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"Providing and upkeeping a network of walkways for pedestrians to get around town is a quintessential, not to mention ages old, government service."
In March, the high court had sought the administration's views on the issue. Sacramento, joined by over 200 other cities, asked the Court late last year to hear its appeal in a case it had lost at the Ninth Circuit, in which disabled individuals had sued the city for failing to install curb ramps or to maintain them, saying it refused to remove obstacles --benches, sings, wires protruding from walkways -- that made sidewalks impassable or dangerous, and that it had refused to even develop the "transition plan" required the law. The case, which has been in litigation for years, is now close to settlement. The Court has not yet announced whether it will take the case.
In Wednesday's brief, the Solicitor General argued that the Ninth Circuit opinion was "correctly decided," and that it did not conflict with any prior Supreme Court decisions or opinions in other circuits -- thus, there was no reason for the high court to hear the case.
Activists who have been watching the case, called Barden v. Sacramento, expressed hope that, based on the Justice Department's brief, the Court would now refuse the case, keeping the ADA Title 2 out of the high court for now. A number of advocates praised the administration for its views on the matter -- that "sidewalks are for everyone."
In the lawsuit and in the appeal to the Supreme Court, Sacramento and other cities argue that sidewalks are not a "service" of governments as defined by the ADA.
Not true, said the Justice Dept.; ADA regulations clearly provide "that newly constructed or altered sidewalks and intersections must include curb ramps" -- citing 28 C.F.R. 35.151(e). And while this may indeed incur costs for cities, it said, "in enacting the ADA, Congress made a determination that the societal benefits of promoting community access to those with disabilities outweigh the societal costs of complying with the ADA."
A survey released Tuesday by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn) found that only 47 of the city's 415 taxi companies provide vehicles that can transport wheelchair users.
Thirty of those 47 companies that did provide service to wheelchair users charged up to 10 times the rate than for riders without wheelchairs.
More than 30 percent of the total companies contacted by phone simply refused to pick up a passenger in a wheelchair.
Only 11 companies, which is just 3 percent of the total, would provide accessible vans equipped with ramps and would charge the same fare as for any other passenger.
"It's imperative that we find a way to provide people in wheelchairs with safe, prompt taxi service," said Weiner, who compiled the study.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission passed a regulation three years ago that required all cab companies to give wheelchair riders access to accessible vans. But the rule has been temporarily deferred since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"We could issue violations, but that won't ensure service," Commissioner Matthew Daus told the New York Post.
Daus said the agency is working on a plan under which the companies could buy their own vans or contract with others that do provide specially equipped vehicles.
And three others, interviewed by the Cincinnati Enquirer, said they were afraid to speak out and risk retaliation.
That adds up to 15 nurses. The facility that houses 109 people with mental retardation and mental illnesses only has 19 positions for RNs (Registered Nurses) and LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses).
The nurses, some of whom had been on the job for well over a decade, said the institution had become unsafe for the residents. Low staffing ratios, poor morale, and unqualified staffs made staying at the state-run facility even harder.
They blame the new superintendent for the troubles.
The new superintendent denies their claims.
Related article: "Nurses say Batavia care center's unsafe" (Cincinnati Enquirer)
"Even if this wouldn't void the wheelchair's warranty," says Cleigh, "it is a huge gamble that they will get the device put back together in such a way that it will perform properly."
Cleigh urges individuals to send an e-mail message of opposition to Mary-Elizabeth Peters at the FTA Office of Civil Rights: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disability rights advocates nationwide have been following the Barden appeal, fearing that a Supreme Court ruling could mean that cities nationwide would no longer have to make sidewalks accessible as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Over 300 cities have joined Sacramento in urging the Court to take the case.
"Sacramento officials . . . have tentatively agreed in closed-door talks to a multimillion-dollar program to make sidewalks more accessible -- but negotiations reportedly are stalled over how much the city would pay in plaintiffs' attorney fees," according to a May 20 story in the Sacramento Bee. Sacramento has reportedly offered to pay $400,000 of plaintiffs' legal fees; Disability Rights Advocates, the firm handling the suit, says the bill is $950,000. "We think the number we have been requesting is justified," DRA attorney Melissa Kasnitz said, but "we have repeatedly offered to let any neutral third party determine an appropriate award in this case."
Reports from those attending the May 20 Sacramento City Council meeting described the atmosphere as "hostile," but added that "there is some hope that the City will agree to submit the attorneys' fees to a neutral third party and settle the case."Earlier this year, advocates in Calif. got the state to withdraw another ADA case that was to have been heard by the Supreme Court (see "Supreme Court calls off oral arguments in Hason").
"This represents what we really are," explained Dick McClaughry, a member of the committee that decided on the name change.
"We wanted something different to start a new day . . . a new millennium," said director Kris Prohl.
All across North America, organizations are dropping the word "retarded" from their names, titles and vocabulary. The Arc of the United States, formerly The Association of Retarded Citizens, recently decided to remove the word from its mission statement. There are even rumors that the President's Council on Mental Retardation is considering a new name that more accurately reflects society's changing attitudes toward people with disabilities.
One group that is displeased with BRIDGES' new name is the Voice of the Retarded. VOR actively supports keeping people with developmental disabilities housed in institutional settings, and has blocked measures to provide more community-based services across the country. The organization refuses to drop the "R" word from its name, ignoring pleas from people who feel insulted by the word.
Ironically, VOR director Tamie Hopp told the Northwest Indiana Times that attitudes -- not names -- are what must be changed.
For the first time in nearly 12 years, the 27-year-old hugged his relatives in his family's home. He met his new girlfriend that he had only known through letters for the past eight months. He even enjoyed a ham and turkey "Christmas dinner", to make up for all the holiday meals he missed while in prison.
Brown had been convicted of shooting to death Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Patrick Behan in 1990. Brown, who reportedly has mental retardation, was 14 at the time of the murder. His conviction was primarily based on a confession he gave to officers investigating Behan's murder. In 1992, he was sentenced to life in prison.
Brown later said he falsely confessed under physical and psychological pressure from detectives. Last year, another suspect surfaced who gave a more detailed confession to the murder.
In March of this year, a judge overturned Brown's murder conviction and determined that there would not be enough evidence for a present-day jury to find him guilty. Prosecutors have until June 25 to come up with enough evidence to convince the judge to retry Brown. Brown's attorneys say there is little chance of that happening.
Brown was released on $5,000 bond, which was posted by a bondsman who felt it was "the right thing to do".
But the Broward state attorney's office attached extraordinary conditions to Brown's release -- measures which the Miami Herald called a "spiteful insult". Until the June deadline, or until the case is officially dropped, Brown is under house arrest, is monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet, must undergo random drug testing, and could be disturbed at all hours by officers checking in on him.
Brown's is one of at least 38 false or questionable murder confessions have been thrown out by Broward County courts, rejected by juries or abandoned by police or prosecutors since 1990, according to an investigation by the Herald.
One other was that of Jerry Frank Townsend, who also had mental retardation and was released two years ago. Townsend spent 22 years behind bars for a string of murders and rapes before DNA evidence linked another inmate to the crimes. He confessed to the crimes in Broward County and Miami-Dade, but later said investigators took advantage of him by forcing him to confess, "helping" him remember several details, and even turning off the tape recorder to "correct" him when his story was not consistent with theirs.
"One last, spiteful insult for Brown"(Miami Herald)
Imperfect Justice: An Inmate is Freed, A Killer Remains Loose (Miami Herald editorial)
Jerry Frank Townsend Cleared of Murders (Inclusion Daily Express)
The Irish government last week asked Special Olympics athletes from nations that have been hit hard by SARS not to travel to the international games which start in Dublin on June 21.
Teams from China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines were asked to stay home because of the high risk of infection by the virus that has infected thousands and killed hundreds world-wide, most in Asia.
Hong Kong's government is urging Ireland to reconsider, as is the Special Olympics World Summer Games organizing committee, which considers Ireland's action a form of discrimination against people with disabilities.
"We question any decision that discriminates against Special Olympics athletes over and above any person or group of persons traveling to Ireland from these countries," said Mary Davis, chief executive of the World Summer Games' organizing committee.
Towns across Ireland have been getting ready to host about 7,000 athletes and coaches from 160 different countries.
Hundreds of demonstrators, most in wheelchairs, effectively shut down traffic on Constitution Avenue in front of the Department of Justice for seven hours while they waited for a commitment from the agency to enforce civil rights laws. The activists want DOJ to thoroughly investigate claims made by ADAPT members regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to specifically address the progress states have not made in implementing the 1999 Olmstead decision. That U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that "unnecessarily" institutionalizing people with disabilities violated their rights under the ADA.
The group was finally able to get specific commitments from Ralph Boyd, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
A number of activists also shut down the national offices of the American Nursing Association for two hours. ADAPT members said they had wanted the organization to endorse MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community-based Attendant Services and Supports Act that was recently re-introduced into both houses of Congress. The legislation would allow Medicaid recipients to use their benefits for in-home supports so they would not have to go to nursing homes or other institutions.
After the demonstrators had blocked the doors to the ANA offices for a time with no response, they blocked entrances to the entire building. Finally ANA officials negotiated with the protesters to do a presentation before the ANA Board of Directors on Wednesday night.
ANA To Meet With ADAPT (Free Our People)
USDOJ Commits To Expand Disability Rights Enforcement(Free Our People)
It was the beginning of a week of protests by the grassroots ADAPT, in the nation's capital for their "Stolen Lives" campaign, to demand an apology from President Bush and Congress for the health care system that favors institutions over community-based services and supports. The advocates are also rallying support for MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community-based Attendant Services and Supports Act that would allow Medicaid recipients to use their benefits on supports to help them stay in their own homes rather than nursing homes or other institutions.
Several hundred protesters gathered to hear stories from people who said they had been forced to stay in institutions, and to unfurl a banner with pictures and stories from many who could not attend.
"It's pretty ironic that a few feet behind us is our American flag waving in the breeze on top of the White House," said Gayle Hafner, of Maryland ADAPT. "Our flag is supposed to symbolize freedom. Try telling that to all the people who are locked in nursing homes and institutions right now for the crime of disability, or to Linda from Maryland who is here because she is trying desperately to get out of a nursing home."
"Does this country legitimately owe us an apology for all our Stolen Lives?" Hafner asked. "You bet it does!"
According to the Washington Post, about two dozen protesters handcuffed themselves to the fence in front of the White House. District police officers unlocked and confiscated the handcuffs.
After the presentations, protesters chanting "Free our people" were warned by police to disband and leave before they were arrested.
The 134-year-old facility is the oldest nursing home in California and the largest in the United States with 1,200 beds.
Assistant Attorney General Ralph Boyd Jr sent a 30 page letter to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera last month, informing the city that it violates the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act by not providing alternatives to the nursing home. Boyd said the Justice Department could sue over the violations, but wants to work cooperatively with the administration.
Boyd's letter is the result an investigation by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services. It noted that dozens of those housed at Laguna Honda Hospital have no medical needs being met by the nursing facility.
In 1999, San Francisco voters approved a bond to help pay for a new $401 facility to replace Laguna Honda. Boyd called the efforts to rebuild "misguided".
The DOJ letter backs up actions by disability rights advocates who have tried to keep the new facility from being built.
In July 2000, a group of Laguna Honda residents sued San Francisco and several state agencies, claiming the agencies violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the Nursing Home Reform Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, by not providing community-based services for those who want to live in their own homes. The lawsuit cites the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision, which ruled that unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities is a form of discrimination.
In October 2001, approximately 600 activists from ADAPT and other groups from around the nation gathered in San Francisco to protest the plans to rebuild the aging facility.
"Investigation of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation
Center"(U.S. Department of Justice)
"Laguna Honda Hospital" (Inclusion Daily Express)
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the settlement with the employee who had sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The woman claimed she was fired from a Granite Quarry Dollar General store in July 2000 because of her mental retardation.
Under the settlement agreement, Dollar General agreed to pay the employee $45,000 and to publish an article about its rights and responsibilities in the ADA in its company newsletter.
The settlement will be finalized once it is approved by the court.
Townsend was convicted in 1980 of murdering four women in Broward County, north of Miami, after confessing to the crimes.
Miami-Dade prosecutors had also suspected him of committing several murders in their area. While Townsend, who has mental retardation, was serving back-to-back life sentences for the Broward convictions, Miami-Dade officials charged him with two murders and a rape.
Townsend was told that if he went to trial on the Miami-Dade charges, prosecutors planned to use the Broward convictions against him. To avoid the death penalty, Townsend pleaded guilty to the Miami-Dade charges.
Later, Townsend said Broward County Sheriff's investigators took advantage of him by forcing him to confess to the crimes, "helping" him remember several details -- even turning off the tape recorder to "correct" him when his story was not consistent with theirs.
In April 2001, analyses of DNA evidence found at two of the Broward crime scenes pointed to another inmate, Eddie Lee Mosley, who also has mental retardation. Broward officials then dropped the other convictions because they had been based on Townsend's confessions, which could no longer be trusted.
The suit filed Tuesday in federal court names the city of Miami, along with two former police officers, three former city managers, and the current city manager, according to the Associated Press. It accuses the city of Miami of failing to institute supervisory and training reforms in the 1970s that might have changed the situation for Townsend.
"There were studies telling them what needed to be corrected," said Townsend's attorney, Barbara Heyer. "To date, they have not been corrected."
Last September, Heyer filed suit against the Broward County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Ken Jenne, Major Anthony Fantigrassi, who is now Jenne's head of criminal investigations, and Mark Schlein, who works for the state attorney general's office. Townsend claimed Jenne and Schlein were the deputies that forced him to confess.
Neither suit specified a dollar amount.
Related resource:"Jerry Frank Townsend Cleared Of Murders" (Inclusion Daily Express)
Disability rights advocates that fought to keep Sutton from the important post were disappointed in the outcome of the vote. About 150 activists crowded into a room at the U.S. Capitol earlier in the day to urge lawmakers to vote against Sutton's appointment.
"I need you out there reminding every senator who you see . . . a vote for Jeffrey Sutton is a vote to undo the Americans with Disability Act," Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told the crowd before the vote.
Sutton, a former state solicitor general from Columbus, Ohio, has a history of arguing against people's rights in court cases. Most notable for disability rights was when he represented the State of Alabama in a U.S. Supreme Court case against Patricia Garrett in 2000. The court agreed with Sutton in that case when ruling that state employees with disabilities cannot sue their employers for damages under the ADA.
Sutton has insisted that he was just doing his job. Others note that he has gone beyond the job to attack civil rights.
In the 1999 Supreme Court case Olmstead vs. L.C. and E.W., Sutton filed a brief supporting the state of Georgia, claiming states did not have to provide services in the community for people with mental illness or mental retardation. The Supreme Court disagreed with his position and ruled that unnecessary institutionalization is a form of discrimination prohibited by the ADA.
"He has sought to weaken, among other laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, told his colleagues before the vote. "His extreme judicial philosophy would undermine the rights of state workers, disabled individuals, women, children, racial and ethnic minorities, and older Americans."
According to ADA Watch, more than 400 national, state, and local disability and civil rights organizations were aligned in opposition to Sutton's appointment. "Sutton is a nationally recognized leader of the 'states' rights' movement which has targeted the New Deal, the Great Society, Medicaid, the ADA, Olmstead, and the authority of a democratically elected Congress to legislate remedies when petitioned by American citizens," ADA Watch said in a press release early Tuesday.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handles appeals from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan. It is the last stop before the Supreme Court for cases in these states.
"On The Nomination Of Jeffrey S. Sutton To The U.S. Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit" (Senator Patrick Leahy)
"Nominee Is Hostile To The Disabled" by Michael Volkman (Albany Times Union)
But the Eugenics Study Committee, appointed in February by Governor Mike Easley, did not say whether they should be paid cash.
"There's no price tag for the damage that was done," said Stan Slawinski of the state Department of Health and Human Services. "How does one set parameters around that?"
North Carolina was the third state within the last year to formally apologize for sterilizing its citizens. It is the first to look at how to help those who are still alive to recover.
"The difficulty is we have nothing to measure against because no other state has done this," Slawinski said.
Another difficulty is the fact that the state does not know which subjects may have approved their own sterilizations and which did not. One option being considered would be for the state to advertise that it's looking for people who were forcibly sterilized. They could then request to see their own records and ask to appear before a special panel that would determine how the person should be compensated.
Still, such compensation may not gain popular support while the state is in a financial crisis.
More than 7,600 North Carolinians were sterilized between 1929 and 1974 under the state's eugenics law that was finally repealed just one week ago. Most of those who were operated upon had mental retardation or mental illness. By the end of the 1960s, more than 60 percent of those sterilized were black and 99 percent were female -- some as young as 10 years of age.
Eugenics was based on the racist belief that society would be improved by keeping "undesirables" from having children. Thirty-three states and two Canadian provinces legally sterilized an estimated 66,000 people. American eugenics lost popularity after the collapse of Nazi Germany in 1945. In North Carolina, however, almost four-fifths of the state's sterilizations took place after World War II.
The committee is expected to give its final recommendations next month.
"Money will not help sterilization victims" (NCSU Technician)
"North Carolina's Eugenics Past" (Inclusion Daily Express)
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