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Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

Supreme Court rejects sidewalk appeal
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2003 -- The U.S. Supreme Court without comment rejected the appeal by Sacramento to overturn the Ninth Circuit ruling that city sidewalks were covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and therefore have to be accessible. The Justice Department had urged the high court to reject the city's appeal.

Earlier in the week, the city of Sacramento agreed to settle the lawsuit brought by disabled activists over access to city sidewalks. Sacramento had agreed to drop its appeal to the Supreme Court and assign 20 percent of its transportation funds for the next 30 years to improve sidewalks, crosswalks and curb ramps. The settlement also calls for the city to pay up to $795,000 in attorneys' fees, as well as $10,000 to each of the eight named plaintiffs.

The Sacramento City Council unanimously approved the settlement during a closed-door meeting. The case, known as Barden v. Sacramento, had worried activists nationwide who feared that, if the Supreme Court took the case, the Americans with Disabilities Act might be curtailed further. More on the Barden case.

This is the second case this year from California which had been appealed to the Supreme Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act. An earlier case, Medical Board of Calif. v. Hason, was withdrawn. More on the Hason case.

Read story of settlement in Sacramento Bee

Study: Disabled Losing Nearly All Discrimination Cases
June 25, 2003 -- In well over 9 out of 10 times, employers won when their employees filed disability discrimination lawsuits against them. Those are the findings in a new report in the current issue of the American Bar Association's Mental & Physical Disability Law Reporter: employers prevailed in 94.5 percent of 327 cases decided in federal courts across the United States last year.

"The margin of victory was even greater within the 7th Circuit -- which covers Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana -- with employers winning a whopping 98.3 percent of the cases that were resolved."

"Judges, acting more like benefits managers, [are] deciding if a person is 'disabled' enough -- rather than reviewing the facts of civil rights cases and the alleged discriminatory behavior of employers," says ADA Watch's Jim Ward.

Disabled people filing disability discrimination complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lost their cases 78.1 percent of the time.

"The results clearly show a continuation of the pattern of employers prevailing and employees losing in an overwhelming majority of the final court outcomes and in a substantial majority of the administrative decisions," the study said.

The report looked at 442 court decisions in Title I cases from 2002 that appeared in the publication through its March-April issue. The report is online at http://www.abanet.org/disability/reporter/feature.html

Most Favor Segregation, Study Says
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

June 23, 2003 -- On the eve of its World Summer Games, which begins June 21 in Dublin, the Special Olympics organization released the results of a study that looked at how people with intellectual disabilities are perceived around the world.

Researchers surveyed a total of 8,000 people from 10 countries: Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Northern Ireland and the United States. The study focused on the expectations that respondents had about the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities and the barriers that keep them from being fully included in mainstream society.

Overall, those who responded had relatively low expectations of people with intellectual disabilities. For example, just 19 percent believed that people with such disabilities could handle an emergency, and just 36 percent believed that they could understand a news event. * (See editor's comment below)

Overwhelmingly, those who responded believed that segregated environments were the best places for such people to live, work and learn.

Regarding living arrangements, for instance, 75 percent believed that "the family", group homes and institutions were the best settings, with only 25 percent naming supervised apartments or independent living.

In employment, more than 50 percent believed that including workers with intellectual disabilities would increase the risk of accidents in the workplace. Fifty percent also believed that such inclusion would make the other workers less productive.

A majority of respondents named "special schools", "special classrooms", or "the home" as the best educational environments for children with such disabilities, rather than typical classroom settings.

Between 70 and 80 percent of the respondents pointed to a lack of government programs as the primary barrier to inclusion.

The head of the research team said the results show how important it is to work to change attitudes about people with disabilities.

"By exposing the often latent beliefs of ordinary people towards individuals with intellectual disabilities, scientists, educators, social service workers, parents, friends and many others will be better equipped to combat the negative stereotypes exposed by this research," Dr. Gary Siperstein, director of the center for social development and education at the university of University of Massachusetts, Boston, told NPR news.

"They will also be better equipped to encourage and grow the positive beliefs," he said.

Special Olympics President Timothy Shriver said the study strengthens the organization's resolve to expand its influence.

"Our greatest hope is that this study will serve as the catalyst for a real and lasting change in the public's attitudes toward the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of society in every country on the planet."

Read press release "Multi-National Study of Attitudes" (Special Olympics)

* (Editor's comment: If they only knew how many people labeled with so-called "intellectual disabilities" read the news every day. - Dave)

Supreme Ct to hear Tennessee ADA Title 2 case
WASHINGTON, DC, June 23, 2003 -- The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take the Americans with Disabilities Act Title 2 case appeal from Tennessee, which will determine whether states can be sued for failing to install wheelchair ramps or other accommodations. The case, Tennessee v. Lane, 02-1667, concerns a paraplegic man who crawled two flights of steps to reach a hearing in a courthouse that lacked an elevator. (Read more about this case, below.)

''It's a very serious attack on the Americans with Disabilities Act and its constitutionality,'' Gary Housepian, managing attorney for the Tennessee Protection and Advocacy Agency, told the Nashville Tennesseean. ''It's about access to all public buildings, so to us this is really life or death,'' added activist Bob Kafka.

Tennessee argues that the Constitution's 11th Amendment protects states from being sued, and points out that the Supreme Court has already ruled that Congress exceeded its authority in parts of the law -- namely Title 1 -- in its 2001 Garrett decision.

"Tennessee should withdraw its appeal to the Supreme Court," says the Memphis Center for Independent Living's Deborah Cunningham.

More on Tennessee v. Lane from the Bazelon Center

U.S. Won't Sign U.N. Disability Rights Treaty
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

UNITED NATIONS, June 19, 2003 -- The United States will not sign an international treaty protecting people with disabilities from discrimination, a United Nations committee was told Wednesday.

Ralph Boyd, U.S. assistant attorney general for civil rights, told the committee which is drafting a treaty on world-wide disability rights, that the United States would support the panel in its work, but would not sign the final document. Boyd said the Bush administration believes such rights should be covered by national measures and pointed to U.S. laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Thus we hope to participate in order to share our experiences and to offer technical assistance, if desired, on key principles and elements, but -- given our comprehensive domestic laws protecting those with disabilities -- not with the expectation that we will become party to any resulting legal instrument," Boyd said.

Some disability rights activists said they were disappointed.

"The United States does have rather extensive disability laws, so its offer to help was welcome, and it was nice it decided not to be an obstructionist or a spoiler," Jerry White, of the Landmine Survivors Network, told Reuters.

"But it is too bad it passed up an opportunity to lead a multilateral initiative in a healing way," he said.

Read Marta Russell's dispatch on the Administration's position

Related resource: United Nations Persons With Disabilities Website

Government Bars Community Supports, Says Report
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.
BATON ROUGE, LA, June 17, 2003 -- Ninety-three percent of Louisiana's budget for long-term care goes to support nursing homes. That's about $600 million per year.

Still, the nursing home industry's chief lobbyist, Joe Donchess, says the state does not provide enough money to keep nursing homes operating.

That's why Donchess is urging Louisiana's lawmakers to resist a court order that requires an increase in state funding for in-home personal care assistants. Providing personal care to all who want it and qualify would cost the state just $38 million.

A Congressional study has found that Louisiana is "sorely lagging" in providing home- and community-based supports for seniors and people with disabilities, The Advocate revealed Tuesday.

The study discovered a number of federal barriers to community services, first and foremost of which is the fact that nursing homes are guaranteed as an entitlement under Medicaid rules.

Louisiana has its own barriers, too. And the nursing home industry -- one of the top contributors to state legislative campaigns -- is the largest of these.

But the system is slowly changing, primarily because of lawsuits and other actions that have been directed at state government.

"Court action and advocacy efforts have influenced a change in pattern of care for these individuals that emphasizes care in smaller, community-based residences that maximizes their independence and integration into the community," the report says.

Related article: "Court order may push care-service changes" (The Advocate)

A win for Dr. Sell -- partly
WASHINGTON, DC, June 16, 2003 -- A court must decide if involuntary medication "will significantly further'' interests in punishment, said the U.S. Supreme Court in its 6-3 decision today in the case of Dr. Charles Sell. The court must balance the government's interest in punishing nonviolent crime with a person's constitutional right to control his or her body. Read our story.

Traffic circles cause access problems, say activists
FRESNO, CA, June 16, 2003 -- Roundabouts -- also called traffic circles -- are a popular alternative to typical intersections where streets cross in an "x." Traffic using a roundabout does not stop at a stop sign or stop light; it continues around the circle, veering off onto the next street. Roundabouts, common in Europe, are less common in the U.S. A study by the U.S. Department of Transportation found roundabouts were the scene of significantly fewer accidents in France.

The Fresno, CA., city council is contemplating replacing a number interesections with roundabouts. The problem, say disability activists, is they are inaccessible to disabled people. Without signal lights to control traffic, blind pedestrians and people in wheelchairs must simply wait for a gap in traffic before attempting to cross the street at a roundabout.

Blind people can't see the gaps, says Fresno disability activist Ed Eames. And "without traffic signal lights, drivers won't stop for us," added activist Anne Carter. The city's ADA Advisory Council, which Eames chairs, says any roundabouts to be constructed must be shown to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It's early going yet in the discussion, though, says Eames; and he intends to make sure any new patterns in street configurations are accessible.

More from the Fresno Bee

More about access in Fresno

DOJ: Concert-Goers Can Bring Diabetic Supplies And Food To SFX Venues
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.
WASHINGTON, DC, June 13, 2003 -- SFX Entertainment, Inc. will allow concert-goers with diabetes to bring their medical supplies and food with them to concerts, under an agreement announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The agreement settles a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in April of last year which alleged that SFX violated Title 2I of the Americans with Disabilities Act by establishing and enforcing a policy keeping patrons from bringing their insulin, needles, and other diabetic supplies and food with them to concert events. The lawsuit cited complaints from a woman whose diabetes kit was confiscated at a Philadelphia nightclub in 2000 and a man who was barred from taking his kit into a pavilion outside Pittsburgh in 1999. The complaint further claimed that other individuals with diabetes were forced by SFX's policy to choose between staying away from concerts or taking unreasonable health risks.

"Today's settlement ensures that people with diabetes can attend and enjoy performances like anyone else," said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in a DOJ statement.

SFX Entertainment, Inc. owns or operates more than 100 concert venues across the country. The company is a division of Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio chain with 1,200 stations.

Under the terms of the settlement, SFX will start a new policy allowing guests with diabetes to bring their medical supplies and the food they need for diabetic purposes. SFX will also provide training to employees who implement the new policy, and will pay damages of $20,000.

The new policy will also permit persons with severe allergies to bring in and keep an EpiPen, a disposable allergy drug delivery system.

Title 2I of the ADA prohibits public accommodations, such as concert venues, from discriminating against any individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of its goods, services or facilities.

MDA Bans Volunteers With Muscular Dystrophy, Judge Says OK
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.
WICHITA, June 12, 2003 -- The Muscular Dystrophy Association did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when it refused to allow two women with forms of muscular dystrophy to volunteer at an upcoming summer camp, a Wichita judge ruled Monday.

The decision means that Gina Bauer and Suzanne Stolz, both teachers who use wheelchairs, will not be attending Camp Chihowa near Topeka next month, as they have for the past several years.

U.S. Senior District Judge Wesley Brown ruled that MDA's requirement that volunteer counselors be able to "assist in lifting campers -- on a regular basis and in the rare event of an emergency -- is an essential function of the position."

"In sum, the court concludes that MDA's requirements for its volunteer counselors are based on legitimate and neutral criteria that are necessary for the safe operation of its summer camps."

A lawyer for MDA, which claims to be dedicated to "conquering neuromuscular diseases", had said all camp counselors must be able to lift and carry campers, in emergency situations, including "the challenges posed by national security concerns."

David Calvert, the attorney representing Bauer and Stolz, said his clients have not decided whether or not to appeal the judge's ruling.

"I'm certain that they're disappointed," Calvert told the Wichita Eagle. "They think they give a lot by way of being role models to the younger campers there. They like to give back what they've gotten over the years."

Read earlier coverage of lawsuit

Appellate Court Ignores Advocates, Orders Terri Schiavo's Feeding Tube Removed
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.
LAKELAND, FL, June 6, 2003 -- Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that Circuit Judge George W. Greer was right last year when he scheduled the removal of the feeding tube that is keeping Terri alive. The three-member appeals court said that there is "no hope of a medical cure" and that there is "clear and convincing evidence" that she would not want to live in her present condition.

Schiavo had a heart attack on February 25, 1990 and was without oxygen for about five minutes. Some doctors say her brain was damaged to the point where she is in a "persistent vegetative state". Other doctors have said Terri would benefit from innovative therapies.

Her parents say Terri is alert and responsive, that she laughs at jokes, turns her head, smiles, cries, moans and drinks water.

Schiavo's husband and guardian, Michael, is pushing to have Terri's feeding tube removed so she will die. He claims that she told him, before the heart attack, that she would not want to live if she were disabled to this extent.

The Schindlers say that Michael Schiavo wants the remainder of a $700,000 medical trust fund awarded to his wife in a 1992 malpractice lawsuit that would revert back to him if she dies. They believe he also wants to marry another woman, with whom he had a baby girl in September.

Doctors say that if Terri's feeding tube is removed, she would likely die within two weeks.

Pat Anderson, the Schindlers' attorney, said they would appeal the latest ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. That court declined to hear the case two years ago. The U.S. Supreme Court has also refused to hear the case.

"I have prepared them the day will come when there will not be anymore legal options," Anderson said of Terri's parents. "That day has not arrived."

In February of this year, twelve disability rights groups, a university affiliated policy center, a patients' rights group, and two people who have experienced severe brain injuries filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief supporting Terri's right to food, water and treatment.

"This case reflects whether our society and legal system values the lives of people with disabilities equally to those without disabilities,"said attorney Max Lapertosa.

Related resources:

"Timeline of the Terri Schiavo case" (Associated Press via Sarasota Herald-Tribune)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Life" (Inclusion Daily Express)
"The Hearing to Save Terri Schiavo's Life" (Ragged Edge)

Tennessee asks high court to hear ADA Title 2 case

WASHINGTON, DC, June 3, 2003 -- Tennessee has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that it has immunity from claims brought under Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Last July, ruling in the case Tennessee v. Lane, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said that the state was not immune from damages claims under Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In February, 2001, the Court had ruled in University of Alabama v. Garrett that states were immune from damages claims under Title I of the law. This case would ask the Court to issue a similar decision for Title 2 of the Act.

The appeal comes in a case filed in 1998 by George Lane and Beverly Jones on behalf of disabled Tennesseeans who could not access county courthouses due to architectural barriers. Title 2 of the ADA requires state and local goverment services to be accessible.

Lane became an amputee in 1996 as the result of a traffic accident. When he was was cited later for driving with a revoked license, he arrived at the Polk County Courthouse only to find he couldn't get up the stairs.

"The deputies and other personnel just kind of stood there and watched him as he crawled up to the courtroom," Lane's attorney William J. Brown told reporters in Aug, 1998, when Lane and paraplegic court reporter Beverly Jones filed suit against Polk Co., Tenn. and two dozen other Tennessee counties under Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to make courthouses accessible.

"Every time I'm carried up the steps, I lose my independence, and I'm not being treated equally," Jones told reporters when the suit was filed. A freelance court reporter with two teen-age children, Jones said that in order to work in Clay County, she had to be carried up an old, steep staircase. In Jackson County, Jones said she is scared her "ride" will slip and fall.

"Most of Tennessee's counties use courthouses built more than a century ago, when few architects considered the needs of people with disabilities," reported the Associated Press.

Read the Sixth Circuit opinion.


More news can be found at these sites:

The "Disabilities and the disabled" news from Yahoo Full Coverage provides news stories from mainstream media

A running "News Ticker" of stories is online at http://www.acdd.org/news.htm#search

For disability movement news, visit the JFA Newsgroup

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