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Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

News Alerts from Bazelon.org

Send back the access guidelines for an overhaul, say activists

SACRAMENTO, MAY 30, 2005-- Disability activists in California are worried about what the Dept. of Justice seems to be planning. An "Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" on revised access requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act signals, they say, a decrease in access! And the public comment period ends May 31. (The original deadline was in January but it got extended to May 31). MORE AT www.adaag2005.blogspot.com/. To read the proposed DOJ rules, go to adaanprm.org (The DOJ won't turn these into law until after another comment period. Watch Ragged Edge for more on that in the future.)

British Medical Council says it should have right to decide whether patients get food, water

LONDON, MAY 26, 2005-- Leslie Burke wants to continue living. But that may cost too much, says the government. Burke, a British citizen, has cerebellar ataxia, a degenerative brain condition. In time he will need help eating and drinking.

Last year Burke won his case against England's National Health Service: the court said that once Burke is too disabled to eat and drink on his own, NHS would have to provide food and liquids by artificial means until he dies, which is what Burke, who is fully conscious now, says he wants.

Now the country's General Medical Council has appealed the ruling, saying that "It may be interpreted as giving patients the right to demand certain treatments, contrary to the considered judgment of their medical team, that would lead to patients obtaining access to treatment that is not appropriate for them, and to inefficient - and unfairly skewed - use of resources within the NHS," and went on to argue that "the patient cannot require his doctor to offer him any treatment option which, in the doctor's view, is not clinically appropriate or which cannot be offered for other reasons - having regard to the efficient allocation of resources within the NHS." " (Read article from The Telegraph.)

Britain's Disability Rights Commission told the court the CMC's position was "deeply offensive and patronising." (More about the DRC's statement).

More from The Times Online

Analysis by Wesley Smith in The Weekly Standard

Visit Les Burke's own website

Woman wins $10 million in lawsuit over perfume allergy

DETROIT, MAY 24, 2005-- A jury has awarded $10.6 million to former radio proram host who was fired after complaining a co-worker's perfume made her sick.

Erin Weber was fired by WYCD-FM in 2001 after she complained she was allergic to a colleague's perfume. Infinity Broadcasting Inc., which owned the station, not only refused to deal with the problem but retaliated after she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she told the court.

A jury awarded Weber $7 million in punitive damages, $2 million for mental anguish and emotional distress and $1.6 million for past and future compensation.

The radio station, which argued that Weber was fired for not coming to work, says it will appeal the verdict.

Deaf Employee Sues Albertsons Over Workplace Mistreatment
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

FORT WORTH, TX, MAY 24, 2005-- A Fort Worth man has filed a disability-discrimination lawsuit recently against his employer, Albertsons, and a coworker for mistreating him because he is deaf.

William Monteleone, 39, claims that some employees at the Albertsons Distribution Center in Fort Worth hurled cans and bottles at him; his supervisor mocked him by acting deaf, then yelling in Monteleone's face; and forklift driver Charles Davis gunned the engine and ran the machine toward Monteleone.

The suit seeks unspecified damages against Albertsons and Davis.

"We really hope that this litigation will improve the workplace not just for him but for other workers who are deaf or hard of hearing," Monteleone's attorney Karen Fitzgerald told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

CIL sues Ypsilanti for badly installed curb cuts

DETROIT, MAY 25, 2005-- A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the city of Ypsilanti for failing to construct decent curb cuts.

The Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, which sued the city under the Americans With Disabilities Act, says officials failed to build curb ramps in accordance with federal and Michigan building standards during a multimillion-dollar resurfacing project, which included sidewalks and intersections.

"If you are blind or in a wheelchair and the curb is not cut to code, you have to travel in the street rather than in the sidewalk, and that's not a good thing," Center Director James Magyar told the Ann Arbor News.

The group wants the city to reconstruct the existing intersections and sidewalks so that they comply with access requirements.

United Spinal launches website effort to fight 'in-home' restriction

WASHINGTON, DC, MAY 25, 2005-- Efforts to get the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to change its "unreasonable policy" which restricts motorized wheelchairs to use online inside an individual's home have increased. Justice For All reports that Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI), himself a wheelchari user, and Charlie Bass (R-NH) are circulating a bipartisan "Dear Colleague" letter in the House of Representatives asking members to sign onto a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt asking him to change the policy. JFA is asking advocates to contact their Representative to sign the letter (More from JFA.)

And the national disability rights group United Spinal has created a website, rightwheelchair.org, which they call "a vehicle for grassroots action" in fighting the policy. Besides providing background on CMS's poicy and efforts to change it, the site allows visitors to write directly to their Representatives and Senators, urging them to support a repeal of the in-the-home restriction, just by entering their zip code.

Visit the website at www.rightwheelchair.org

May 26 rally to protest cuts in Rehab Administration

WASHINGTON, DC, MAY 25, 2005-- Disabled people from across the nation will rally on May 26 in front of the U.S. Dept. of Education on Maryland Ave. in Washington to protest cutbacks and other changes at the Rehabilitation Services Administration that they say threaten the well-being of disabled people nationwide. MORE.

Disability Groups Claim Oregon Assisted Suicide Law Puts Lives At Risk
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

WASHINGTON, DC, MAY 19, 2005-- A dozen leading disability groups have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law in a case to be heard this fall.

The state is challenging former Attorney General John Ashcroft's interpretation of the federal Controlled Substances Act as banning doctors from prescribing lethal doses of drugs to patients seeking help to take their own lives. Ashcroft said prescribing a drug with death as the goal is not a legitimate use of that drug.

Many disability rights advocates have opposed making assisted suicide legal in the U.S. and elsewhere, arguing that the existence of such laws puts the lives of vulnerable people at greater risk. They also claim that Oregon's law violates their rights under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and equal protection provisions in the Constitution because it discriminates against and degrades the lives of people with disabilities.

"Oregon's assisted suicide law encourages disabled individuals, those who are 'terminal' and those who may not be, to end their lives -- and guarantees such efforts will result in death -- while other state laws concurrently discourage non-disabled persons from suicide," the advocacy group Not Dead Yet said in a press statement.

Diane Coleman, the group's president, said: "If assisted suicide were really about personal autonomy, it would be available to all suicidal people."

Along with Not Dead Yet, the following disability groups signed on to the amicus brief: ADAPT; Center on Disability Studies, Law and Human Policy at Syracuse University; Center for Self- Determination; Hospice Patients Alliance; Mouth Magazine/Freedom Clearinghouse; National Council on Independent Living; National Spinal Cord Injury Association; Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered; Society for Disability Studies; TASH; and World Institute on Disability.

"Disability groups file amicus brief in Gonzales vs. Oregon" (Not Dead Yet)
"Amicus curiae brief from disability rights groups" (Not Dead Yet)
Gonzales v. Oregon (International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide)

SC Councilwoman Says New City Hall Not Accessible
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

WEST COLUMBIA, SC, MAY 23, 2005-- Peggy Butler is challenging that old adage, "You can't fight City Hall".

In fact, Butler, a member of the West Columbia City Council since 1993, has filed a complaint with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission over accessibility problems at the new City Hall where she attends meetings.

Butler uses a wheelchair because of injuries she sustained in the first Gulf War.

According to the Associated Press, she claims that the building, which was completed in December, does not comply with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. She gave examples of having to use her cell phone to page others for assistance in order to get into some parts of the building, including council chambers.

Related: "Wheelchair-user files complaint over access to city hall" (Associated Press via Beaufort Gazette)

MI bill would allow private restroom access
LANSING, MI, MAY 19, 2005-- A bill to require businesses to allow those with fecal or urinary incontinence the use of employee restrooms was introduced in the Michigan legislature in early April. The Michigan chapter of Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America,. the group behind the bill, believes it's the first in the nation.

While laws like the Americans with Disabiltiies Act ensure that people with inflammatory bowel disease -- the generic name for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis -- have toilet access at work, and access to public toilets in places of public accommodation, not all businesses have restrooms designated for public use. Store owners required to have wheelchair ramps and lifts in public areas are not required to allow customers into private areas where employees-only restrooms are located.

The Michigan bill would require businesses to open their employee restroom facilities to individuals with fecal and urinary incontinence who carry an explanatory doctor's note.

Jill Sklar, a board member of the Michigan Chapter, pushed for such a bill after being refused permission to use an employee-only restroom despite showing her Crohn's & Colitis Foundation card that described her need.

"I contacted the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to lodge a complaint, because I felt my rights as a person with an illness had been violated," explained Sklar. "Attorneys for that department told me that I didn't have a claim since it was a gray area of the law, and suggested I would just have to create a law if I wanted to ensure such access."

Sklar approached State Rep. Andy Meisner, a Democrat, and worked on drafting the bill which he would introduce. The CCFA has endorsed it.

The law would carry a fine of not more than $100 for refusing restroom access to a person who can show a note confirming their condition. It would also require those with colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome or any condition requiring immediate access to a restroom to get a doctor's note or prescription to show storekeepers.

While Maryland has a similar law on the books, it affects only businesses that have more than 20 employees and imposes no fine, according to Sklar. The Michigan law would apply to businesses with two or more employees. Illinois is planning to introduce a similar law in the future.

More than 12 million Americans have urinary incontinence, according to the American Foundation for Urologic Disease, and 5.5 million have fecal incontinence, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A hearing on the bill is planned in early summer.

Students' Suit Over Medical School Exam Advances
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

OAKLAND, CA, MAY 16, 2005-- Four students with learning disabilities who want to become doctors have won the first round in their class-action lawsuit against the organization that administers the admission exam for medical schools.

The California students claim in their suit filed last July that they should be given more time as a reasonable accommodation under the state's disability law, which defines disability more broadly than the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Association of American Medical Colleges asked the court to reject the suit, arguing that forcing the organization to conform the MCAT to California's standards would be unfair to people seeking testing accommodations in other states and to medical schools that rely on the test being uniform across the country. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ronald Sabraw ruled that the case can move forward to trial.

"We'll proceed to trial and prove that they ignore California law and illegally discriminate against students with disabilities," attorney Stephen Tollafield of Disability Rights Advocates told the Associated Press. Tollafield added that he hopes the trial will end soon enough for the ruling to affect next year's exams.

Related: "MCAT lawsuit to continue Oakland judge refuses to dismiss case MCAT lawsuit to continue Oakland judge refuses to dismiss case" (Inside Bay Area)

Disability Rights Groups Blast Pryor Confirmation Vote
WASHINGTON, DC May 12 2005-- After the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 to confirm the nomination of William Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, ADA Watch's Jim Ward blasted the party-line vote as "a sad betrayal," calling Pryor "one of the chief architects of an ongoing assault aagainst protections for the rights of tens of millions of Americans with disabilities."

Jennifer Mathis, senior staff attorney at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, said the real test would occur on the Senate floor. "If the Senate doesn't stand up soon to the rising tide of judicial activism against disability rights, you can wave goodbye to the basic protections the Americans with Disabilities Act."

Read more from U.S. Newswire.

British Voters Asked To Rate Polling Access
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

GLAMORGAN, WALES, MAY 6, 2005-- Voters with disabilities are being asked to rate their accessibility experiences at polling places or with mail-in voting following the May 5 election.

As part of a voters access campaign named "Polls Apart", the disability charity Scope has published an online questionnaire for voters to fill out. The organization wants to know if polling access has improved since 2001, when a similar survey found just 69 percent of polling stations were accessible.

"Some people were being turned away and told they couldn't vote, others had to do it in the street, others had to get someone else to vote for them," Scope's Richard Parnell told the BBC.

Things should be different this time, because of provisions in the Disability Discrimination Act which came into effect last October.

Michele Kordell, who coordinates the campaign in Wales, said: "Progress has been made but still a lot more can be done to make it accessible."

"People shouldn't be disallowed from voting because they can't get into the building, they should be able to go independently."

"Access problem for disabled voter" (BBC News)
"Disabled voters judge poll access" (BBC News)
"Disabled voters to assess access" (BBC News)
Website: Polls Apart: Campaigning for Accessible Democracy

Seattle Woman Wins Service Dog Discrimination Case
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

SEATTLE, MAY 3, 2005-- A Seattle woman has won a $21,222 judgment against the former owner of a Ballard convenience store who refused to serve her because of her service dog.

Joyce Fischer-Jones, 47, stopped at the Wicker Basket in July 2003 to buy a soda pop. She claims that the then-storeowner, Ho Park, told her to leave with her chow/Labrador mix service dog Sox.

"He said 'no dog' and he shoved me," she told KOMO-TV.

She filed a complaint with Seattle's Office for Civil Rights, which filed a discrimination lawsuit against Park. Fisher-Jones will receive about $5,000 after attorneys fees are paid.

Fischer-Jones experiences panic attacks and anxiety about being in public or open spaces. In the five years since she got Sox, Fisher-Jones has been able to leave her apartment and go out in public, even volunteer at the local office of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). She now works part-time as a barrista, serving drinks at a coffee bar.

"I have an unseen disability," said Fischer-Jones. "I am emotionally disabled, and I don't look it."

She explained that Sox has helped keep her out of institutions. Still, she is frustrated that she often has to explain that service animals are not just for blind people.

"Woman wins bias case over service dog" (Seattle Times)
"Woman Wins Judgment After Store Kicks Her Out For Having Guide Dog" (KOMO-TV)

As One State Considers Banning Restraints, A Child In Another State Dies After Restraint
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

ROCK HILL, SC & CLEVELAND, GA, MAY 3, 2005-- The restraint-related death of a 9-year-old boy has prompted the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to consider prohibiting group home workers from sitting on children to restrain them.

Jamal Odum suffocated to death in 2003 after a 220-pound group home worker lay across his back for seven minutes during a restraint.

An HHS proposal would ban laying across a child's back or chest, forcing compliance by causing pain, sitting on or straddling any part of the body, or using drugs or mechanical devices to restrain a child.

It would also require group homes to train workers on de-escalation techniques and understanding the risks of restraining children on their stomachs. The proposal would affect about 1,800 children in group homes funded through Medicaid.

In related news, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the apparent restraint-related death of a 13-year-old boy at a therapeutic wilderness camp run by the state's Department of Human Resources.

Travis Parker, who reportedly had asthma, was being restrained on the night of April 20 when he started having trouble breathing. He later died at a nearby hospital.

The Appalachian Wilderness Camp serves youths through the juvenile justice and mental health systems.

Staff members there have been put on administrative leave while the investigation continues.

"Plan would ban workers from sitting on children as a restraint" (Island Packet)
"GBI investigating death of boy at state camp" (Associated Press)

North Carolina Lawmakers To Consider Reparations For Eugenics Survivors
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

RALEIGH, NC, MAY 3, 2005-- Survivors of North Carolina's eugenic sterilization program are still waiting for the state to help them in their recovery from having their reproductive rights taken away.

In December of 2002, Governor Mike Easley apologized on behalf of his state for the legal sterilizations of 7,600 people during the last century. Two years ago this week, a panel Easley had appointed decided that the state should at least provide counseling and medical benefits for the estimated 3,400 victims who are still alive.

That hasn't happened yet.

In the meantime, a $50 million bill that would pay at least $20,000 to compensate each survivor is on its way to the Legislature. It is expected to be met with resistance from lawmakers dealing with a tight budget.

"Anytime you sterilize someone against their will, that is wrong," said Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare. "I can't understand how we could've done that."

The North Carolinians were sterilized -- many against their will -- between 1929 and 1974 under the state's eugenics law that was finally repealed two years ago this month. 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 in most areas 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.

North Carolina was the third state to formally apologize for sterilizing its citizens.

"Against Their Will" (Winston-Salem Journal)
"North Carolina's Eugenics Past" (Inclusion Daily Express)

MS Gov. Vetoes In-Home Bill
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

JACKSON, MS, MAY 2, 2005-- Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and his predecessor Mike Moore are criticizing Governor Haley Barbour for vetoing a measure which would have funded in-home supports for people with disabilities, along with a program that prosecutes crimes against seniors.

The bill would have added between 50 cents and $15 to certain types of tickets to help cover the costs for hospital trauma units, prosecution of child-support cases and in-home health services for people with disabilities.

It also would have added 50 cents to every ticket for littering, speeding, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, to pay for the Vulnerable Adults Unit within the attorney general's office.

"This is the dumbest, most ill-informed veto I have ever seen in my life," Moore told the Clarion-Ledger.

Barbour said the Vulnerable Adults Unit was unnecessary.

Related: "Veto of vulnerable adult bill criticized" (Clarion-Ledger)

Honda Canada To Pay Record Damages To Fatigued Worker
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

TORONTO, MAY 2, 2005-- The Ontario Superior Court has issued a judgment against Honda Canada Inc., requiring it to pay a former employee with chronic fatigue syndrome $500,000 in punitive damages.

It is reportedly the largest punitive damage award for an employment suit in Canadian history.

The case involved Kevin Keays who started to develop symptoms of chronic fatigue in 1986, soon after he began working at a Honda assembly plant.

After years of problems getting the company to recognize his disability and make the necessary accommodations, Keays was fired in March of 2000, he claimed, as a result of his disability.

The Court agreed and ruled against Honda, while harshly criticizing the company for discriminating against Keays.

"Honda judgment a warning to employers; Highest punitive damages ever awarded in Canada" (Toronto Star)
"Court 'whacks' Honda with $500,000 in punitive damages" (Canadian Employment Law Today)

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