, including sexual or physical abuse and past trauma through seclusion or restraint
Seclusion cannot be used on a “PRN” or “as required” basis. Seclusion cannot be used if it may worsen a known medical or physical condition. In addition, a person’s hands may not be restrained behind his or her back, whether they are in seclusion or not.
Every facility or program should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a person in the facility or by a guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual. Sometimes this is called a “grievance” process. If you believe that a person has been unjustly secluded, or secluded in a manner that violated the person’s rights you may also contact:
Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873, or
Disability Rights Florida 1-800-342-0823
“Time Out” and “Seclusion”
Seclusion does not mean “time out”. Time out from positive reinforcement means a procedure designed to interrupt a specific behavior of an individual by temporarily removing that individual to a separate area or room or by screening him or her from others, or by signaling that the individual is in “time out”. “Time out” is:
of short duration, as brief as one minute, and never longer than twenty (20) uninterrupted minutes;
only done in response to a specific behavior;
part of a written program that includes a functional assessment and is approved by a local Review Committee;
a program implemented by either by a Certified Behavior Analyst or a clinical social worker, mental health counselor or therapist licensed under Chapter 491, Florida Statute.;
not used for threat, disciplinary acts, or as a tool for staff convenience; and
stopped after one minute of calm behavior, then the youth can return to activities. During each use of seclusion, information must be collected for review, evaluation and analysis.
Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST)
FAAST works with consumers, family members, caregivers, providers and agencies to ensure that individuals with disabilities continue to benefit from assistive technology as they move between home, school, work and the community.
FAAST is a non-profit organization funded by the US Department of Education through the Assistive Technology Act of 2004, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), private foundations and individuals.
A home that fits your needs is the ultimate piece of assistive technology. FAAST can help you locate affordable housing in all of Florida's 67 counties and keep you up to date on the latest Florida Housing Information.
Medicaid is the state and federal partnership that provides health coverage for selected categories of people with low incomes. Its purpose is to improve the health of people who might otherwise go without medical care for themselves and their children. Medicaid is different in every state. Eligibility for Medicaid is determined by the following agencies:
The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) determines eligibility for low-income children and families, aged persons, disabled persons, and persons seeking institutional care;
Florida Healthy Kids Corporation determines eligibility for MediKids.
The Florida Medicaid Summary of Services booklet is intended to be a quick reference to Medicaid services.
This summary provides an overview of Florida Medicaid services as well as information on Medicaid eligibility and managed care programs.
Everyone should refer to the Florida Medicaid Provider General Handbook or the service-specific Coverage and Limitations and Reimbursement Handbooks for more detailed information about Florida Medicaid. Listed below are some of the most used handbooks for individuals with Medicaid. The total list of Medicaid handbooks may be located at here.
The Purpose of the Child Health Check–Up program is to provide the following services to children from birth through age 20:
Comprehensive, preventive, well child care on a regularly scheduled basis;
Identification and correction of medical conditions before the conditions become serious and disabling; and
An entry into the health care system.
Home health services are medically necessary services, which can be effectively and efficiently provided in a recipient’s residence. Services include home health visits (nurse and home health aide), private duty nursing and personal care services for children, therapy services, medical supplies, and durable medical equipment.
The purpose of the therapy services program is to provide medically necessary physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), respiratory therapy (RT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) services to recipients from birth through age 20.
The therapy services program also provides services to recipients age 21 and older for SLP services pertaining to the provision of augmentative and alternative communication systems, and PT and OT services pertaining to wheelchair evaluations and fittings. These are the only services in the therapy program that Medicaid reimburses for adults.
The purpose of the Florida Medicaid Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care (PPEC) Services Program is to enable children with medically-complex conditions to receive medical care at a non-residential pediatric center. PPECs provide a cost effective and less restrictive alternative to private duty nursing (PDN) or institutionalization, and reduce the isolation that homebound children may experience. Private duty nursing may be provided as a wraparound alternative for an individual needing additional services, when PPEC is not available.
A PPEC is a non-residential facility that serves three or more children under the age of 21 who require short, long-term, or intermittent medical care due to medically-complex conditions. A PPEC offers services that meet the child’s physiological, developmental, nutritional, and social needs.
Elevator outages are of particular concern to Floridians with disabilities. Here are a few tips to help you when your condominium or apartment elevator stops working:
Contact your condominium association or maintenance company immediately to ensure that the elevator outage has been reported and to ask about what actions are being taken to expedite repair.
Inform your condominium association or maintenance company that you are a person with a disability and having use of a safe and well functioning elevator is a necessity and not a convenience. Put your concerns in writing.
Most condominium associations and apartment buildings contract with an elevator service to provide maintenance and emergency service. Keep in mind that it may take 24+ hours for an elevator technician to respond to the outage.
Be diligent and call each subsequent day that the elevator is out of service. Ask when the elevator is expected to be repaired and what specifically is being done to expedite the repair. Ask if repair parts have been ordered, if necessary, and when the parts will be picked up or delivered. Unfortunately, a broken elevator does take time to repair. Depending on the problem, it is not uncommon for a standard repair requiring new parts to take between 2-3 days.
Sometimes elevator repairs can take numerous days and even weeks or months to complete - especially in older buildings where parts are hard to find or complete replacements or upgrades might be required. If you are facing a lengthy delay, you may wish to:
Relocate temporarily to another unit or apartment on a lower level if one is available.
Discuss a strategy with management to minimize the duration of the outage. Perhaps work can be broken into sections with the elevator being operational intermittently.
Contact your local Emergency Rescue Department. Alert them of the issue and your concerns. They may be able to provide some assistance.
Contact your local Center for Independent Living to inquire about funding for temporary lodging.
The Low-Income Emergency Home Repair Program assists low income people, especially elderly individuals and people with physical disablilities, with the cost of repairs.
The eligiblity requirements for this program are the same as for the Weatherization Assistance Program. Priority is given to persons 60 years of age or older, and people who are physically disabled.
Covered repairs include:
Correcting structural deficiencies,
Repairing or replacing unsafe or nonfunctional space heating or water heating systems,
Improving accessibility or making repairs for the physically impaired,
Repairing plumbing to ensure safe drinking water and sewage disposal,
Repairing electrical wiring or fixtures,
Repairing deteriorating walls, floors, and roofs,
Making other interior or exterior repairs necessary for health and safety of the resident.
For more information visit
The Emergency Financial Assistance for Housing Program (EFAHP) assists families who are totally without shelter or face the loss of shelter because of non-payment of rent or mortgage.
It also helps families who have had household disasters such as fire, flood, or other accidents.
The program assists families with a one-time payment of up to $400. Eligibility requirements include:
At least one child under the age of 18 in household.
The household must live in Florida, or be working or looking for work in Florida.
At least one child or caretaker in the home must be a U. S. citizen or legal resident.
You must have proof of your housing emergency, for example, a copy of a court ordered eviction or foreclosure notice. In the event of a natural disaster such as fire or flood, the EFAHP office can make a telephone call to the sheriff's office, fire department, Department of Children and Families' office, etc., if you provide us with a phone number.
If you do not have enough money in your checking/savings accounts, or the cash to pay your rent or mortgage.
The total household income is compared to the State of Florida's need standard to decide whether the household is eligible.
All income received during the month you apply is considered, except for those household members who receive SSI.
If you are having financial problems, it must be due to a real emergency, and not from mishandling your money.
You must provide proof of your present living address. Examples include a rent receipt, utility bill, or other paperwork that lists the name of the head of household or other caretaker, and the present address.
Your application must be signed and dated.
For more information and to apply, please contact:
Department of Children and Families
Economic Self-Sufficiency Services Program Office
Emergency Financial Assistance for Housing Program
P.O. Box 7296
Tallahassee, Florida 32314-7296
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program assists eligible low-income households meet the costs of home heating and cooling.
Renters in foreclosed properties may face uncertainty through no fault of their own. If your landlord experiences foreclosure, you may be affected.
Fannie Mae offers renters whose landlords are in foreclosure several options through a program called the Tenant-in-Place rental program. The program provides renters the opportunity for greater stability or additional time to transition to new housing. For more information on program options, please visit Fannie Mae's Helping Tenants in Foreclosed Properties page.
Once you have learned about your legal rights and responsibilities, your self-advocacy may be successful. However, if you need further advice or assistance, you may want to contact one or more of the following agencies to request help.
You can also request help from Disability Rights Florida by contacting us at 1-800-342-0823 or visiting the Contact section of our website and filling out a contact/intake form.
HUD's mission is to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination.
Federal law prohibits housing discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability. If you have been trying to buy or rent a home or apartment and you believe your rights have been violated, you can file a fair housing complaint with HUD.
How to File a Fair Housing Complaint with HUD
If you think your rights have been violated, the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form is available for you to download, complete and return, or complete online and submit, or you may write HUD a letter, or telephone the HUD Office nearest you. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file it as soon as possible.
What to Tell HUD
Your name and address,
The name and address of the person your complaint is against (the respondent),
The address or other identification of the housing involved,
A short description of the alleged violation (the event that caused you to believe your rights were violated), and
The date(s) of the alleged violation.
Where to Write or Call
Send the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form or a letter to
Atlanta Regional Office of FHEO
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Five Points Plaza
40 Marietta Street, 16th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-2806
TTY (404) 730-2654
If You are an Individual with a Disability
HUD also provides:
A toll-free TTY phone for the hearing impaired: (800) 927-9275.
Tapes and Braille materials, and
Assistance in reading and completing forms.
What Happens when You File a Complaint?
HUD will notify you when it receives your complaint. Normally, HUD also will:
Notify the alleged violator of your complaint and permit that person to submit an answer,
Investigate your complaint and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the Fair Housing Act has been violated,
Notify you if it cannot complete an investigation within 100 days of receiving your complaint.
For more information on HUD, please visit the HUD website.
Florida Condominium Ombudsman
The Florida Office of the Condominium Ombudsman is a resource for condominium unit owners, board members, associations and others. Its duties include:
Make reports and recommendations.
Be a liaison between the government, unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties.
Develop policies and procedures to assist unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties to understand their rights and responsibilities.
Coordinate and disseminate educational material.
Monitor and review procedures and disputes concerning condominium elections or meetings.
Recommend changes in rules and procedures for how complaints are filed, investigated, and resolved.
Provide resources to assist members of boards of directors and officers of associations carry out their powers and duties.
Encourage and facilitate voluntary meetings with and between unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties to assist in resolving a dispute within a community association before a person submits a dispute for a formal or administrative remedy.
Be a neutral resource for both the rights and responsibilities of unit owners, associations, and board members.
If you live where there is a homeowners association, that organization may be able to assist with some housing related problems.
If you feel your association is failing to address your concerns or would like to learn more about the duties of a homeowners association, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations maintains information to assist homeowners, association board members and managers in understanding and increasing awareness of the operation of homeowners' associations.
Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities at rents they can afford.
Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single family houses to highrise apartments for the elderly.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers Federal aid to local public housing agencies. HUD furnishes technical and professional assistance in planning, developing and managing these developments.
Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) provide the day to day management of public housing for low-income residents.
Who is eligible?
Public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals. A PHA determines eligibility based on:
annual gross income,
whether the individual qualifies as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family and,
U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status.
PHAs use the income limits developed by HUD and they are based on the incomes for the county or area. HUD sets the lower income limits at 80% and very low income limits at 50% but the actual income limits vary from area to area, so eligibility may vary between PHAs.
The PHA also checks references about whether the applicant has been a responsible tenant in the past. The PHA will deny admission to an applicant whose habits and practices are irresponsible and may therefore be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project's environment.
The PHA serving your community can provide you with the income levels for your area and family size, or you can also find the income limits here on the internet.
How do I apply?
If you are interested in applying for public housing, contact your local PHA. If you have trouble contacting the PHA, contact the local HUD Field Office.
The Choice Voucher (formerly known as Section 8 vouchers) program is the major federal program that assists very low-income families, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.
Participants find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.
Participants are free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program.
Participants are not limited to units located in subsidized public housing projects.
Choice Vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs).
Participants are responsible for finding suitable housing and an landlord/owner who agrees to rent under the program. Participants do not have to move if their current landlord/owner agrees to rent under the program. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.
A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participant. The participant then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a participant may use the Choice Voucher to purchase a modest home.
Am I eligible for a Choice Voucher?
Eligibility for a voucher is determined by the PHA based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status.
In general, the family's income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law, a PHA must provide 75 percent of its voucher to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the area median income. Median income levels are published by HUD and vary by location.
During the application process, the PHA will collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. The PHA will verify this information with other local agencies, employers and banks, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment.
If the PHA finds an applicant eligible, the PHA will either assist immediately or put the participant on a waiting list.
Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)
The HOPWA Program addresses the specific needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
HOPWA makes grants to local communities, states, and nonprofit organizations for projects that benefit low income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families.
HUD's Office of HIV/AIDS Housing manages the HOPWA program in collaboration with the participating states and the Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) to provide guidance and program oversight.
Florida participates in HOPWA.
For more information, contact the closest CPD Office.
Charles Bennett Federal Building
400 West Bay Street, Suite 1015
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Phone: (904) 232-2627
Fax: (904) 232-3759
Office of Community Planning and Development
909 SE First Avenue
Miami, FL 33131
Phone: (305) 536-5678
Fax: (305) 536-5765
Some aspects of housing accessibility are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Title II of the ADA covers the activities of state and local governments. Title II requires "public entities to make both new and existing housing facilities accessible to persons with disabilities." Therefore, housing covered by Title II of the ADA includes housing operated by a state or local government entity, such as a State university campus or public housing authorities.
Title III of the ADA covers public accommodations. Therefore, Title III covers public and common use areas at housing developments when these public areas are open or available to the general public.
For example, Title III covers the rental office because it is open to the general public and a day care center or a community room if it is available to the general public.
Title III applies, regardless of whether the public and common use areas are operated by a federally assisted provider or by a private entity. However, if the community room or day care center were only open to residents of the building, Title III would not apply.
Please also sign up for our E-Newsletter to be notified when our comprehensive ADA topic page is complete.
Some aspects of housing accessiblity are covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Public housing and entities receiving housing choice vouchers are covered under the HUD regulations that implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Exceptions are made for a private landlord that accepts tenants through the housing choice voucher program.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination. It prohibits the exclusion of qualified individuals with a disability based solely on the reason of her or his disability, from participating in or being discriminated against under any program, service or activity receiving federal financial assistance. It also covers programs or activities conducted by any federal agency or by the United States Postal Service.
Some aspects of housing accessibility are covered by the Architectural Barriers Act.
The Architectural Barriers Act covers buildings or facilities financed in whole or in part by the federal government. It applies to public housing and buildings and facilities constructed with Community Development Block Grants. It requires that the buildings be designed, constructed, or altered to comply with legal standards that ensure accessibility for persons with physical disabilities. It does not apply to privately-owned housing.
The Architectural Barriers Act requires that covered buildings comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS).
In practice, if buildings meet the requirements of Section 504 and of Title II of the ADA, they will also satisfy the requirements of the Archtectural Barriers Act.
If you live in a mobile home and rent or lease the lot, you also have rights and responsibilities under the Florida Mobile Home Act.
If you need assistance moving your mobile home, you should also be aware of the Mobile Home Relocation Program.
Because of the high cost of moving a mobile home, the Mobile Home Relocation Program provides financial assistance to home owners who are displaced when the property, under certain circumstances, can no longer be used as a mobile home park.
To read the full Florida Landlord and Tenant Law, go to Chapter 83 of Florida Statutes at this link Landlord and Tenant Law.
If you are a renter or tenant and need assistance with a problem with a landlord, you may also request help from your local legal aid office. Locate the nearest legal aid office by visiting FloridaLawHelp.org.
Knowing your legal rights & responsibilities is the first step to ensuring that your rights are respected.
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act is the Fair Housing Act. The intent of the Fair Housing Act is to ban discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin and disability in most housing transactions. Families with children are also protected.
The new construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act apply if a building with four or more units was ready to live in after March 13, 1991:
Public and common areas must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs.
Each unit must have:
An accessible route into and through the unit,
Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls,
Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars, and
Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people who use wheelchairs.
If there is an elevator, the requirements apply to every floor and every unit.
If there is not an elevator, the requirements only apply to ground floor units.
A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, adaptation or modification to a policy, program or service that allows a person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling. The term also applies to public and common use spaces.
The Fair Housing Act requires owners and landlords to make reasonable accommodations if the accommodation is necessary to ensure that a person with a disability has equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling or space.
What are some examples of reasonable accommodations?
allowing a person with a disability to mail the rent instead of delivering it to the office;
assigning a parking space closest to the exit or unit to tenants with mobility disabilities;
allowing persons with disabilities to keep service or quality of life animals, despite a general "no pets" policy;
not counting a home health aide, therapist, nurse, etc. as an additional tenant or guest;
allowing a tenant to move to a more suitable unit when one becomes available;
releasing a tenant with disabilities, who must move because of his/her disability, from lease requirements.
A reasonable modification is a physical change made to a tenant or owner’s living space or to a common area that is necessary to ensure that the tenant or owner who has a disability has full enjoyment of the dwelling or space. Modifications are usually made at the tenant's or owner’s expense, except in the case of federally funded housing.
The Fair Housing Act requires owners and landlords to allow the reasonable modification of a living space of a person with a disabilityif the modification is necessary to ensure full enjoyment.
What are some examples of reasonable modifications?
building ramps over steps to allow wheelchair access
installing lever door openers instead of knob openers
widening door openings by installing swing-away hinges or wider pocket doors
installing grab bars and hand rails
installing wheelchair accessible shower stalls
changing tub faucets to an off-set location
removing under-the-sink cupboards in bathrooms
lowering light switches
Funds are often available to assist individuals to pay for modifications. Check with both your area Center for Independent Living and your city and county government to request financial assistance paying for a modification.
Request by Letter
Check with your housing provider, management company, Board of Directors or other governing/managing group to find out if there is a special way they want you to make your request.
If they have a specific form they require - use it! If no such form or special process exists, submit your request in writing by letter.
If you are requesting a reasonable accommodation, provide as much detail about the accommodation as possible. If you know about resources that can help the property manager or Board of Directors in providing the accommodation, you may want to include that information. For example, if you are requesting materials in Braille and know of a company that can provide the service at a reasonable cost, you can provide the company’s contact information.
If you are requesting permission to make a reasonable modification, include the following information in your letter or on your form:
• A full description of the intended modification.
• An assurance that the modifications will be done by a licensed professional and that the appropriate permits will be acquired.
Whether you use a form or a letter, send it using certified mail to the property manager and all members of the Board of Directors.
Keep copies of the forms and letters and the delivery confirmation.
Documentation of Need
Attach (or start preparing for later submission) documentation verifying that you are a person with a disability and that the accommodation or modification is necessary to afford you equal use/enjoyment of the premises.
Ask a healthcare provider to write and send the letter (on letterhead) to the property manager and/or Board of Directors and to you.
This letter should identify you as a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act and verify that, in the opinion of the author, you need the accommodation/modification in order to use the property as well as a person without a disability can use it.
If you are unsuccessful, there are organizations where you can request legal and advocacy assistance. Visit the Discrimination and Other Legal Problems section of this Disability Topic for information.
Housing - Rights, Responsibilities & Resources
For people with disabilities, acquiring and maintaining housing can be particularly challenging.
These pages will help you understand your housing rights, your responsibilities, and where you can seek additional resources.
For individuals with disabilities, assistive technology (AT) improves access to education, employment, independent living, recreation and participation in the community.
Visit our other Disability Topics pages to read about access to assistive technology services and devices through special education, Medicaid, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, or other programs.
If you need further information or support, you may request assistance from Disability Rights Florida.
The Florida Alliance for Assistive Technology and Services(FAAST) is the AT Act program in Florida, funded by Congress to increase access to and acquisition of assistive technology and services.Services include assistive technology financing for qualified borrowers, information and referral, device demonstrations and device lending, equipment reutilization, training and education and public awareness. Visit a Regional Demonstration Center or Satellite Partner location. 1-888-788-9216.
The Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are private, nonprofit corporations that provide services to maximize the independence of individuals with disabilities and the accessibility of the communities they live in. Centers provide, among other things, several core services: advocacy, independent living skills training, information and referral, peer counseling, and some may offer short term loans of equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes, as well as information on ramps and home modification.
The Bureau of Braille and Talking Book Libraryat the Division of Blind Services provides free services to individuals who have difficulty reading print due to a visual problem, a reading disability, or difficulty holding a book due to a physical disability. This bureau also administers the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) program, which allows high speed internet download of books and magazines to a computer.
The Florida Telecommunications Relay, Inc. (FTRI) provides free equipment such as amplified phones, captioned phones to individuals who qualify due to a hearing loss. FTRI offers a variety of amplified telephones to meet the needs of people with a mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss.
The Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource System (FDLRS) of the Florida Department of Education provides diagnostic, instructional and technology support services to district exceptional education programs and families and students with disabilities including the area of assistive technology.
AbleData provides objective information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources to consumers, organizations, professionals, and caregivers within the United States. AbleData is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), part of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) of the U.S. Department of Education.
Types of AT
AT devices are used for:
And to assist with:
participation in play or recreation
therapy or medical treatment
the use of public/private transportation
The AT Act defines "AT device" and "AT service" as follows:
AT Device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Some examples are durable medical equipment such as lifts, wheelchairs, speech communication devices, devices for hearing and vision, aids for daily living or recreation, etc.
AT Service means any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology service such as an evaluation of AT needs, customizing, maintaining, repairing, or replacing AT devices.
AT Act of 2004
The importance of assistive technology (AT) is at the heart of the Assistive Technology Act of 2004.
The AT Act promotes awareness and access to assistive technology devices and services.
The AT Act envisions that assistive technology will allow individuals with disabilities to fully participate in education, employment, health coverage and access to government services and businesses.
Congress found that over 54,000,000 individuals in the United States have disabilities, with almost half experiencing severe disabilities that affect their ability to see, hear, communicate, reason, walk, or perform other basic life functions.
Congress noted that disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to live independently; enjoy self-determination and make choices; benefit from an education; pursue meaningful careers; and enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural, and educational mainstream of society in the United States.
In passing the AT Act, Congress stated that technology is one of the primary engines for economic activity, education, and innovation in the Nation, and throughout the world.
To access the entire AT Act, visit the Links tab of this Disability Topic.
Disaster & Emergency Planning
Ready.gov -- Disaster Planning for Special Needs and Disabilities
A disaster or emergency can strike at any time - sometimes without warning.
Floridians, especially Floridians with disabilities who may need assistance with evacuation or while in a shelter, should plan ahead. Preparing while things are safe and calm will help you cope better when disaster or emergency happens.
Planning ahead includes learning about your rights and responsibilities as well as your options for shelter.
Whether to evacuate or stay in your home or at your current location is a very important decision. Your disaster plan should include options for both situations - evacuating or staying.
Consider your unique circumstances and the nature of the emergency. Use local officials and news outlets to learn if the danger is immediate. Use your best judgment - no one knows your needs as well as you do. If you are specifically ordered to evacuate, do it.
If your daily activities require additional travel time or transportation assistance, your disaster plan should include prior travel arrangements.
One of the most important roles of State and local government is to protect people from harm. This duty includes helping people obtain food and shelter during major emergencies.
Adequate public shelter is the responsibility of the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of Management Services, the Department of Health, local emergency management agencies and other agencies. Voluntary organizations such as the American Red Cross play a vital role.
If you are concerned that a shelter or Special Needs Shelter that you need to use is not accessible to you, you may request assistance from Disability Rights Florida.
Special Needs Shelters & Registries
Florida laws and rules provide for the operation and staffing of Special Needs Shelters and Registries. Visit the Links tab to access these laws and rules.
Under Florida law, a person shall be eligible for access to a Special Needs Shelter if they are a "person with special needs", they need more than the basic first aid provided at general population shelters, they are medically stable and their level of health can be maintained by the shelter's capacity, staffing and equipment. Special Needs Shelters may also accept persons who have greater needs. Additionally, the law requires that when a person with special needs who is not on the Special Needs Registry arrives at a Special Needs Shelter, that shelter must assess them for eligibility.
A "person with special needs" is defined as someone, who during periods of evacuation or emergency, requires sheltering assistance, due to physical impairment, mental impairment, cognitive impairment, or sensory disabilities.
The Department of Health, local health departments, American Red Cross chapters and local emergency managers have specific roles and responsibilties for various aspects of staffing, medical management, and operations.
The Special Needs Registries are required by Florida law to help identify individuals with disabilities who may need assistance during an emergency. Florida law requires all appropriate agencies and community-based service providers, including home health care providers, hospices, nurse registries, and home medical equipment providers, to assist individuals and collect their Special Needs Registry information as part of their program intake processes. Agencies and providers are required to educate their clients about the Special Needs Registry and procedures that may be necessary for safety during disasters.
Individuals who are clients of state or federally funded service programs and who have physical, mental, cognitive impairment, or sensory disabilities are required to register if they need assistance in evacuating, or when in shelters.
Special Needs Registries must maintain the confidentiality of people's informationexcept when a local emergency manager decides it is necessary to share a person's information with an emergency response agency such as the fire department or local law enforcement.
If you are having problems registering, you should ask a state agency or one of your service providers to assist you with the process. If the problems persist, you may also contact Disability Rights Florida to request assistance.
Pet & Service Animals
Whether you have a pet or a service animal, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities.
Federal and Florida law require that the Division of Emergency Management and local emergency managers develop strategies for the evacuation of people with pets as part of their shelter plans. Therefore, today many shelters do allow pets or make accommodations for pets. While every shelter is not required to accept pets, every county shelter plan must have a strategy in place to address the need. Visit the Links section to access these laws.
Preparing for your pet's health and safety during a disaster is part of responsible pet guardianship. Consider all of your options including relatives and friends outside of the evacuation area. For more information about planning and preparing for your pet during a disaster, visit Florida Pets website. The site has tips and information as well as lists of pet-friendly shelters, motels and hotels.
When a disaster strikes, or is about to strike, it is likely you will not have time to shop for essential items. Whether you are sheltering in place or need to evacuate, there are a number of basic items you will need at your disposal. That is why it is critical that every household assemble an emergency kit ahead of time and keep it current. You should review the contents of your kit at least once a year and refresh any expired or outdated items. Below is a list of basic items to include in your emergency kit, as well as items Floridians with disabilities should consider including.
Large Storage Container - to keep all of the supplies of the kit in one spot
Water - at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
Food - at least enough for 3 to 7 days, including:
- any special food needed for dietary purposes
- non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
- snack foods
- non-electric can opener
- cooking tools / fuel
- paper plates / plastic utensils
Written instructions regarding care and medication
- list of all medications and their dosages
- list of all doctors
- list of the types, specific model names and/or numbers, and the serial numbers of medical devices you use
First Aid Kit - medicines / prescription drugs including:
- an extra supply of required prescription medications (you should have medication for at least two weeks)
- extra oxygen if necessary
- adhesive bandages
- bug repellent
- burn cream
- pain relievers
- rubbing alcohol
- hydrogen peroxide
Extra Set of Eyeglasses and Hearing Aid Batteries
Blankets / Pillows, etc.
Clothing - seasonal /rain gear/ sturdy shoes
Toiletries - hygiene items / moisture wipes
Flashlights - each family member should have their own flashlight
Radio - a hand-cranked or solar powered radio is ideal; if using a battery operated radio, buy at least seven sets of batteries for the kit
Telephones - fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
Cash and Credit Cards - banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods; make sure cash is in small bills
Extra Set of Keys - home and car
Toys, Books and Games
Important documents - in a waterproof container or watertight re-sealable plastic bag
- extra copies of medical insurance documents and Medicare/Medicaid cards
- other insurance records (home, car, etc.)
- medical records
- bank account numbers
- Social Security card, etc.
Tools - keep a set with you during the storm; gather together sheets of plastic, tools, nails, duct tape and paint
Vehicle fuel tanks filled
Pet care items
- proper identification / immunization records / medications
- ample supply of food and water
- carrier or cage
- muzzle and leash
People with mobility disabilities should consider including the following in their emergency kit:
- Pair of heavy gloves to use while wheeling or making your way over glass and debris
- Extra battery for your motorized wheelchair or scooter
- Jumper cables or specific recharging device to be connected to an automobile's cigarette lighter
- Patch kit or can of "seal-in-air product" to repair flat tires
- Spare cane or walker
- Food, medicine, favorite toy, and other care items for your service animal
- Plastic bags, disposable gloves and other items for the animal's care
People with sensory disabilities should consider including the following in their emergency kit:
- Pad of paper with pens or pencils for writing notes
- Extra batteries for tape recorders, portable TTYs, etc.
- Extra pair of eye glasses
- Extra pair of dark glasses, if medically required
- Extra set of hearing-aid batteries
- Folding mobility cane
- Food, medicine and favorite toy for your service animal
- Plastic bags, disposable gloves and other items for the animal's care
People with developmental or cognitive disabilities should consider including the following in their emergency kit:
- Alternate power source or spare batteries for communication device
- Paper and writing materials
Make sure your Emergency Kit includes a list of all your medications, including your prescribed medications. List the name of the doctor who wrote the prescription, the name of the drug or medication, the amount to take and the name and location of your pharmacy. It is important to have your prescription medications in your Emergency Kit, but what if your insurance company says it is too early for a refill?
Florida's Emergency Prescription Refill law guarantees you access to a refill during a disaster if your county:
Is currently under a hurricane warning issued by the National Weather Service
Is declared to be under a state of emergency in an executive order issued by the governor, or
Has started its emergency operations center and its emergency management plan
The Emergency Prescription Refill law also allows individuals elsewhere in the state to access an emergency 72-hour refill.
Please talk with your doctor and pharmacist in advance about how the Emergency Prescription Refill law can help you.
Visit these websites for more information and resources:
Title III - Medical Professionals & the Rights of People who are Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing
If you are a medical professional, you have an obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide equivalent services to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are deaf and/or hard of hearing.
You must ensure that your patients and customers are not treated differently due to their disability or hearing loss. You must provide reasonable accommodations to ensure effective communication. Reasonable and necessary accommodations (such as auxiliary aids and services) should be determined on a case-by-case basis. A few examples of auxiliary aids and services are Sign Language Interpreters, written notes, or Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART).
The communication preference of your patient or customer should be taken into consideration when determining which auxiliary aid you will provide. The method chosen should be effective for both parties.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination in the workplace. Title I has been designed to address and remove barriers to employment so individuals with disabilities can enjoy the same employment opportunities as people without disabilities.
A qualified individual with a disability has a right to engage in America’s workforce free of discrimination by businesses with 15 or more employees.
For additional information on the ADA and reasonable accommodations, visit these websites:
The Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST)
(850) 487-3278 (voice)
(850) 922-5951 (TDD) http://www.faast.org/
Looking for a Job?
Contact these resources for further assistance:
EmployFlorida is a network of workforce services, resources, and job openings from over 100 One-Stop Centers in Florida. Call them toll free at 1-866-352-2345 or visit http://www.employflorida.net
The Employer Assistance & Recruiting Network (EARN) has a database of jobs from companies interested in hiring qualified individuals with a disability. Contact them at 1-866-327-6669 or visit http://www.earnworks.com
The Able Trust is a non-profit public/private partnership whose goal is to help Floridians with disabilities in achieving employment. Contact them at 1-888-838-ABLE (toll-free in Florida) / (850) 224-4493 (voice or TDD) http://www.abletrust.org/links/ada.shtml
The Chamber of Commerce for Persons with Disabilities, Inc., mission is to help persons with disabilities and their direct caregivers to form and grow businesses. Visit them at http://disabilitychamber.org
For additional information about other workplace issues, such as unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, wage and hour laws, and the Family Medical Leave Act, you can contact the phone numbers/websites below.
ADA Coordinators are responsible for coordinating how a government entity (such as a county) complies with Title II of the ADA. ADA Coordinators are also responsible for investigating complaints filed alleging that the entity has violated Title II of the ADA.
If a government entity has 50 or more employees, it is required to designate at least one employee to coordinate ADA compliance. A government entity may elect to have more than one. The law does not refer to this employee as an “ADA Coordinator,” but the term is commonly used in state and local government. Most counties and courts in Florida have a designated ADA Coordinator.
To learn more about the ADA oblilgations of government entities such as counties and courts, please visit www.ada.gov.
The name, office address, and telephone number of the ADA Coordinator must be provided to interested persons.
Here is a list of the ADA Coordinators for Floridas Counties and Courts.
Abuse is a willful action by a caretaker that results in injury or harm.
Neglect is an error by a caretaker which is a serious disregard of responsibility.
Exploitation is the act of taking unfair advantage of a person by a caretaker.
In the State of Florida, allegations of abuse, neglect, or exploitation are primarily investigated by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) after receiving a complaint from the Florida Abuse Hotline. The Florida Abuse Hotline contact telephone number is: 1-800-962-2873.
A. The Florida Abuse Hotline will accept a report when:
There is reasonable cause to suspect that a childcannot be located in Florida, or is temporarily out of the state but expected to return in the immediate future,
A child has been harmed or is believed to be threatened with harm,
Made by a person responsible for the care of the child.
Any vulnerable adult who is a resident of Florida or currently located in Floridais believed to have been abused or neglected by a caregiver in Florida, or
A vulnerable adult is suffering from the ill effects of neglect by self and is in need of service, or
A vulnerable adult is exploited by any person who stands in a position of trust or confidence, or any person who knows or should know that a vulnerable adult lacks capacity to consent, or any person who obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, a vulnerable adult’s funds, assets or property.
TELEPHONE:1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873) TDD (Telephone Device for the Deaf):1-800-453-5145 FAX:1-800-914-0004
Depending upon the allegations and the resources available, Disability Rights Florida will determine if it will conduct a secondary investigation or take no action. You can call Disability Rights Florida toll-free at 1-800-342-0823.
You are entitled to equal rights under the law. Educate yourself with reliable information.
Contact Disability Rights Florida to request information about your rights.
Use libraries, the internet, e-mail groups, and social networking. Put yourself on mailing lists.
If you need an accommodation, ask for it.
Use peer-run, family and community support programs, referral or crisis hotlines, advocacy groups, and service providers.
Attend classes or workshops.
If you do not understand information or explanations provided, say so.
3. Discuss Your Questions and Concerns
Prepare. Write an outline of your concerns. Write down your questions.
Raise your questions and concerns by phone, in person or by writing a letter. Use e-mail and on-line forms to start a conversation about your concerns.
Schedule a meeting. Speaking to someone in person can be an effective way to advocate for yourself. Plan what you are going to say. Practice with friends, with a tape recorder, or even in front of the mirror. Dress for the occasion and be on time. You may bring someone along for support.
Be polite. Introduce yourself and anyone with you. Learn and use other people’s names when you communicate. State your concerns clearly and simply. Ask politely for what you want.
Listen carefully to the explanations and answers given. If you do not understand something, ask for clarification.
Write down the name of each person you spoke with and their contact information.
Send a follow up note listing your understanding of any agreements reached or next steps decided during the conversation or meeting. Keep a copy for your records.
4. Be Effective on the Phone
Before you call, write down the key points you want to say and your most important questions. Stay calm and be polite. Keep your message clear and focused.
Try to make your call in a place without distractions. If you must leave a voice message, keep it brief and make sure to include your name and a contact number where you will be available to accept a call.
Be willing to listen. What you hear may be as important as what you say.
Always get the name and position of the person you are talking to. Ask when he/she will get back to you or when you can expect action.
If this person cannot help you, ask who can. Thank the person for being helpful.
Keep a record of your call and follow up!
5. Put it in Writing
Write a letter or send an e-mail about your request or concern. Provide information in writing. Keep it short and to the point. Begin and end your letter or e-mail by stating your request or concern.
If you need others to become aware of the situation, you may send copies of your letter or e-mail to supervisors or advocacy groups.
Only copy your letter or e-mail to people who can assist you. Be cautious with sharing confidential information.
When you circulate a letter or e-mail to other people, put “cc” (copies circulated) at the bottom of the letter with a list of the people you sent copies. If you are sending an e-mail, list the names of other people in the “cc” line of the e-mail.
In some instances, you may want to contact your legislators or include them in the people you copy with your letter or e-mail.
Keep a copy for your records.
6. Get Information and Decisions in Writing
If someone tells you something, ask them to put it in writing or send you documentation.
If they tell you something is a law, policy or procedure, ask for a copy.
If you disagree with a decision, ask for it in writing along with the reasons for the decision.
7. Use the Chain Of Command
If you feel you are not getting a straight answer, thank the person for their time and ask to speak to someone else who can address your concerns.
Use the organization’s chain of command to help you find the supervisor or other person you need to communicate with.
8. Know Your Appeal Rights and Responsibilities
If you do not get a satisfactory decision, ask what you need to do next to resolve the dispute or appeal the decision. Most organizations and government agencies are required to have a process to review decisions.
Request clear written information about the dispute resolution process and your right to appeal a decision you believe is wrong. Be sure you understand your responsibilities.
9. Follow Up and Say Thank You
Keep track of key deadlines and time frames. Follow up.
Remember to thank people along the way. Recognize those individuals that provided helpful information and good service.
10. Ask For Help
If you need assistance resolving a dispute, contact Disability Rights Florida or another advocacy or community organization to request information or assistance.
Advocacy 101 - Challenging an Agency’s Denial or Reduction of Your Medicaid Services
This Disability Topic and the related e-booklet titled Advocacy 101 both explain the steps required to challenge a denial or reduction of a Medicaid State Plan or Medicaid Waiver service. Medicaid services are provided through the Medicaid State Plan and various home and community based services programs called Medicaid Waivers.
The tabs below are a condensed version for easy reference. If you would like more information, please download Advocacy 101, the comprehensive e-booklet from Disability Rights Florida.
As a person with disabilities, you have a legal right to both Notice of and Appeal from an agency decision to reduce or deny your Medicaid services.
These appeals occur in administrative hearings conducted by the Department of Children and Families’ Office of Appeals Hearings (OAH).
The person whose Medicaid services were reduced or denied is called the Petitioner.
The letter denying or reducing your services is called a Denial Notice and it is your guide to requesting a hearing. The Denial Notice should contain the reason for denial/reduction, specific services denied or reduced, how you can challenge this, the deadlines for doing so, and contact names and addresses.
The Denial Notice includes the deadline for requesting a hearing.
Specifically, the notice will give the number of days from the date of the notice that the Petitioner has to request a hearing.
If you want to continue receiving preexisting services until the date of the hearing, you must request a hearing within 10 days from the date of the Denial Notice. However, if you have requested a new service that the agency has denied, you cannot receive that service during the appeals process.
The request for a hearing should be made in writing. This written request for a hearing is called a Petition.
Send your written request for a hearing directly to the agency at the address given in the Denial Notice.
The agency will forward your Petition to the Office of Appeal Hearings (OAH), and your case will be assigned to a hearing officer who will preside over your hearing.
You will receive a letter that includes the hearing officer’s name and contact information, the name of the agency representative assigned to your case, and your case number. Keep this letter for your reference.
The hearing officer will send a Notice of Hearing to you, providing the date, time, duration, and location of the hearing.
You have a right to be present at a hearing either in person or telephonically. If the Notice of Hearing indicates one and you prefer the other, communicate that to your hearing officer as soon as possible.
Record the date, time, and place of the hearing and share that information with your witnesses.
If you cannot attend the scheduled hearing because of an emergency, you may request a continuance. A continuance means that a hearing is re-scheduled for a later date.
If you need a continuance, you should submit your request to the hearing officer and send a copy to the agency at least 5 days before the scheduled hearing.
Do not assume that the hearing officer granted the continuance if you have not received an order granting a continuance. If you have not received an order, contact the hearing officer’s assistant to find out the status of your request.
Start preparing for the hearing as soon as you request it. Collect information through documents, witnesses and discovery.
Thoroughly review the Denial Notice and notice the reason(s) that the agency gave for denying or reducing the Petitioner’s services. During the hearing, your focus will be presenting documents and witness testimony to prove that the agency’s reason(s) for denying or reducing the services were wrong.
Research the laws and administrative rules that apply to your case. Remember that the hearing officer has to base her or his decision on the applicable law. Visit the Links tab where links to many of the major laws and rules are provided.
Compile all the documents that you believe will support your need for the services; this includes medical records, information from service providers, support plans, or any other relevant information.
Formally preparing for the hearing is a process called discovery. During discovery, both you and the agency exchange information that is going to be included in your hearing. Discovery allows you to request from the agency your file and any documents the agency considered to make its decision. Conversely, if the agency requests information from you, you must respond to the agency’s request within 30 days of receiving it.
The more organized and prepared you are for the hearing, the more smoothly you will present your case and the less nervous you will feel during the hearing.
During the hearing, you may present documents, charts, photos and other evidence known as exhibits. Before the hearing date, both you and the agency will send an exhibit list to each other and the presiding officer.
Both you and the agency may have witnesses testify at your hearing, and you and the agency must provide each other and the hearing officer a list of all witnesses and their contact information before the hearing date. Your witnesses should be people who have direct contact with you or the Petitioner, including family members, doctors, or service providers who personally know about your disability, how it impacts your ability to perform daily activities and your need for services. Make sure to give your witnesses the date, time, and location of the hearing and make sure they can be at the location at that time.
Before the hearing, practice asking your witnesses questions to make them more familiar with what to expect at the hearing and also to let you know what their answers are likely to be.
An administrative hearing is less formal than a trial.
The hearing officer will guide you through the process, and you should ask any appropriate questions. If you are not sure, ask the hearing officer politely if you may speak or ask a question.
In a hearing, the party with the burden of proof presents its version of the case first by examining witnesses and exhibits. If the agency has the burden of proof, the agency first asks questions of its own witnesses—this is called direct examination. At the end of the first party’s presentation, the other party presents its case.
During the hearing, you should carefully listen to the agency’s questions and the witnesses’ answers. You may take notes, if appropriate, because after the agency finishes questioning its witnesses, you will have an opportunity to question each witness.
The presiding officer also may question either party’s witnesses.
Either side can object to questions asked by the other party. Direct your objection to the hearing officer and state plainly why you think the question is inappropriate.
Do not become combative or argue with witnesses, the agency representative or the hearing officer.
At the end of the hearing, the hearing officer will not immediately make a decision. Instead, the hearing officer has a specific amount of time after the hearing to issue a written decision.
Recommended & Final Orders
The hearing officer’s written decision will be called either a Final Order or Recommended Order with findings of fact and conclusions of law. If the hearing officer finds that the agency’s decision was wrong, the Order also will include a remedy.
If the hearing officer files a Recommended Order, the agency that issued the initial determination from which you are appealing will then draft a Final Order which either accepts or rejects the hearing officer’s rulings.
If the final decision is not in your favor, within 30 days of the date of the final order you have the right to appeal this decision to an appropriate District Court of Appeal.
Visit these websites for more information and resources: