Disability Rights Nation

Jan. 17-31
From Ragged Edge's
D. R. Nation department Jan./Feb., 1999

Kenneth Jernigan dies at age 71

ADAPT gets parties' committment on 'institutional bias'

'Disability on national media agenda' is goal
of new ASAP! venture

Media directory available

Advocates at Rally Vent Frustration
with Special Education

by David Tilbury

As budget negotiations drew to a close and the president and Congress wrestled over the number of additional teachers to be hired and whether school buildings could be repaired or renovated, advocates for disabled children gathered in Washington to call for an end to "special segregation." Disability radio talk-show personality Greg Smith of On A Roll hosted the October 11 event which was designed to bring national attention to a segment of the school population that disability rights advocates claim has been neglected and ignored too long.

Two advocacy groups, The Association for the Severely Handicapped (TASH) and the Mighty Alliance for Independence Now (MAIN) called for an end to "special education as we know it," as well as the enforcement of the inclusion priorities set out in the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act of 1975 The law mandates that children with disabilities be educated alongside nondisabled peers "to the maximum extent appropriate". Special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment should only occur "when the nature or severity of the disability of the child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily," says the law.

For many parents, these words ring hollow. Advocates say IDEA objective are far from being realized in most school districts, and note increasing resentment toward IDEA from states that view the law as simply another example of Washington dictating national education policy. Parents, meanwhile, express frustration with an existing funding system that rewards school districts that provide separate facilities for disabled students.

Parents brought their frustrations, defeats and victories from as far away as Wisconsin and Arizona. Mary Parks is one who made the trek. Her grandson receives home-schooling because the school district in Hazlehurt, Mississippi, has refused to allow him to attend school. "There is absolutely no inclusion," complains Parks. Even after a due process hearing, the school board refused to provide an aide, a speech therapist or a physical therapist for the child to attend school, said Parks. "Due process hearings favor the educational system over the needs of students and parents," she said.

Noel Massey, a mother of two sons with disabilities from Granada, Mississippi, says, "We need inclusion so our children can learn at higher standards. There is a tendency to lower the goals in a disabled classroom. My son's self-contained classroom held him back from realizing his full potential."

Mandy Rogers' battle for her child in Madison, Mississippi, had a happy ending after her intense efforts as an informed advocate paid off. She took her son's story to the media, attended school board meetings and tutored her child so he would not fall behind. The school board finally included her son in more substantive classes after Rogers discovered that he had been evaluated by a psychologist without her knowledge or consent.

Many speakers threatened to vote out incumbents if they ever decide to weaken the inclusion goals of IDEA. "We recognize a need to show our power and renew our demand to have the 25-year-old law enforced," warned TASH's Marcie Roth. © Copyright 1998 The Disability News Service, Inc.

Kenneth Jernigan dies at age 71

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, president of the National Federation of the Blind from 1968 to 1986, died Oct. 12 from lung cancer. He was 71. Under his leadership, the NFB gained national prominence in speaking out for the rights of blind people. Jernigan led the much-publicized fight to allow blind airline passengers to sit in exit rows. He was known to insist that " 'The real problem of blindness is not loss of eyesight, but misunderstanding and lack of information."

Jernigan taught English at the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville from 1949 to 1953. As president of the Federation, he wrote countless articles and speeches, edited the Braille Monitor, the largest-circulation journal in the blindness field, from 1978 to 1993, and also edited the federation's large type Kernel Book series. Among his accomplishments in recent years was the creation of the Newsline for the Blind Network, a call-in service for blind people to hear text versions of major US daily newspapers, and creation of the International Braille and Technology Center at NFB Baltimore headquarters.

'Campaign for Real Choice' expands
ADAPT gets parties' committment
on 'institutional bias'

The Medicaid Community Attendant Services Act, which ADAPT has been pushing in Congress, was on the back burner during the group's blitz of the nation's capitol Nov. 1-5. ADAPT's "Campaign for Real Choice" is about "more than just passing MiCASA," says national organizer Mike Auberger.

The day before national elections, ADAPT took over both Democratic and Republican headquarters demanding parties develop a plank noting the current institutional bias in Medicaid and adopting "home and community-based services as a first priority in long-term care funding" and enforcing the ADA mandate that services be provided in the "most integrated setting". Both parties have agreed to meet with ADAPT; a letter from the Democratic National Committee promises the group will "work to develop, promote, and pass legislation in the 106th Congress that will allow people with disabilities, regardless of age, or diagnosis . . . to choose and control where and how long-term services and supports are delivered."

Activists surrounded the US Dept. of Health & Human Services building on Independence Ave. on Day 2; four hours later, officials had agreed to meet with ADAPT by January 3 to develop a transition plan for state compliance with the ADA's "most integrated setting" mandate.

MiCASA is scheduled for re-introduction in early 1999. ADAPT is urging activists to visit or write congressional representatives urging them to "sign onto the new bill." For more information, contact ADAPT at 512/442-0252.
This story was reported by Jennifer Burnett.

"Disability on national media agenda"
is goal of new ASAP! venture

Disability issues affect millions of Americans. Yet in stories about housing, education, employment, health care, computer technology, the disability perspective is usually missing.

"We intend to change that," says Cyndi Jones, director of the new Accessible Society Action Project of Exploding Myths, Inc. Funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the project will focus public attention on disability and independent living issues. "The goal is to put disability on the agenda of the national media,"says Jones.

ASAP! as the project will be known, will disseminate information developed through NIDRR-funded research to promote independent living. "The people who need this information are not getting it," says Jones. "Most people--including most disabled people--get their information through the mass media." ASAP! will focus on "agenda-setting media"--that "elite group of newspapers, magazines and broadcasting programs that sets the agenda for media throughout the nation." Others working on the ASAP! project include William Stothers, editor of Mainstream magazine and Mary Johnson, editor of Ragged Edge.

ASAP! will work to develop a "pool of articulate spokespersons to serve as expert sources for the media," said a news release from the group. Exploding Myths, Inc. is a media enterprise company that publishes Mainstream magazine.

Accessible Society website

Media directory available

The 1998-99 edition of America's Telability Media, published by the National Telability Media Center in Columbia, Missouri, contains more than 1,200 listings of disability newsletters, television and radio programs. Each listing includes contact information, postal, Web site and e-mail addresses, telephone numbers. Listings also provide circulation information. (Information as of Aug. 2005: Get the directory at http://www.towson.edu/~bhalle/telability.html.

For people without Internet access, the directory in print is $30 (mailing labels also can be purchased on disk for $125, for unlimited use) from Charlie Winston, Telability Media, P.O. Box 1488, Columbia, MO 65205-1488; (573) 445-7656 (voice). Make checks payable to Telability Media © 1998 The Disability News Service, Inc.

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