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  • Bush Budget: $1.75 Billion For Community
  • OH To Close An Institution
  • Crip who tried to stop Super Bowl calls effort "victory"
  • Fair Board Changes Ruling Re: Teen
  • Health Clubs Not Accessible, Study Shows
  • Teacher Continues Fight For Former Job
  • Advocates: 'March in March to save Olmstead!'
  • Fair Board Blocks Disabled Teen
  • Company Pulled Job Offer Over Disability
  • SC Gov. Apologizes For State's Eugenics Past
  • KS Budget Cuts Illegal, Say Advocates
  • Act now to keep Sutton off 6th Circuit, say activists
  • City Finishes Curb Ramps Just In Time
  • Nursing Home Rule Has No Teeth
  • CA advocates protest state anti-ADA stance at inauguration

    Bush Budget: $1.75 Billion For Community
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2003 --If you have been battling for people to live in the community instead of institutions, the Bush Administration wants you to know they are on your side.

    In his Fiscal Year 2004 budget to be revealed next month, President Bush will propose a $1.75 billion, five-year program to help Americans with disabilities move into the community from nursing homes or other institutions.

    According to a press statement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the proposals build on recommendations made to the President from a survey of federal policies that keep citizens with disabilities segregated in institutional facilities.

    "The President and I are committed to changing policies that unnecessarily confine people with disabilities in institutional settings," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "We want to work with the states and the disability community to change old programs and develop new ones that will serve people with disabilities in the settings that work best for them."

    The "'Money Follows the Individual' Rebalancing Demonstration" would help states provide more cost-effective choices between institutional and community options. This would include financing Medicaid services for people to move from institutions to the community. Under the proposal, the federal government would pay the full cost of home and community based waiver services for one year, after which participating states would agree to pick up the regular Medicaid costs.

    "We didn't do it for the reason of saving money, but in the long run helping people stay in their homes, in particular, is a win-win for everybody," one official told Reuters News Service. "That is what individuals prefer."

    The President is also proposing a $220 million, five-year initiative called "New Freedom Initiative Demonstrations". This would fund four demonstrations that promote home and community-based alternatives. Two of the demonstrations would provide respite care services for caregivers of adults with disabilities or long-term illness and children with certain disabilities. Another demonstration would provide community-based care alternatives for children who are currently housed in psychiatric residential treatment facilities.

    In addition, President Bush will propose $95 million be spent over the next five years to keep Medicaid coming for spouses of people with disabilities who return to work.

    Disability groups were quick to applaud the administration's announcement.

    Lex Frieden, chairperson for the National Council on Disability (NCD), said the proposal would help "eliminate many barriers to full participation in community life for people with disabilities."

    "This is a significant step in the right direction," Frieden added.

    Mitchell R. Stoller, President and CEO of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, said the plan would be "a tremendous boost to people living with disabilities."

    "One of the biggest challenges faced by people transitioning from living in rehabilitation hospitals or nursing homes to living in their own homes and communities is the loss of medical benefits and services they were receiving under Medicaid."

    OH To Close An Institution
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Columbus, OH, Jan. 24, 2003 --The state of Ohio will soon have one or two fewer institutions housing people with developmental disabilities, Governor Bob Taft announced in his State of the State address Wednesday.

    The governor said that in his budget proposal, to be issued next month, he will include plans to close one state prison and at least one state-run institution as one measure to deal with an estimated $4 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget cycle.

    Kenneth W. Ritchey, director of the state's Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MRDD), said that 1,095 people are housed Ohio's 12 institutions, here called "developmental centers". Nearly four thousand workers are employed at the facilities.

    Ritchey explained Friday that many factors would be considered when deciding which facility to close, including the age of the facility and how costly each is to operate. He added that populations at the centers would not be a major factor.

    Residents would have the option to transfer to another state institution or live in their communities, Ritchey said. Employees could transfer to other state institutions if a vacant position was open.

    Ritchey said the trend in other states is to close institutions and help people to live in the community.

    "More residents want to leave than want to get in," he explained.

    Apple Creek Developmental Center in Wayne County, which has about 180 residents and 400 employees, is considered the most likely to be targeted for closure.

    Unfortunately, Taft also announced Wednesday that the state would be need to restrict spending on Medicaid. His plan will call for freezing reimbursement rates for all Medicaid providers, eliminating many optional services and changing eligibility criteria for adults, a move that could end benefits for as many as 30,000 people with disabilities and low incomes.

    Crip who tried to stop Super Bowl calls effort "victory"
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    SAN DIEGO, Jan. 22, 2003 --For any of you who may have been worried about it, Super Bowl XXXVIII will go on this Sunday as planned.

    But failures on the part of the City of San Diego to make Qualcomm Stadium accessible to fans with disabilities nearly stopped the event before it got started.

    Beverly Walker, an avid sports fan who uses a wheelchair, is tired of battling the city to make the facility more disability-friendly and to comply with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Years of advocating for accessible -- but not separate -- seating, for example, were ignored until she used the word "lawsuit" in 1997.

    After many more months of delays the city finally settled, agreeing to make the necessary changes by April of last year and to save a certain number of tickets for fans with disabilities.

    By December 2002 it was clear that some of the work still was not completed. Walker also learned that the NFL (National Football League) had no intention of setting aside Super Bowl tickets as agreed to in the settlement.

    So, in an attempt to give the city a "kick in the pants" to focus on completing the work, she and her lawyer filed an injunction asking the court to suspend the Super Bowl.

    "We felt that, if they thought maybe the Super Bowl was in jeopardy, maybe that would get them to make the modifications a little faster," Walker told the San Diego City Beat.

    On January 9, Judge Leo Papas denied her request for an injunction.

    Even so, Walker sees the attempt as a victory.

    "I believe that the disabled community won, and we won because we got more things accomplished in the stadium over a shorter period of time," she explained. "I believe that if we hadn't [filed an injunction], disabled people would have went to the Super Bowl and found that there were a lot more things noncompliant that were potentially dangerous."

    Read "The Woman, The Wheelchair & The Super Bowl -- Beverly Walker and her Qualcomm crusade" in San Diego City Beat.

    Fair Board Changes Ruling Re: Teen
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    LAKE WALES, FL, Jan. 19, 2003 --Following a week of intense community opposition, the Polk County Youth Fair board decided Thursday to let Justin Ryan Kelley show his pig, "Bacon", at an upcoming swine event.

    Justin, 17, was told December 20 that he would not be able to participate in the Youth Fair this March because he has cerebral palsy and uses a walker and a wheelchair. The board said that his disability created "liability concerns", that he might get injured during the event (see story below).

    His father pointed out that Justin, a high school senior, has been involved in Future Farmers of American (FFA) since he was a freshman, has been an important member of the steer-judging team and has been involved in other activities through his school's agricultural program. He has never been hurt during such an event.

    After area newspapers and television stations ran the story last week, Justin's situation caught the attention of the general public, along with local, state, and federal officials.

    Newspaper offices were overwhelmed by feedback supporting Justin and condemning the board.

    Several students threatened to pull their pigs from the event if Justin wasn't allowed to show his.

    According to local news sources, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist sent the board's chairman a memo explaining that "the Youth Fair board would be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act if they did not let Justin participate." The memo added that Crist's office "would become involved only if action was not taken to correct the situation."

    Congressman Adam Putnam, State Representative Baxter Troutman and State Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson all spoke up in Justin's defense. County Commission Chairman Randy Wilkinson offered his support, telling Justin, "You're not the first case of this."

    After two private meetings, the board announced its decision to let Justin participate.

    "They did the right thing," Justin said later Thursday. "I just wish they had done it a little quicker."

    Health Clubs Not Accessible, Study Shows
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    CORVALLIS, OR, Jan. 19, 2003 --Fifty out of fifty health clubs surveyed in Oregon are not accessible to people with disabilities, a health journal reported this week.

    The study published in the January/February Journal of Health Promotion was based on observations and measurements of 10 different areas in which the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require facilities to comply.

    Just eight percent of the facilities reviewed had exercise equipment that was accessible to a wide range of disabilities. Thirty-seven percent had a customer service desk that met ADA standards. Surveyors found that only 44 percent of restrooms or locker rooms, 83 percent of elevators and 56 percent of parking lots were accessible to patrons with disabilities.

    The researchers said those results may be optimistic because one in five health club owners who were contacted refused to participate in the study.

    The study's authors said they hope the findings will alert owners of physical activity facilities to the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. They noted that many owners and managers were not aware that their facilities were out of compliance with the ADA.

    While it is not clear whether the results from Oregon reflect accessibility in other parts of the country, the researchers said they may help explain why people with disabilities experience lower levels of physical activity.

    "The environmental constraints identified in this study might be limiting factors in efforts aimed at increasing individuals with disabilities' physical activity involvement," concluded Dr. Bradley J. Cardinal and Marc D. Spaziani from Oregon State University.

    "This, in turn, may cause frustration and disappointment, resulting in a total denial of services, and ultimately a loss of health and functional status among individuals with disabilities," they added.

    Teacher Continues Fight For Former Job
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    DURHAM, NC, Jan. 19, 2003 -- This coming Wednesday, a lawyer representing Susan F. Johnson will ask the state Court of Appeals to order Durham Technical Community College to give her old job back to her and to stop its alleged discrimination against people with disabilities.

    This will be Johnson's fourth time in court over the issue -- the second at the appellate level -- since her first trial in 1998.

    Johnson, who taught reading skills to inmates at the county jail, claims the school decided not to renew her contract because of her polio-related disabilities.

    According to the Durham Herald, Johnson fell at the county jail and broke her back while trying to open a heavy door in 1994. Then she fell at home and broke a leg, after which she began using a wheelchair most of the time.

    But school officials maintain that Johnson was not fired because of her disability. They say she was fired because of "anonymous telephone calls questioning Johnson's integrity." Those calls included accusations that Johnson was involved in illegal activity with guns and drugs and that she was having relationships with jail inmates.

    It is unclear whether the school investigated those accusations before deciding to let her go.

    "No victim of discrimination will ever prevail if an employer may be excused from illegal conduct based upon the veiled accusations of an unidentified and unreliable informant," wrote Johnson's attorney, Stewart Fisher, in a brief to the appeals court. Stewart wants the appellate judges to "reject the use of rank hearsay as justification for an unlawful employment decision." More from the Durham Herald-Sun.

    CANCELLED: 'March in March to save Olmstead!'
    SACRAMENTO, Mar. 4, 2003 -- THE MARCH HAS BEEN CANCELLED. Read organizers' statement.

    SACRAMENTO, Jan. 13, 2003 --An Americans with Disabilities Act case to be heard by U.S. Supreme Court in March may gut the Court's 1999 Olmstead decision, say advocates. They are planning a major national march on March 15 and 16 in Sacramento to send a message.

    "If the U.S. Supreme Court decides in their review of the Medical Board of California v Hason appeal that states are immune from suit under the ADA," the Olmstead decision will be moot, they say. "If we don't stop this appeal, we will lose not only the Olmstead decision, but we will lose all civil rights protections against discrimination by states!

    More on Medical Board of California v Hason

    Fair Board Blocks Disabled Teen
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    LAKE WALES, FL, Jan. 10, 2003 --Justin Ryan Kelly has been told he could not participate in the Polk County Youth Fair because he has cerebral palsy and uses a walker.

    Kelly, a 17-year-old high school senior, has been involved in Future Farmers of American (FFA) since he was a freshman. He has been an important member of the steer-judging team and has been involved in other activities in the agricultural program.

    He planned to show a pig named "Bacon" that he has raised, but the fair board considers him a liability because of his disability and will not allow him to participate.

    "It's a liability thing," said one board member. "For kids on a walker, they can get hurt in a pen where there's 15 or 20 hogs in there at the time."

    Justin's dad pointed out that Justin had no problems when he was in pens with 1,200-pound cattle as a member of the steer-judging team.

    His family plans to meet with the board next Thursday to discuss the issue and try to get them to change their position.

    Read "'Bake A Cake', he's told," in the Polk County News Chief

    Company Pulled Job Offer Over Disability
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    PITTSBURGH, Jan, 9, 2003 --In February 2001, the Union Electric Steel Corp. offered Robert Ruffing a job as a draftsman. Those doing the hiring had not met him, though, because the offer came through a temporary agency.

    When Ruffing showed up for work -- in his wheelchair -- he was told to leave.

    The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Ruffing, claiming Union Electric Steel violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit accuses the company of rescinding an offer of employment over "stereotypes about persons with paraplegia and persons who use wheelchairs."

    The EEOC said the suit was brought after several attempts to settle the allegations out of court had failed.

    Officials at Union Electric Steel declined to comment, saying the suit was being reviewed by the company's attorneys.

    SC Gov. Apologizes For State's Eugenics Past
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    COLUMBIA, SC, Jan. 8, 2003 --Governor Jim Hodges has formally apologized on behalf of his state for forcibly sterilizing hundreds of people under South Carolina's eugenics laws during the last century.

    "On behalf of the people of South Carolina, I apologize for decades of suffering and pain caused by eugenics," Hodges said Wednesday.

    "Today, I want to acknowledge the great injustice done to more than 250 men and women when the State of South Carolina permitted involuntary sterilization for decades."

    Between 1935 and 1985, South Carolina allowed mental health and prison officials to order surgical sterilization on people diagnosed with "insanity, idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness or epilepsy."

    Thirty-two other states and two Canadian provinces had similar laws on their books during the popular eugenics movement.

    Eugenics was based on the racist belief that society would be improved through "proper breeding". The "science" behind eugenics was disproved, but not before more than 60,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized. Most were people with mental retardation and mental illness living in state-operated institutions. More women were sterilized than men. More blacks were sterilized than whites.

    Hodges is the fourth governor to officially apologize for a state's eugenics past. Governors from Virginia, Oregon and North Carolina extended apologies last year.

    Related resources: "Virginia's Eugenics Legacy" (Inclusion Daily Express) http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/advocacy/vaeugenics.htm

    "Oregonians Get Apology For Sterilizations" (Inclusion Daily Express) http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/institutions/ore/oreugenics.htm

    "Image Archives On The American Eugenics Movement" (Dolan DNA Learning Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory) http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics

    KS Budget Cuts Illegal, Say Advocates
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    TOPEKA, KS, Jan. 7, 2003 --Community-based services for people with developmental disabilities have not kept up with the levels required under a 1996 state law.

    That's what a group of agencies claimed in a suit filed Friday against the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, the Capital-Journal reported.

    The suit, filed in Shawnee County District Court, asked Judge Franklin Theis to stop the state from implementing emergency budget cuts ordered last year by Governor Bill Graves.

    The agencies said that the state had under-funded community-based services over the past seven years by at least $300 million and that services in the current year are underfunded by $88 million.

    The 1996 Developmental Disabilities Reform Act was aimed at helping people with developmental disabilities to live more independently in the community.

    "The level of funding already is illegal," said Jim Kaup, an attorney for the statewide advocacy organization InterHab, which is leading the suit. "If it didn't meet the legal requirement, the cuts only make it worse."

    Act now to keep Sutton off 6th Circuit, say activists

    WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 9, 2003 -- Next Tues., Jan. 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the nomination of Ohio Atty. Jeffrey Sutton to the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Many disability groups, including the American Association of Persons with Disabilities, ADAPT, the American Council of the Blind, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Organization on Disability, TASH and UCP oppose the Sutton nomination. More.

    City Finishes Curb Ramps Just In Time
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    COLUMBUS, OH, Jan. 6, 2003 --With 13 hours left to meet an end-of-the-year deadline, city contractors finished the last of 10,800 curb ramps at 11 a.m. last Tuesday.

    The project was part of a 1997 settlement of a lawsuit filed against the city by the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council.

    That settlement required wheelchair ramps to be built at intersections on certain resurfaced streets by the end of the year 2000.

    The Independent Living Council granted the city a two-year extension when it was discovered that many of the first ramps were built incorrectly. Several city employees resigned over the ordeal, including the city engineer.

    According to the Associated Press, disability advocates are pleased with the progress but are worried that some ramps are still placed far from corners because of lampposts and other obstacles.

    Another lawsuit concerning older wheelchair curb ramps was filed in May of 2002. Wanda Neuhard sued the city saying the ramps violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and are too steep to be safe.

    The city is negotiating with Neuhard to come up with a solution.

    Nursing Home Rule Has No Teeth
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 6, 2003 --Beginning the first of this month, nursing homes are required by federal law to publicly post the number of nurses and nursing assistants providing direct care to residents on each shift.

    The idea is to give consumers and family members correct information about staffs at the nation's 17,000 nursing homes.

    But the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS), the federal agency that oversees nursing homes, will not be checking to see if the numbers are accurate, the Gannett News Service reported.

    A CMMS study concluded that nursing homes providing less than 4.1 hours of direct nursing care for each resident per day are placing patients at risk. Only about 10 percent of nursing homes receiving money from Medicare and Medicaid currently meet that level.

    Federal officials say posting the information will be valuable to consumers even if its accuracy is not being audited.

    "Our concern is to get as much information into the hands of consumers as possible," said Mary Kahn, a CMMS spokeswoman. "Staffing ratios are critically important."

    Consumer advocates disagree.

    "Any kind of law without enforcement is worthless," said Barbara Hengstebeck, executive director of Florida's Coalition to Protect America's Elders. "If nursing homes know they aren't going to get in trouble, there is no incentive for them to do it."

    CA advocates protest state anti-ADA stance at inauguration
    SACRAMENTO, Jan. 8, 2003 -- Calif. disability activists held a rally and march at the Calif. state capitol in Sacramento during inauguration festivities to protest recent actions taken by the state attorney general and other Calif. officials that they say will weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act. Advocates rallied outside of Attorney General Bill Lockyer's inauguration party and marched to Sacramennto's convention center for the inauguration celebration for Gov. Gray Davis, sending a message to the state Democratic leadership to "keep their promise to support the civil rights of Americans with disabilities."

    Activists swarmed onto the dance floor and performance area at the Governor's celebration site (see photos) and refused to leave until they were promised a meeting with the governor's office the next day. "During that meeting," says activist HolLynn D'Lil, "we were able to articulate our issues and the depth of our intent to do everything in our power to force the governor's office and the attorney general to rescind the Medical Board appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that will result in the evisceration of the Americans with Disabilities Act." The group left with "vague promises," she says. Now they are planning a march in March, that they hope will have national attendance.

    Californians for Disability Rights issued a statement calling on Sacramento city officials to withdraw its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the sidewalk access case which the city lost last summer. The city wants the nation's highest court to rule that it does not have to make its sidewalks accessible to wheelchairs ( More on Sacramento's Supreme Court sidewalk access fight).

    Activists are also calling on the state attorney general, Bill Lockyer, to "expeditiously settle" another case now before the U.S. Supreme Court -- the case of Michael Hason, a doctor denied a medical license by the Calif. Medical Board. The Supreme Court decided last Nov. to take the case in order to rule on whether states can be sued under federal law for discriminating against disabled people in public services (Title 2 of the ADA). While Michael Hason was denied a license on the basis of "mental illness," the Supreme Court will not be looking at this specific issue, but at the broader issue of federal power -- and whether Congress overstepped its authority in passing Title 2 of the ADA.

    In filing the appeals to the Supreme Court, says activist HolLynn D'Lil, "Democratic leaders are violating their own party platform. The California Democratic Party promised to 'protect national disability rights laws from all legislative and judicial challenges!' and says that the governor "has in the past gone on the record stating that the state would not take any action that would harm the ADA."

    "We share protestors' apprehension about the potentially serious consequences of the Hason case," says Francie Moeller, chair of the state Democratic Party's Disability Caucus. "The Governor and Attorney General have the opportunity and obligation to honor their commitments to the disability community and the promise enshrined in our party's platform by doing everything in their power to settle the Hason case before it reaches the Supreme Court, thereby preserving a law that is so essential to the rights of persons with disabilities to have equal access to state programs, facilities, agencies and universities."

    When Hason sued, the Medical Board of California argued that states are shielded from ADA lawsuits based on sovereign immunity. The issue in this case, say Courtwatchers, as it was in the Garrett case before the Court two years ago, was whether Congress had the authority to hold states liable for discrimination -- that is, did they enact the law in response to an extensive record of state bias toward people with disabilities in public services?

    At the celebration sites, disability activists will be asking "honorable Democrats to self identify" and accept "Badges of Honor" that affirm their intention to honor their party promise to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

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