Ragged Edge 





March, '03

Feb., '03

Jan., '03

Dec., '02

Nov., '02

Oct., '02

Sept., '02

August, '02

July, '02

June, '02

May, '02

April, '02

Mar., '02

Feb., '02

Jan., '02

Dec., '01

Nov., '01

Oct., '01

Sept., '01


  • MDA sued for discriminating against disabled volunteers
  • High Court Further Narrows ADA
  • AL Senators Vote to Spite Constituents
  • Activists Arrested in TX Protest
  • Man Dies After Teens' Beating
  • Hearing on ADA and Small Business Quietly Scheduled
  • Movie Theaters Must Offer Stadium Seating To Wheelchair Users, Judge Orders
  • Debate on Sutton to start; advocates urged to call
  • Difficult year looms for disability rights, warns Bowe
  • Frightened Orphans Wait Out War In Baghdad
  • Activists bear witness at Schiavo hearing
  • Home Of Tommy Olmstead Still Behind In Olmstead Response

    MDA sued for discriminating against disabled volunteers
    WICHITA, April 24, 2003 -- Two former volunteer staffers at the Kansas Muscular Dystrophy Assn. summer camp have sued the state MDA chapter under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    A national MDA policy instituted last fall (see "New MDA camp policy: No crip counselors allowed" ) requires camp volunteers to be able to "lift and carry" campers. Gina Bauer and Suzanne Stolz, both of whom have neuromuscular conditions, and who are now being told they can't volunteer anymore, say the policy is illegal.

    "There are plenty of [volunteer] jobs I can do," Bauer told reporters. "I've done practically everything there is for the camp, and now I'm being told I can't attend anymore." An MDA attorney cited reasons ranging from "safety" to "national security" as reasons for the policy.

    Read New MDA camp policy: No crip counselors allowed

    High Court Further Narrows ADA
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.
    WASHINGTON, DC, April 23, 2003 -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled against an Oregon woman who had sued her employer claiming she was fired because of her disability.

    In its 7-2 decision, the high court said that the company was too small to be covered under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act because its owners could not be considered as employees.

    The case involved Deborah Anne Wells who worked at Clackamas Gastroenterology Associates, P.C., for 11 years and was fired in 1997 because of her disability, described as "a debilitating tissue disorder". Wells claimed that she was demoted, then forced to resign. Wells sued the clinic under the ADA which bans discrimination against people with disabilities.

    The courts did not address whether the clinic had discriminated against Wells, but instead focused on whether the clinic was large enough to be covered under the ADA. When Congress drafted the ADA, it said that small businesses -- defined as having 15 or more employees -- were not required to follow the employment provisions in the law. But Congress did not define who is or is not an employee.

    The clinic argued that the owners -- which included four doctors -- were not employees. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that they were employees and that the clinic therefore had more than the 15 employee limit and would have had to follow the ADA.

    The Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out the Court of Appeals decision and sided with the clinic.

    Justice John Paul Stevens explained the court based its ruling on standards used by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which say that a person is not an employee if, for example, the person cannot be fired or is liable if the company loses money. The doctors at the clinic appeared to fall into that category, Stevens said, because "they apparently control the operation of their clinic, they share the profits and they are personally liable for malpractice claims."

    Disability rights advocates worried that the ruling could cause thousands of small companies to deliberately avoid following the ADA.

    "It's unfortunate that the court has taken a miserly reading of this broad civil rights law," said Peter Blanck, a University of Iowa law professor specializing in the disabilities law. "Companies will think twice about whether or not they have to make an ADA accommodation."

    The case was 01-1435, Clackamas Gastroenterology Associates, P.C., v. Deborah Wells.

    Related article: "High Court Sets Standards on Employees, Bias Law" (Reuters via FindLaw Legal News)

    Related resource: "01-1435 Clackamas Gastroenterology Associates, P.C. v. Wells" (FindLaw for Legal Professionals)

    AL Senators Vote to Spite Constituents who "Bother" them at Home
    BIRMINGHAM, AL, April 17, 2003 -- Alabama state senators say they voted for a bill pushed by the Alabama Nursing Home Association because the bill's opponents called them at home. The bill will allow nursing homes to pool their money to pay claims for injuries to patients, limiting the payments to $250,000 per claim. The commitee vote was 6-3 in favor of the nursing homes, and state sen. Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals, who heads the Banking and Insurance Committee that approved the bill, told the Birmingham News that "When this happens, I go the other way of the people who abuse us in our private lives."

    "The one we get the most (calls) on, we'll vote the other way," Sen. Hap Myers, R-Mobile. agreed. Other state senators said constitutents should call them only at their offices and not bother them at home.

    Read editorial from The Birmingham News.

    Two dozen activists arrested in TX protest
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    AUSTIN, TX, April 14, 2003 -- Twenty-five disability rights activists, many from the grassroots advocacy group ADAPT, were arrested when they refused to leave the Capitol at closing time Thursday. Six were protesters in wheelchairs who refused to leave the Capitol office of Governor Rick Perry.

    All were charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing, which could mean up to $2,000 in fines and a 180-day jail sentence each.

    "It beats dying in a nursing home," protester Danny Saenz told the Associated Press.

    The demonstrators demanded the governor, along with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick, sign a pledge to protect services for Texans with disabilities. Under the budget proposed by the House, nearly 60,000 people would lose in-home services, and would be at risk of placement in nursing homes or other institutions.

    The lawmakers said they were willing to work with the group, but none would sign the pledge.

    Related article: "Disabled protesters are arrested next to governor's office" (Houston Chronicle)

    Self-Advocate Dies After Beating From Teens
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    HARTFORD, CT, April 7, 2003 -- In 2000, Ricky Whistnant won the Peter Kirsche Award for Self Advocacy from The Arc/Connecticut Inc. "Rick was a great big guy with a great big heart," said The Arc's director Peg Dignoti. "There was a goodheartedness about him, a kindness about him."

    Now friends and neighbors are trying to figure out why several teenagers attacked Whistnant Saturday afternoon, apparently causing his death. Three teens have been arrested for the assault. Police are waiting for autopsy results to determine what charges to file against the trio.

    The incident, which took place in the lobby of Whistnant's apartment building was captured and recorded by security cameras. One attacker allegedly flung a full bottle of soda against Whistnant's head so hard the 39-year-old man fell sideways, hitting his head against a wall as he collapsed.

    Disability activists are calling his death a hate crime.

    Related articles:
    "Video Records Lethal Attack" (Hartford Courant)
    "Juveniles in beating death may face more charges pending autopsy of victim" (Stamford Advocate)

    Hearing on ADA and Small Business Quietly Scheduled
    WASHINGTON, DC, April 8, 2003 -- A hearing by the House Small Business Committee on "Small Businesses and Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act" slated for 2 p.m. today will likely marshall support for the ADA Notification Act now in Congress, says ADA Watch. The hearing, at 2360 Rayburn House Office Building (Located southwest of the Capitol on the site bounded by Independence Avenue, South Capitol Street, First Street, and C Street, S.W.) will feature Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) testifying with business owners from Missouri and PA. 

    Foley is the original sponsor of the ADA Notification Act (HR 728) "and conducted a major media campaign with Clint Eastwood," says ADAWatch's Jim Ward. "Eastwood was in D.C. this weekend to promote the opening of a new theater. We have no confirmation regarding the possibility that he will appear at this hearing."

    More on the Notification Act.

    Movie Theaters Must Offer Stadium Seating To Wheelchair Users, Judge Orders
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    BOSTON, April 7, 2003 -- A federal judge has ordered two large movie theater chains to offer seating in the more desirable "stadium" sections to people who use wheelchairs, the Associated Press reports.

    Judge William G. Young ruled that National Amusements Inc. and Hoyts Cinemas Corp. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by making wheelchair users sit in the lower seating areas or in aisles on the edge of the more popular stadium-style seats. Young said this was discriminatory because it provided "an inferior angle to the stadium seats."

    Young's order does not force the film chains to change their seating immediately, but only when they do other renovations. The companies may still limit the amount of accessible seating, as long as it is not separated from the stadium section.

    The U.S. attorney's office sued the chains in 2000, claiming their theaters denied equal access to patrons that use wheelchairs, by placing them in some of the worst seating areas of the movie houses.

    Stan Eichner, litigation director of the Disability Law Center, praised Young's ruling.

    "For too long, people with disabilities have been stuck in the least desirable sections of theaters, stadiums and ballparks," Stan Eichner, director of the Disability Law Center, told The Boston Globe. "Judge Young's decision is an important reaffirmation that integrated quality seating is an important value under the ADA."

    Debate on Sutton to start; advocates urged to call
    WASHINGTON, DC, April 7, 2003 -- Senate floor debate on the nomination of Jeffrey Sutton to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals could start today, says ADA Watch. Disability groups have mounted a fight to keep the Ohio attorney off the Appeals Court, saying his agenda is anti-disability rights.

    "We need to be united as a community and call on Senators to speak out against Sutton," says ADAWatch's Jim Ward. "Please call. Please send a fax. Please fax your organization's letter of opposition, even if you have already done so before." More.

    Difficult year looms for disability rights, warns Bowe
    WASHINGTON, DC, April 7, 2003 -- "Many advocates have not yet recognized just how dire are the current prospects for disability rights and services in Washington," writes disability rights leader Frank Bowe, currently professor at Hofstra University and former head of the American Coalition of Citizen with Disabilties. "Almost every conversation or e-mail that I have with Hill staffers in which I suggest this or that possible step forward in disability rights and services is met with the rejoinder: 'This sounds like it will cost money. I can't encourage you to pursue it now.'"

    Read Bowe's "A Cause for Alarm" online at Justice For All.

    Frightened Orphans Wait Out War In Baghdad
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- Twenty-two children with disabilities are "suffering severe trauma" in a downtown Baghdad orphanage operated through an organization founded by Mother Teresa. More.

    Activists bear witness at Schiavo hearing
    ST. PETERSBURG, FL, Apr. 4, 2003 -- Attorney Pat Anderson tried to persuade a Florida 3-judge appeals court panel today to overturn Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer's order last fall that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube be removed. Anderson argued that there is enough chance of recovery to warrant keeping Schiavo alive. Removal of the feeding tube would signal death for the 39-year-old woman, who has been in what is described as a "comalike state" for over a decade. Read our earlier story.

    A decision is expected in a few weeks.

    Twelve disability rights groups, a university affilated policy center, a patients' rights group, and two individuals who have experienced severe brain injury filed an amicus brief arguing for Schiavo's right to food, water and rehabilitation. " the standards upon which Ms. Schiavo's life or death turn may, if defined broadly enough, also be applied to thousands of people with disabilities who, like Ms. Schiavo, cannot articulate their own views and must thus rely on third parties as substitute decision-makers," said the group in a statement.

    Sara Lewis, whose daughter has autism, says that many parents of brain-injured children are afraid that once they are gone, their offspring will be "thrown to the wolves." She worries that rulings like Greer's will allow guardians to remove medical treatment, and forms of food and liquid as well.

    Outside the tiny courtroom, activists held a demonstration before the session in support of keeping Schiavo alive. the accessible entrance to the hearing room remained locked -- "for security reasons," says Rus Cooper-Dowda, one of those activists. [Maybe videotape of her "having to bounce down the front stairs of the courthouse in my manual wheelchair will move someone," she adds.]

    "The entire proceeding was structured to make the real person with disabilities named Terri disappear behind the curtain of talk," says Cooper-Dowda. "But the threat of her being starved to death could not be banished."

    Only one of the judges on the three-judge panel asked questions, says Cooper-Dowda. "Was 'new' treatment experimental or just unused? Was an improved CT scan better technology or a better Terri?

    "The judge asked for an assurance that Terri could be restored by treatment before treatment was tried. He wanted to know the probability of function restoration for Terri the way people want guaranteed winning odds from their bookies before they bet any money on the Superbowl."

    Schiavo family attorney Anderson, she said, "gently pointed out that medicine and life didn't work that way."

    "The fact that Terri Schiavo cannot bring a spoon to her mouth should not be a death sentence. Terri still can't signal 'There's no place like home' because she's not allowed a communication board that can cost less than $2.00. She's not allowed the kind of therapy that would let her into the conversation going about her own life."

    Home Of Tommy Olmstead Still Behind In Olmstead Response
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    MACON, GA, April 1, 2003 -- The state from which the famous Olmstead case originated is not doing well on implementing the Supreme Court's ruling in the case. In fact, Georgia, the state that was successfully sued by Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, is lagging far behind the rest of the nation in its Olmstead implementation.

    Curtis and Wilson filed suit in 1995 against the state Department of Human Resources in order to be released from an institution. Tommy Olmstead was the commissioner of DHR at the time.

    In June 1999, the U.S. Supreme court decided in favor of Curtis and Wilson, ruling that unnecessarily placing people with disabilities in institutions is a form of discrimination that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Since that time, state Medicaid directors have been ordered to come up with plans to help people move out of institutions and to develop appropriate alternatives in the community.

    Compared to other states, Georgia is at or near the bottom in implementing measures to meet the Supreme Court's mandate. It is ranked 48th for total developmental disabilities spending, 49th for per capita community placements, and 50th in "fiscal effort toward community placements". The state also has established no waiting list for community placements. The legislature has not passed laws requiring the state to take action.

    Karl Schwarzkopf, current director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases, doesn't appear to understand how important the Olmstead decision was. Schwarzkopf says he must balance the need for community services with the need for institutions.

    "It's difficult to take dollars out of the facilities where people still exist and move them to the community," Schwarzkopf told the Macon Telegraph.

    In the meantime, people like Malaquias Chenaultt continue to languish in state-run institutions.

    Chenaultt, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, has been asking to move out of Central State Hospital for the last five years. After a lot of persistence, advocacy and legal wrangling, it looks like he might get out next month.

    Related articles:
    "Georgia lags in responding to Olmstead decision" (Macon Telegraph)
    "From behind a locked door" (Macon Telegraph)

    Last month's news


  • © Copyright 2003 The Ragged Edge

    This Website produced by Cliffwood Organic Works