Summer Fun and Discrimination against Kids (with or without disabilities)!


By: Matthew Dietz

A graphic with a white background and black text that reads keep calm and no kids allowed with a crown above it

Unless the housing facility is a qualified 55 and over housing development, a housing provider cannot have rules that treat children differently, and less favorably than adults. When the US Congress amended the Fair Housing Act in 1988, it prohibited housing practices that discriminate on the basis of familial status.When it amended the Act, Congress recognized that “families with children are refused housing despite their ability to pay for it.” In addition, Congress cited a HUD survey that found 25% of all rental units exclude children and that 50% of all rental units have policies that restrict families with children in some way. The HUD survey also revealed that almost 20% of families with children were forced to live in less desirable housing because of restrictive policies. Congress recognized these problems and sought to remedy them by amending the Fair Housing Act to make families with children a protected class. So any rules, that do not have a legitimate safety justification, cannot indicate a “preference, limitation, or discrimination” against children under the age of 18. This includes rules that prohibit children from common areas in the facility with or without supervision, or limit the facilities of the housing development to adults. All rules must apply to children and adults equally, and cannot solely target children’s behavior.

If rules have a legitimate safety rationale, then such rules may be legitimate. But, again rules such as all children under sixteen must be supervised by an adult does not have a safety rationale, but a discriminatory basis against loud teenagers. On the other hand, a fifteen year old at a gym may injure him or herself on free weights without having supervision.

Summer camp must be inclusive

Over the past fifteen years, I have had several cases involving children who were not permitted to go to the summer camp of their choice, or were segregated in the summer camp because of the child’s disabilities. A summer camp, like any other public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, must provide reasonable accommodations for campers with disabilities, and must not segregate them from othJordan4er students. Camps operated by governmental entities or colleges have a broader duty to accommodate campers with disabilities than some private entities that do
not have the same resources as a governmental entity. Examples of situations which I have encountered over the years are as follows:

  • Children who are Deaf – Deaf kids have the right to a qualified sign language interpreter for all programs and services of a camp that involve communication that is long, complex, or important. Examples of this would be instructions on how to play a complicated game, story time, puppet shows, and educational instruction. If there are games that involve communication, then an interpreter would be appropriate so the Deaf child is included.
  • Autistic kids – If a child who lives with autism has a one-on-one aide at school, for the same reasons, that child may need a one-on-one aide at a camp. Further, if a child needs further instruction in a game, or assistance with social interactions, that would be an accommodation that must be provided.
  • Kids who have a medical condition such as Diabetes – If a child has a medical condition, or needs assistance with a medical condition, such as diabetes or HIV, then the question is whether the child poses a direct threat to his or her own health or the safety of others. If a child needs minor assistance with a medical condition, or can manage his or her own medical needs and monitoring, a camp cannot discrimiJordan2nate against these children.
  • Kids with mobility impairments or other physical disabilities – Camps, like any other public accommodations, must have their facility accessible to children with disabilities. Older camps must do modifications that are readily achievable, easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense, and those camps altered or built after 1991 must be constructed accessibly. The camp is also responsible for making reasonable accommodations for campers with disabilities, which may involve some personal services, such as assistance in dressing, if similar services are available for able bodied campers.
  • Kids with allergies – Kids who have allergies cannot be excluded from camps, and camps must be prepared to exclude certain allergens to accommodate a camper, and be trained in the event a camper has an allergic reaction. It would not be unreasonable to expect camp counselors to learn how to administer epinephrine auto-injector (“Epi-pen”) shots and dispense asthma medication, assist in administering Diastat for seizures in emergencies or otherwise teach camp counselors in basic first aid or CPR.

Parents can choose to send their child to a segregated camp, because some camps may provide special skills or advantages for children with disabilities, but the choice of going to a specialized camp is a choice, such as camps where all children are deaf.
However, all children may not be able to go to integrated camps. For example, there may be children with developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities who would not be able to care for themselves at a sleep-away camp, and it would be a fundamental alteration of the camp’s programs to develop a program for one child’s disability. Further, if a child is dependent on mechanical supports, a camp would not be required to hire medical personnel to accommodate medically complex children. For these kids specialized camps are a phenomenal way to get out and enjoy the community. For example, Nicklaus Children’s hospital operates the VACC camp for technologically dependent children which includes swimming, field trips to local attractions,campsite entertainment, structured games, “free play”, to promote family growth and development while enhancing these kids’ self-esteem and social skills.

It’s so damn hot – my kid has asthma and needs an air conditioner

Last year, we represented a mother who had a child who lived in HUD-subsidized low-income housing. Asthma is often triggered by inhalation of air particles that contain allergens such as pollen, mold spores, dust mite droppings and animal dander. Air conditioners contain filters that collect and store these particles, keeping intake to minimum. Air conditioning also helps eliminate humidity on hot Florida nights which enables mold and algae to grow much more rapidly than it could if it were living in dry air. Some children and adults suffer from asthma to the degree that not having air conditioning may result in serious harm and hospitalization. Requesting to install an air conditioner unit in a home or apartment would be a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability.

According to the Fair Housing Act, a tenant with a disability can request a reasonable modification. According to HUD Guidance, “A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of dwellings and to common and public use areas.” Under the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider must permit the modification, the tenant is responsible for paying the cost of the modification. If the housing provider is a public housing authority or a housing provider that receives federal financial assistance, the modification must be paid for by the housing provider unless providing the modification would be an undue financial and administrative burden.
Another example modifications can be a pool lift!

Discrimination in Pool Rules

  • No inflatable flotation devices.
  • Water wings, swimmies, floats, bathing suits rings, and other inflatable devices are not permitted in the pools.
  • Absolutely no dogs allowed in pool area

Also, under the Fair Housing Act, persons with disabilities can ask for “reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford … person(s) [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” So when a person is required to use water wings, floats, special swimming devices, they can do so. In order to request an accommodation, the person needing an accommodation should ask the housing provider, and if the disability is not obvious, then the person may need to obtain verification from a doctor, therapist, or any other provider verifying the disability and need for the accommodation.

In addition, “no dogs allowed” rules do not apply to service or emotional support animals, where their presence is necessary for the person with a disability equal use and enjoyment of the premises. The Fair Housing Act and the ADA does not override public health rules that prohibit dogs in swimming pools. However, service animals must be allowed on the pool deck and in other areas where others are allowed to go.

Miami Is Kind Foundation: “Let’s put Autism and developmental disabilities to work”


By: Silvia Planas Prats

a boy looking confusedLetting go of her career at DuPont from Barcelona, in Spain and moving to Miami, FL was not easy, but Silvia knows it was the most important decision of her life. Marc is now an adorable 12 year old boy that just happens to have autism. He loves riding his bike, dancing to Michael Jackson and baking. He’s come a long way with the help of the Miami-Dade County Public School system.
But Silvia soon questioned what does the future hold for Marc and young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities (DD)? The challenge begins after they turn 22. She quickly realized that employment opportunities looked bleak. “Companies seldom hire adults with two people bakingAutism/DD. I will not sit and wait for companies to change their hiring policies. Instead, I have created solution. I’m a true believer that hard work determines who we are as individuals in society and that every member of society—including adults with autism, DD —should have the chance to excel and contribute.” Silvia decided to take this employment challenge head on, and opened Miami Is Kind, an industrial bakery determined to be the first factory for professionals with autism, DD in South Florida.

Miami Is Kind will employ bakers, packers, warehouse operators, customer service reps and dispatchers that have autism or other disabilities. Silvia knows that with adequate instruction, a properly structured workplace, and an enjoyable learning atmosphere, young adults with autism, DD can excel at a workplace and can make the companies they work for profitable.
“It will be a social revolution that will give job opportunities and hope to so many young adults with autism and other DD in Miami. Through our success, we will inspire other companies to follow similar paths and allow society to appreciate their capabilities.”
“Miami Is Kind vision is to help individuals with autism, DD strive for independent living, fulfilling their dreams and personal
choices with their salaries” The program serves all socio cultural backgrounds and ethnicities and all the colors of the spectrum. Each individual will be assigned tasks that better match their interest and skills. Some contribute to the packing and shipping parts of the Business program, while others might support selling or marketing and others will bake.
Miami Is Kind Foundation employs two bakers, sells online to all U.S. in and as of October 2015, is based at Joanna’s Marketplace 8247 S Dixie Hwy, Miami, FL 33143.
pillowboxesThe first product line is Gluten Free deliciously healthy Macaroons in a variety of flavors and packaging sizes. They are sweet but not too sweet. Let almonds and sweet potato surprise you! If you’d like supporting Miami Is Kind Mission you can subscribe in the “how can you help” section in their website and you will monthly receive some European Style pillow boxes of Macaroons at your doorstep. You can also buy in “products” section any of your favorites Macaroon’s flavors. They are delicious for all the family, for on the go snaking and they are the perfect gift.

Know Your Legal Rights


By: Matthew Dietz

On Saturday, September 20th, I had the opportunity to put on my professor hat and teach Criminal Procedure 101 to a very eager class of persons at the University of Miami. No, not for law students at the Law School, but instead for a class teens and young adults who have Autism and their parents.

A systemic problem in our community, and communities throughout the United States, is that police do not identify that certain behaviors of Autistic people are not indicative of criminal behavior. Disability Independence Group, UM/NSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and Lt. Bart Barta of the Coral Gables Police Department developed a program to assist both Autistic people to self-identify when encountering a police person, and the police in how to identify a person who may have Autism. The seminar is just one part of the program, and the other portion is a video that presents scenarios that may occur in police interactions and a wallet card that an Autistic person can use as a tool to self-identify to the police. For more information, please go to our website at

Shark Tank Update…


By: Debbie Dietz  

We have finished filming the video and we are now in the editing stage.  The video looks amazing!  We want to thank all of our actors.  They did an amazing job.

You can order your own wallet card for free on our website at:

Just fill out the online form and we will have them mailed to you within a week.  If you want to customize the card, please add the details in the comments section.

Autism CARES Act Renewed


By: Deborah Dietz

President Obama signed the Autism CARES Act last month. The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act of 2014, or Autism CARES Act, will reauthorize the Combating Autism Act for the next five years. The law will allow for $260 million annually for autism research, prevalence tracking, screening, professional training and other initiatives. The new law will also require that a point person be designated within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to oversee autism research, services, and support activities.

The Interagency Autism Coordinated Committee (IACC) will be expanded to include family members and self-advocates and there is a mandate to create a new report that focuses on the needs of young adults and youth during transition.

This is a very good news for the autism community. Stay tuned for more information in the future.

A note from Matt….


By: Matthew Dietz

Part of the goal of Disability Independence Group is to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities. This month, you will read about how we ensured how Cheylla Silva received interpreters for the emergency birth of her daughter, Zoey, and how we are working to ensure safe police interactions between Autistic people and the police. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us!

In Memory of Dr. Robin Parker


By: Lester Langer

Dr. Robin Parker recently passed away at age 50 from pancreatic cancer. She was a leader in unlocking the mysteries of autism.

I did not know Dr. Parker, but I wish that I had met her. Her work in designing apps that allow children and young adults to merge into mainstream society will live long after her. It is her legacy to us all.

I explored her website, PRAACTICAL AAC. It is filled with articles and apps that can assist parents, children, and young adults in developing a better way to process and use information. Her universal design will help all people with and without disabilities to function and interact better with others. The site is easy to navigate, and it contains useful, everyday advice. There are many apps on the site, like “Every Move Counts,” which is about empowerment, and “PRAACTICAL Tips,” which is about building communication and literacy skills. There is so much more to see and learn.

In honor of Dr. Parker, I encourage all of our readers to take a spin on PRAACTICAL AAC, and share with us your thoughts and experiences. You will be glad you did.




For over 43 years, Broward Children’s Center, Inc. has been a haven for children and young adults with disabilities in Pompano Beach, Florida. Founded in 1971, the program serves children with varied disabilities from all walks of life, which include autism, disabilities from birth, accidents, shaken baby syndrome, lightning strikes and other traumatic events which may have occurred in their lives. Programs and services include three developmental preschools, a Children’s Comprehensive Care Center, two Group Homes, a Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care Center, Home Health, a Center for Innovative Technology, Nutrition Program and Respite Services for families.

(click here to read more) 


Members of Broward Children's Center visit a museum and observe a dinosaur skeleton. Kids and caretakers participate in a luau at Broward Children's Center.