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  • NJ committee to have "pull-the-plug" say over others
  • House Republicans Initiate Changes To IDEA
  • Another CA 'notification act' bites the dust
  • Rights Groups Find Power In Numbers
  • "Too disabled" student sues LSU
  • Access advocates win Pacifica bylaws vote
  • State Sues Walgreen Over Access
  • Fresno finally commits to curb cuts
  • CA Gov Apologizes For 20,000 Sterilized
  • ADAPT to Seek Apology For Institutionalizations
  • McDonald's Sued Over Employee with Port Wine Stain
  • Blind state workers sue PA over new system
  • Employee wins bias suit
  • Activists Swarm Hearing, Take Capitol Office, To Protest Pataki Cuts
  • Pacifica to make only "reasonable effort" for meeting access
  • Crip sues mall over evacuation procedures
  • Bill to reform old sterilization law
  • Settlement to ensure public housing access

    NJ committee to have "pull-the-plug" say over others
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    TRENTON, NJ, March 24, 2003 -- Every day, the state Department of Human Services makes decisions regarding the lives of 3,614 people with developmental disabilities.

    But it cannot make the decision to allow lifesaving medical treatment to be withdrawn if a person is considered terminally ill.

    That would soon change under the department's new rules.

    According to a story in the Press of Atlantic City, DHS is rewriting its rules to allow a state ethics committee to determine when to pull life-saving measures from people with developmental disabilities. The committee would include doctors, nurses, lawyers, ethicists, and members of the clergy. Before treatment could be withheld, the patient's prognosis would have to be reviewed by two doctors, the person's state-appointed guardian, the ethics committee and the state's Protection and Advocacy agency.

    "There is a flippancy that people in poor health don't want to be alive when that's the only life they've ever known," said Joe Young, director of New Jersey's Protection and Advocacy. "The misperception is, since the person is cognitively impaired, of course they might want to terminate their life."

    Once the rules are approved by the Office of Administrative Law, they would apply immediately to at least two patients with developmental disabilities who are currently on life support.

    Related article: "Proposal would give state say in life-support decisions for disabled" (Press of Atlantic City)

    House Republicans Initiate Changes To IDEA
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    WASHINGTON, DC, March 20, 2003 -- Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed legislation that would renew the 1975 Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) but with some significant changes to the law which governs education of children with "special needs".

    Under the proposal introduced Wednesday, parents would be able to use vouchers to have their students receive special education services from private schools at public expense. The proposed legislation would also encourage earlier intervention for young children with disabilities, and would reduce the current law's paperwork which many consider overwhelming.

    Representative Michael N. Castle (R-Delaware.), chair of the Education Reform subcommittee, wrote: "Students and parents deserve improved academic results, teachers must be freed from the crushing paperwork burden, and the system must be untied from the strangling hold of costly and unnecessary litigation."

    Many lawmakers and special education advocates blame problems with the IDEA on the fact that the federal government has failed to properly fund the law. Congress in 1975 set a goal of paying 40 percent of IDEA's cost, but the government has never paid even 20 percent.

    The Bush administration, which has been pushing for increased academic standards in all areas of education, has proposed the federal government pay for just 19 percent of the program's costs.

    "Republicans are fond of saying that when it comes to education, it is not just money that matters," said Representative George Miller (D-California) of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. "I agree. . . . But it is equally true that money does matter if you want to ensure that the reforms can take hold."

    Related article: "House Republicans Support Better Education for Children with Disabilities" (Boston Globe)

    Another CA 'notification act' bites the dust
    SACRAMENTO, March 18, 2003 -- AB209, a California bill that would have required a disabled person give a business 90 days' notice before suing, died in a legislative committee, after action by disability advocates. The bill is the second effort in California to pass a state law to require notification before suing for access.

    Another bill in the CA legislature, SB69, is still alive (see CA bill: 90 days' wait before suing), although the state attorney general's office has written a letter to its sponsor, CA state sen. Rico Oller, saying the bill would "make it harder to enforce access rights, and correspondingly reduce the incentive for building owners to comply with laws that are too often ignored. "

    Rights Groups Find Power In Numbers
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    ALBANY, NY, March 18, 2003 -- In New York, groups facing discrimination have found powerful allies -- in each other.

    Two years ago, members of the disability rights group ADAPT joined forces with Housing Works, part of the HIV/AIDS group ACT-UP, along with advocates for people with mental illnesses, to get lawmakers to pay attention to issues that are important to them.

    In their first action together, about 100 protested outside Governor George Pataki's offices in the state capitol. Many were arrested for their civil disobedience. "At the door were people with psychiatric disabilities chained to people with AIDS chained to people in wheelchairs," Michael Kink, organizer for Housing Works told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

    Since then, the groups have worked together and separately to successfully bring about positive change in state government.

    But members are angered now over delays on promises the governor made to them on a new health program, and his plans to keep SSI recipients from getting an increase in benefits.

    "The disability community feels under attack," said Kink.

    Related article: "Disabled won't go quietly in Capitol protest" (Democrat & Chronicle)

    "Too disabled" student sues LSU
    BATON ROUGE, LA, March 17, 2003 -- Kenneth Hopkins is an "A" student. The 38-year-old former radio disc jockey, who had become blind three years ago due to diabetes, thought the "Computer Rehabilitation" course would work well for him. The program at Louisiana State University is designed to teach technology and computer skills to disabled students. But on the first day of class, the program's director told Hopkins that he was "too disabled" to be in the program.

    Hopkins sued the University under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and District Court Judge Curtis Calloway granted a temporary restraining order against the university. Hopkins remains in the program while the lawsuit proceeds. Read story from Baton Rouge Advocate

    Access advocates win Pacifica bylaws vote
    NEW YORK, March 17, 2003 -- A vote taken last weekend on the prposed new bylaws for Pacifica Radio Foundation was a win for access. Board members voted 12-1 for Article 7 Section 9 of its new bylaws to read ""All public meeting of the Board and all committees shall be held in spaces fully accessible as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act and any other applicable state and federal laws."

    The vote removed the "reasonable effort" wording that had been in the section prior to the vote. The bylaws are not yet final; the final vote, say sources, will likely happen in early April.

    State Sues Walgreen Over Access
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    SPRINGFIELD, IL, March 13, 2003 -- The Illinois Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Walgreen Co., claiming it fails to make its stores accessible to customers with disabilities.

    According to the Chicago Sun Times, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed the suit Tuesday after a survey found that 69 of 79 Walgreen drugstores visited across the state violated accessibility laws. The store has more than 400 stores in Illinois.

    The suit claims the stores do not have enough parking set aside for people with disabilities, have located existing parking spaces too far from store entrances, and have failed to provide signs designating accessible parking. Madigan claims many stores have steel poles, concrete trash cans and ramps that block wheelchair access at the entrances. Also, many have ramps that are dangerously steep and do not have handrails, the suit claims, and aisles in the stores are often blocked.

    The attorney general's office said it has resolved complaints it has received against Walgreen on an individual basis, but decided that the problem was so widespread it needed to be addressed on a larger scale.

    The suit seeks penalties of up to $250 per day for each violation and wants the company to pay for an independent monitor.

    Last May, the California-based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. (DREDF) filed a lawsuit against Walgreen listing many of the same complaints regarding accessibility.

    Fresno finally commits to curb cuts
    FRESNO, CA, March 12, 2003 -- Disability activists in Fresno have won a commitment from the city install at least 600 curb ramps yearly until 2010, bringing the number of new curb ramps to 4,200 -- which is approximately the number remaining to be fixed out of Fresno's 15,134 curbs, says activist Ed Eames. The vote came in Tuesday's Fresno City Council meeting, attended by "a huge gathering" of disability activists, reported the Fresno Bee. A guarantee of $660,000 has been made for each year for the next three years from other funding sources, not the operational budget of the city, says Eames.

    Fresno has been sued over its lack of curb ramps more than once. The family of Elias Gutierrez sued; Gutierrez died when he couldn't get onto the sidewalk from the street and was hit by a car. Read story. Clayton Turner sued when he was struck and nearly killed in 1996 while riding his wheelchair on Fresno streets.

    Fresno city councilmember Brad Castillo said that the city had spent money dealing with lawsuits over broken sidewalks and bad curb ramps. "If it wasn't for the lawsuits, the city would not have completed this many curb cuts," he said. "Let's not kid ourselves."

    Between 1995 and 2000, says the story in the Fresno Bee, the city "spent about $75,000 a year to construct wheelchair ramps" and reported that "at this funding rate, it would take the city about 127 years to complete the installation."

    CA Gov Apologizes For 20,000 Sterilized
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    SACRAMENTO, March 12, 2003 -- "To the victims and their families of this past injustice, the people of California are deeply sorry for the suffering you endured over the years."

    That apology came from California Governor Gray Davis Wednesday, just hours after state Senator Dede Alpert, D-San Diego, held a hearing on the history of eugenics.

    State Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued a similar apology to the estimated 20,000 Californians who had been sterilized -- many against their will -- between 1909 and the 1960s.

    Thirty US states and two Canadian provinces were responsible for sterilizing over 66,000 people, most with developmental disabilities or mental illnesses, during the eugenics movement, which was based on the idea that society could and should be improved by keeping people with "unwanted" traits from having children. California sterilized the most, making up nearly one-third of the total.

    Davis becomes the fifth governor since last May to apologize for his state's role in eugenics. The governors of Virginia, Oregon, North Carolina and South Carolina have issued formal apologies.

    Related articles: "State's little-known history of shameful science / California's role in Nazis' goal of 'purification'" (San Francisco Chronicle)

    "Davis apologizes for state's sterilization program Those with hereditary flaws were victims" (San Francisco Chronicle)

    ADAPT to Seek Apology For Institutionalizations
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    WASHINGTON, DC, March 10, 2003 --

    The national disability rights group ADAPT (American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today) wants lawmakers to know that Medicaid is about people -- thousands of people -- many of whom have been warehoused in nursing homes and other institutions across the country in order to receive health care benefits.

    To bring this point home, 750 ADAPT members from at least 30 states plan to bring a collage to the nation's capitol May 10-15, with pictures and stories of real people who want forced institutionalization to end for people with disabilities of all ages.

    During the spring action, named "Stolen Lives", the activists will be pushing Congress and the Bush administration to pass MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community-based Attendant Services and Supports Act, to end the current bias toward facility-based services in Medicaid. The legislation, which has bipartisan support and was first introduced into Congress by House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997, would allow participants to choose in-home services. A large percentage of Medicaid money currently goes to fund institutionalized services.

    ADAPT will also demand from Bush and leaders of both political parties a formal national apology "for all the years that have been stolen from countless Americans due to decades of failed Medicaid policy that kept them warehoused in nursing homes and other institutions."

    "While Washington politics continue to address 'homeland security', we're going to demand that the government change the longstanding Medicaid policies that have deprived countless Americans with disabilities of the security of their own homes," Alfredo Juarez of El Paso, Texas ADAPT said in an ADAPT press release.

    Related resources: ADAPT http://www.adapt.org
    MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act: http://www.adapt.org/casaintr.htm

    McDonald's Sued Over Employee with Port Wine Stain
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    NORTHPORT, ALABAMA, March 11 -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed an ADA employment discrimination lawsuit against a McDonald's restaurant claiming it denied an employee chances for promotion -- then fired her -- based on her physical appearance.

    Samantha Robichaud has what is known as a "port wine stain" covering much of her face as a result of a congenital condition known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome.

    Robichaud started working as a cook at the restaurant with the understanding that she could move up through the organization if she showed she could handle several areas, including the front counter. But managers later removed Robichaud from the front counter and told her she would never be promoted to a management position because of her appearance. It later "constructed" her removal from the staff, Robichaud claims.

    The EEOC, which enforces employment discrimination cases related to the ADA and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, filed the suit against R.P.H. Management, Inc., doing business as McDonald's in Northport, after it tried unsuccessfully to have the company settle the complaints out of court.

    "Unfortunately, myths, fears and stereotypes continue to operate in the workplace to deny full employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities," said Charles E. Guerrier, Regional Attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham, Alabama office. "One of the worst types of discrimination occurs when an individual with a cosmetic disfigurement is denied a job because of the unjustified belief that customers will be offended simply by seeing that person.

    "The opportunity to make a living and succeed in the workplace is not restricted to models and movie stars but is the promise held out to every person with talent, skills and ambition. Ms. Robichaud is a qualified individual who deserved better."

    "All I ever wanted was a shot at the American dream," Ms. Robichaud said.

    "McDonald's took that away from me."

    Related resource: Sturge-Weber Foundation

    Blind state workers sue PA over new system
    PHILADELPHIA, Mar. 10, 2003 -- Three blind Pennsylvania state employees and the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania are suing the state over a new multi-million-dollar computer system upgrade which they say is inaccessible to blind employees.

    The three state workers -- James Antonacci, Celia Fagnani, and Sue Davis -- say that blind workers cannot access information previously available on the old computer system. The only way blind employees can now check their own payroll information -- information that should be private and confidential -- is by having sighted coworkers check for them.

    Two years ago the state signed a $40 million contract with SAP Public Sector & Education, Inc. for a new computer system, including new accounting, budgeting, payroll, personnel and purchasing software, says the suit. The company chose software incompatible with screen access programs. Arkansas state government "ran into similar access problems for blind employees," say those suing. "The chief contractor for that conversion was also SAP Public Sector and Education, Inc." A similar suit in Arkansas is still pending.

    Although training in the new system has already started in Pennslyvania, blind employees can't participate in the sessions because they are inaccessible, says the suit.

    Employee wins bias suit
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    BALTIMORE, March 7, 2003 -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Monday that a waste management company would pay $194,000 to settle claims that a former employee was fired because of her disability.

    The employee, Deborah Brown, worked as a boom truck driver and trash compactor repair person for Browning-Ferris, Inc.

    Brown claimed she was fired immediately after Browning-Ferris learned that she had Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder. Brown's medical specialists insisted that her work did not effect her disability. Brown also pointed to the fact that she had safely and effectively worked around waste for nearly 10 years.

    But the company feared that her disability, along with her continued exposure to waste, would have life-threatening consequences.

    The EEOC filed the suit on Brown's behalf, claiming the company violated Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments.

    Under the settlement agreement, Browning-Ferris will pay Brown full back wages and compensatory damages. The company also must post notices advising its employees of their right to be free from disability-related discrimination.

    Activists Swarm Hearing, Take Capitol Office, To Protest Pataki Cuts
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    ALBANY, NY, March 6, 2003 -- Dozens of disability rights advocates, some in wheelchairs, silently swarmed around members of Governor George Pataki's administration Monday as they testified in front of a joint legislative budget hearing on the governor's proposed spending plan.

    The protesters held up signs that read, "Hey King George, can you live on $639?" and "Gov. Pataki, does my back really look like the right place to balance your budget?", and refused to leave the floor until the hearing was over.

    Later, about two dozen demonstrators were less silent as they occupied a Capitol office. The protesters, most from Rochester and many in wheelchairs, blocked the entrance to the office for about 20 minutes, chanting, "Get your budget off our backs," until a Pataki administration official agreed to meet with them.

    The advocates are demonstrating Pataki's proposal that would give no cost-of-living increase to 600,000 low-income residents with disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Pataki hopes to save New York $26 million by reducing the state's SSI contribution by $13 a month -- the exact amount the federal government is increasing the benefits.

    Pataki has also proposed cutting billions of dollars from education and health care, in an attempt to close an $11.5 billion budget shortfall.

    "Pataki is tacky," Shirley Bain, a 76-year-old Rochester woman with cerebral palsy, told the Democrat & Chronicle. Bain said the funding Pataki wants to cut is crucial to her living independently in an apartment.

    "If I don't have that I would be in a nursing home and I don't want that."

    Related article: "Disabled protest Pataki cut" (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

    Pacifica to make only "reasonable effort" for meeting access
    New York, Mar. 5, 2003 -- "All public Board meetings shall be held in spaces fully accessible as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act..." This proposed change to the bylaws of the Pacifica Radio Foundation made sense to disability activists. It was what the law requires, after all.

    Interim Pacifica National Board secretary Carol Spooner of Berkeley proposed it as a change to the drafted set of new bylaws, for the draft required that only a "reasonable effort" be made to find accessible meeting places.

    But her proposed change was voted down, 6 to 2.

    The Pacifica Radio Foundation will vote this coming weekend on these new bylaws, which, since Spooner's change was not accepted, still call for only a "reasonable effort" for public board meetings to be held in accessible places. Including WBAI FM in New York City, Pacific has 5 member stations across the U.S.

    "Pacifica's first station was founded by a person with a disability which became severe, Lou Hill," says Pacifica member and disability activist Jim Davis. " Over 80 percent of all people in Pacifica's 5 listening areas will have a disability sooner or later in life. It should go without saying that there should be no kind of discrimination in the planning and management of ANY of Pacifica's public gatherings and other activities."

    Those wishing to voice their disapproval of the "reasonable effort" language should email Pacifica Radio Foundation Interim National Board Chairperson Leslie Cagan at lesliecagan@igc.org before March 9.
    Crip sues mall over evacuation procedures
    Silver Spring, MD, March 3, 2003 -- When a fire alarm sounded the day wheelchair user Katie Savage was shopping at Marshall's, the store "announced that all shoppers were required to leave the store due to an emergency," but when Savage got out of the store and into the interior of the mall, Marshall's had "locked the gate that separated the store from the mall; the elevator was shut down; no emergency exits were accessible; and no one from the mall or Marshalls offered to assist in the evacuation of customers with disabilities." Savage "was forced to wait in the mall for nearly an hour, listening to alarms and sirens and fearing for her life, until an announcement finally was made that the emergency was over and that the mall would re-open."

    Last week the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington and Savage sued City Place Mall in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Marshalls, saying Savage "was effectively imprisoned in the City Place shopping mall during a fire emergency that forced the evacuation of customers from the mall." They say no provision has been made for the safe evacuation of people with disabilities from either Marshalls or the mall.  

    ³It is shocking that a major shopping mall and an important national retailer have not considered the needs of their patrons with disabilities when designing emergency evacuation procedures,² said DRC's Linda Royster.

    Read DRC's press release

    Bill To Reform Old Sterilization Law
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Boise, ID, March 3, 2003 -- Idaho's House Health and Welfare Committee unanimously approved a bill last week that would make sure people with developmental disabilities would not be sterilized without legal protection.

    The bill would correct what Jim Baugh, executive director of Comprehensive Advocacy Inc., called a "six-year legal vacuum" left since a 1996 District Court case found the state's sterilization law unconstitutional. That court ruled the law did not provide equal access or due process to Idahoans with developmental disabilities as required under the U.S. Constitution.

    Under the measure approved Monday, a person determined unable to give informed consent would be given legal counsel and a fair chance to understand the nature, risks and consequences of the procedure.

    Before allowing a sterilization, the court would have to prove that the person understood the relationship between sex, pregnancy and parenthood; the responsibilities that come with being a parent; the permanent nature of sterilization; alternatives to sterilization; and the person's power to change one's mind at any time before the procedure.

    "This is the only non-controversial bill you will ever hear that deals with human reproduction," Baugh told the Idaho Statesman.

    The committee approved the bill without debate and sent it to House floor for a vote.

    Related resource: Comprehensive Advocacy, Inc.

    Settlement to ensure public housing access
    Chicago, March 3, 2003 -- A settlement agreement negotiated by Access Living last week will ensure that the redevelopment of Henry Horner Homes on the West Side, one of the city's largest public housing complexes, will include ramps on front and rear steps of apartments; accessible door handles on front doors; lower, accessible mailboxes; accessible parking spaces; accessible entry-way gates and trash areas; lower, accessible thermostats, medicine cabinets and closet racks; grab bars in bathrooms; and kitchens with maneuvering space for wheelchairs. Access Living had sued the Chicago Housing Authority and The Habitat Company, a private developer, under the Fair Housing Act and the 1973 Rehab Act.

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated $300,000 to the Henry Horner Project to ensure these modifications are completed and improvements are already underway. "Given that persons with disabilities are often poor and the dearth of affordable, accessible housing, our community cannot tolerate public housing that fails to comply with federal accessibility requirements," said Marca Bristo, President of Access Living. "This settlement will make it possible for people with disabilities who depend on public housing to live at Henry Horner Homes. We hope its impact resonates among public housing providers throughout the country."

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