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Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

New NOD Survey: Disabled Americans "Pervasively Disadvantaged"
WASHINGTON, DC, June 28, 2004 -- The latest findings of the National Organization on Disability/Harris Survey of Americans with Disabilities -- a survey which has been conducted periodically by Harris since 1986 -- show that Americans with disabilities "remain pervasively disadvantaged," said NOD President Alan A. Reich when the findings were released on Thursday.

We also appear to be moving toward greater group consciousness. According to the findings, "people with disabilities are more likely to have a common sense of identity with other people with disabilities; 56 percent now say they do, compared to 47 percent in 2000."

From the survey:

  • Only 35 percent of people with disabilities reported being employed full or part time, compared to 78 percent of those who do not have disabilities.
  • Three times as many live in poverty with annual household incomes below $15,000 (26 percent versus 9 percent).
  • Over 40 percent of disabled respondents said they didn't expect their quality of life to improve, up from 35 percent in 2000. Nearly 65 percent said the Americans with Disabilities Act has made no difference in their lives, up from 58 percent. in 2000.

  • People with disabilities remain twice as likely to drop out of high school (21percent versus 10 percent).
  • They are twice as likely to have inadequate transportation (31 percent versus 13 percent), and a much higher percentage go without needed health care (18 percent versus 7 percent).
  • People with disabilities are less likely to socialize, eat out, or attend religious services than their non-disabled counterparts.
  • Not surprisingly given the persistence of these gaps, life satisfaction for people with disabilities also trails, with only 34 percent saying they are very satisfied compared to 61 percent of those without disabilities.

People with severe disabilities, not surprisingly, reported "much greater disadvantages." The survey found that disabled people are "worried about not being able to care for themselves or being a burden to their families." A third of respondents say they "rely on assistive technology" and "would lose their independence without this technology."

Yet only 22 percent of employed people with disabilities report encountering job discrimination, dramatically down from 36 percent four years ago -- but there's no way to tell whether this means there's less discrimination or that disabled job-seekers and workers are more resigned to its presence.

Read story from USAToday.
More on the survey from NOD.

Supreme Court Refuses Movie-Theater Access Cases -- For Now
Information for this story also provided by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.
WASHINGTON, DC, June 28, 2004 --The Supreme Court has refused to review two lower-court cases to determine whether the Americans with Disabilities Act requires stadium-style movie theaters to provide accessible seating at varied locations throughout their theaters.

One involves Kathy Stewmon, Tina Smith and Kathleen Braddy, three Oregon women who use wheelchairs. They sued Regal Entertainment Group claiming its Regal Cinemas failed to comply with the ADA by putting wheelchair seating in the front rows. They said the sharp vertical viewing angle cause them to experience nausea, headaches and blurry vision.

A federal judge ruled in favor of Regal, saying that the 1990 anti-discrimination law only required theater patrons to have a clear view of the screen.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned that ruling, saying that the first row seating areas are "objectively uncomfortable" because they require wheelchair users to "crane their necks and twist their bodies in order to see the screen." The appeals court said theaters must provide wheelchair accessible seating in locations giving the same viewing angles offered to all other theater-goers.

Today's action by the Supreme Court means that the 9th Circuit Court decision will stand -- for now.

The other case, from 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is a case brought by the Justice Dept. against Texas-based Cinemark USA Inc. of discriminating against patrons in wheelchairs. The suit had been dismissed; today's action means that case will now go forward in the 6th Circuit.

According to a story from the Associated Press, the Dept. of Justice had asked the Court to hold off until new guidelines on movie-theater access are released.

The U.S. Justice Department's Solicitor General, Theodore B. Olson, filed a brief in support of the movie-goers, saying the law and regulations keep theaters from "relegating all wheelchair users to the worst seats in the very front of the theater and excluding them entirely from the benefits of modern stadium-style theater designs."

A decision by the high court could affect thousands of cinemas across the country that have been built since 1995 with stadium seating, which places most of the seats on stepped risers rather than on sloped floors.

More from the Associated Press

No. 03-641: Regal Cinemas v. Stewmon - Amicus Invitation (U.S. Department of Justice)

Hate Crime Bill Passes Senate -- "Disability" Included
WASHINGTON, DC, June 28, 2004 --The Senate has approved, by a vote of 65 to 33, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, which among other things, expands federal hate crime protection to include disability, sexual orientation and gender. The bill, sponsored by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and attached as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill, passed the Senate in mid-June.

This is the fourth time since 1999 that the Senate has approved the measure as an amendment to a larger bill, but despite the Senate's broad support, the House has refused to pass the legislation. On two occasions, in 1999 and 2000, conferees stripped the amendment from their conference report. The next step is for the amendment to be considered in a House-Senate conference.

Crip Caravan, Rally Celebrate 5th Anniversary at Home of Olmstead Decision
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

MILLEDGEVILLE, GA, June 21, 2004 --Disability rights advocates in Georgia are celebrating the five-year anniversary of the nation's most important ADA victory for people with mental and other disabilities with a 106-mile march to call attention to the 1999 Supreme Court Olmstead decision.

The Macon Telegraph reported that over 70 advocates began the 106-mile march Saturday at the Old Capitol building at Milledgeville. They expect to end their march at the current state capitol in Atlanta on Tuesday. Along the way they will visit the Central State Hospital Cemetery and hold a vigil at the Brook Run, a state-run institution that was closed in 1997.

Dubbed the "Long Road Home March, Caravan & Freedom Celebration", the event is sponsored by People First of Atlanta, a self-advocacy group made up of people with developmental disabilities.

At Tuesday's Freedom Celebration at Atlanta's City Hall, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, the two women whose case for community living went all the way to the Supreme Court and is known as the Olmstead decision (from the name of the Georgia official they sued), will present the 1st Annual Olmstead Awards to advocates who have supported the movement toward community supports.

"People are geared up for this," the event's chair, Kate Gainer, told Inclusion Daily Express.

On June 22, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Olmstead v L.C. & E.W, that states violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when they "unnecessarily" institutionalize people with mental disabilities. The case involved Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, who had been confined to a Georgia institution even though state workers said they could be served well in the community. Tommy Olmstead was the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services.

In its 6-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that states are required "to place persons with mental disabilities in community settings rather than in institutions when the State's treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the State and the needs of others with mental disabilities."

President Clinton followed the Olmstead decision with a directive to all state Medicaid programs to draw up plans to comply with the Olmstead ruling and the "integration mandate" of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

How is Georgia doing on implementing its Olmstead plan?

"Well, they developed a plan, but it was set aside," Gainer said.

When asked why, Gainer replied, "That's one of the things we'll be asking the governor."

The advocates want Governor Sonny Perdue to make sure they are more involved in implementing the plan and getting regular progress reports from the state. Gainer cited the 2004 State of the States in Developmental Disabilities, a report published by the University of Colorado, which listed Georgia in 45th place of the 50 states in providing community-based services. Two years ago, Georgia was listed in 50th place.

"People with disabilities were in on the process of developing the plan, but we don't know what happened since then," she explained.

The advocates want the event to raise awareness of the need for the state to support Money Follows the Person legislation that would require funding to transfer with people who move from institutional settings into community-based settings. They are also urging lawmakers to approve funding of a nursing home transition program, that will lose federal money in September.

Gainer said she was inspired to organize the campaign after attending the Free Our People rally in Washington, DC last September. An estimated 500 disability rights advocates marched 144 miles from Philadelphia to the nation's capital in 14 days to draw attention to the need to remove the institutional bias that exists in the nation's current long-term care system.

Gainer added that the Long Road Home is also designed to let people with disabilities know that their voices count and to let lawmakers know that the votes of this group do make a difference.

"Our slogan is, 'Stop balancing the state budget on our backs'," she said.

Long Road Home

People First of Atlanta

Olmstead v. LC & EW (U.S. Supreme Court)

Deaf Woman Sues Doctor Over Lack of Interpreter
ROCHESTER, NY, June 21, 2004 -- A deaf Rochester woman who says she asked repeatedly for a sign-language interpreter at a doctor's office filed suit last week against the doctor under the Americans with Disabilties Act. Gail Sager, who's been deaf since birth, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, who reported the story, called the office of Dr. R. Edward Miner, an internist, to set up an appointment. She chose the doctor's office simply because it was close to her home, she said in the lawsuit.

At that time, she told the office she'd need a sign-language interpeter (she had used the state relay service to place the call). According to the lawsuit, she was told repeatedly that getting an interpreter was her responsibility. When she kept her appointment, there was no interpreter, so she left.

Sager's lawyer, Michael Schwartz, told the newspaper that what was required by the ADA was "effective" communication -- not simply pen and paper notes.

"Put yourself in the shoes of the deaf patient: You're a candidate for surgery and you have a million questions to ask the doctor. Would you put up with writing notes back and forth?

"Doctors don't understand deafness, deaf culture, and the difference between ASL and written English, and it is this ignorance that is at the root of the problem facing so many deaf patients," he said.

Related: "Deaf woman sues doctor" (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

Judge Tosses Discrimination Suit Against Airlines, Crips Appeal
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

MIAMI, June 17, 2004 --An attorney representing 13 airline passengers with disabilities who sued 10 U.S. airlines is reviewing a judge's recent decision to throw out the case in preparation for filing an appeal.

The passengers sued the airlines in federal court in February, claiming the carriers continue to discriminate against them in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The Rehab Act, which bans discrimination against companies that accept federal funds, would not ordinarily apply to airlines. But the plaintiffs reasoned that the airlines fell under the scope of that law once they accepted $3.2 billion in bailout-out money after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages disagreed, and on June 8 she ruled that the money was given to the airlines to compensate them for the revenue they lost when the federal government ordered all jets grounded in the days following the tragedy.

The suit was a test case, asking the court to force the airlines to make reasonable accommodations in aircraft, facilities and programs, and to pay damages for past violations. Attorneys for the passengers argued that the airlines subject them to harassment and inconveniences because they cannot file individual lawsuits under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

The airlines that were named in the suit included American, America West, Continental, Northwest, Trans States and United airlines, Delta Air Lines, the Alaska and Mesa air groups and US Airways.

An appeal is being filed.

Read Plaintiff Fred Shotz on the discrimination by airlines that led to the suit's filing: "Time for airlines to stop abusing our civil rights."

Deaf Travelers Sue Burbank Airport
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

BURBANK, CA June 15, 2004 --A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Burbank's Bob Hope Airport, claiming that it discriminates against deaf and hard-of-hearing travelers.

The law firm Disability Rights Advocates filed the suit Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, claiming the airport violates the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by failing to provide basic access in the form of TTY telephones, along with monitors to display departure and arrival times and paging information.

"The 30 million people living in this country who are either deaf or have experienced some degree of hearing loss are tired of waiting for institutions such as airports, which serve the general public, to voluntarily provide the equal access that is required under the law," said DRA attorney Kevin Knestrick.

Knestrick added that he sent a letter to airport officials nearly two weeks ago warning of the potential lawsuit. He filed the suit after he got no response to that letter.

The suit asks for a court order to force the airport to add the accessibility features and to improve training for airport employees.

Sid Wolinsky, another DRA attorney, said that, while many airports do not have adequate services and facilities to assist such travelers, Bob Hope Airport is among the worst. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people often miss flights because changes in takeoff times and gate assignments are only announced verbally over the public address system rather than being displayed on video monitors.

Charles Lombardo, president of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, told the Associated Press that the airport is making the changes the advocates want as quickly as possible.

"I'm sorry if it wasn't as fast as they wanted," he said.

Related: Disability Rights Advocates

League of Women Voters Rescinds Support of Accessible Voting Machines
WASHINGTON, DC, June 15, 2004 --The 800 delelgates attending the League of Women Voters' biennial convention in Washington voted overwhelmingly yesterday to rescind support of accessible voting machines unless they have a "voter verified paper trail." The resolution passed yesterday calls for "voting systems and procedures that are secure, accurate, recountable and accessible." (Read Associated Press story from USAToday).

The League of Women Voters had been "our strongest ally for accessible voting," said Angela Katsakis, Disability Vote Coordinator of the American Association of People with Disabilities in an email last week urging members to contact the League and press for a resolution continuing their support for e-voting. "Barbara Simons wants the League to endorse a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). Her arguments are that accessibility is not as important as security: that our civil rights should be sacrificed for the sake of a theory that has never been proven," said the e-mail.

Yesterday's vote was the latest setback to accessible voting in the court of public opinion, following a New York Times editorial criticizing disability groups for taking money from accessible voting machine vendors (see story below.) READ MORE ABOUT THIS ISSUE.

Voters With Mental Disabilities Excluded From European Elections
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND June 14, 2004 --More than 1,400 people with mental disabilities were excluded from last Thursday's European elections, a Northern Ireland elections official reported.

Chief Electoral Officer Denis Stanley told Lord Rogan that 848 people in Northern Ireland were removed from the voting register after their relatives or caregivers told the office that they were not fit to vote. Another 614 were dropped from the register because they did not respond to letters from the Electoral Office requesting information about their state of mind.

Under a 120-year-old law, the Electoral Office sends a letter asking for clarification of a person's "mental fitness" if the person was registered by someone else. If the clarification is not returned, the person's name is removed from the voting register.

Current election law also allow for anyone to review the list of registered voters and challenge one's ability to make up their own mind and cast a ballot.

Earlier this year, Mid-Ulster Assemblyman Patsy McGlone researched the Electoral Office guidelines after people with Down syndrome, some of which had voted several years in the past, were suddenly removed from the register. McGlone found that the guide said people with mental disabilities can register to vote, as long as they are not living in a mental hospital or "special establishment".

McGlone was appalled, however, to find that the law still referred to such people as "idiots and lunatics".

"The eligibility of someone who has a profound disability might, however, in certain cases be called into question because under the common law so-called 'idiots' cannot vote," the guidelines read. "So-called 'lunatics' on the other hand can vote, though only in their lucid intervals, and so could not be excluded from the register on this ground."

A spokesperson for Prospects, a day program serving adults with mental disabilities, told the local council, "It is totally unacceptable in the 21st century to be discriminated against in this way."

Accessible Voting Advocates Accused Of Being Too Tight With Electronic Voting Machine Makers
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

NEW YORK, June 14, 2004 --Friday's New York Times lead editorial suggested that disability rights advocates have gotten "too close" to manufacturers of electronic voting machines in their efforts to make elections more accessible.

Since before the passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, disability rights groups and individual advocates have been pushing for accessible polling places and voting systems that would allow every voter to independently cast a secret ballot. The problems with the outdated punch card voting systems became more public during the 2000 general elections. That prompted the federal government to pass the Help America Vote Act, which gave specific guidelines and timelines for polling places to use accessible voting systems.

Electronic voting systems have been favored by disability groups because they have large buttons that can be pressed easily, optional headphones for voters who cannot read because of blindness or other disabilities, along with the option to have the ballot read to them repeatedly to avoid errors.

One problem with some of the electronic systems, however, is that they do not leave a paper trail -- an important feature when ballots might need to be verified or recounted. Additionally, early tests showed that computer hackers could tamper with and alter election results.

The New York Times editorial noted that the National Federation of the Blind, which has been leading a campaign for accessible voting, recently accepted a $1 million gift for a new training institute from Diebold, a leading manufacturer of touchscreen voting systems. Another group leading the movement toward electronic voting, the American Association of People with Disabilities, has received $26,000 from voting machine companies so far this year.

"The real issue, though, is that disability-rights groups have been clouding the voting machine debate by suggesting that the nation must choose between accessible voting and verifiable voting," the editorial read. "It is well within the realm of technology to produce machines that meet both needs."

"Meanwhile, it would be a grave mistake for election officials to rush to spend millions of dollars on paperless electronic voting machines that may quickly become obsolete."

Those who support electronic voting argue that touchscreen systems have been found to be much more accurate than traditional paper systems.

In a related note, the AAPD's Justice For All listserve distributed an alert this week asking advocates to contact members of the League of Women Voters and encourage them to continue to support electronic touchscreen systems during their convention this weekend.

Also, Orange County, California has been given approval by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to use electronic systems in the November general elections. Several counties had been prohibited from using the systems after questions surfaced regarding their reliability. Shelley had given a long list of things that needed to be done so the counties could use the systems.

Orange County chose to meet Shelley's requirements. The counties of Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern and Plumas have challenged Shelley's ban by filing a federal lawsuit, which is scheduled to be heard next month.

"The Disability Lobby and Voting" (New York Times - free registration required)
"State Lifts Ban on O.C. E-Voting" (Los Angeles Times - free registration required)
"Voting accessibility under attack!" (JFA alert)

TN Court Access Case To Move Quickly; May Become Class Action
NASHVILLE, June 3, 2004 --When the Supreme Court ruled that Tennessee was not immune to suits over access to its courthouses, the Justices sent the case back to the lower court. A federal judge has promised to move the case along quickly. "By any standard this is an old case, and it's simply time to get it over one way or another," Judge Todd Campbell said during an hour-long status hearing in his courtroom in U.S. District Court in Nashville. "There won't be much tolerance for casual delay. We'll be on a forced Roman march."

Attorney William Brown, who represented six individuals before the Supreme Court, is asking Campbell to grant the case class-action status. Up to 250,000 Tennesseeans who have been denied access to courthouses could become part of the suit.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Special Olympics 'Honeymoon' Short-Lived, Poll Shows
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

DUBLIN, IRELAND, June 1, 2004 -- Disability rights groups had hoped that hosting the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games would lead to long-lasting change in attitudes toward people with disabilities in Irish society and politics.

"The Special Olympics has really brought home to Irish society the positive aspects of disability and has shown how people with disability can contribute. The job is to continue that momentum and bring that attitude into Government policy," said John Saunders, chairman of the Disability Federation of Ireland, after the Games were ended last July.

An opinion poll released last week suggested that this has not happened.

Interviews conducted at the end of May by Lansdowne Market Research, for the Irish Examiner/Prime Time, found that 47 percent of its 500 respondents believe the Games had only a brief impact -- which has since faded -- while 9 percent believe it had no impact at all on such attitudes.

Less than a year after Ireland hosted 10,000 athletes from around the world, just 14 percent of those polled felt the event had made disability a key political issue, while 29 percent believed it had made disability a more important issue.

Advocates have been critical of the government's visible support for the Special Olympics event, at the same time it delayed support for people with disabilities and their families, particularly in the form of a Disability Bill..

The poll suggested that the general public does not yet support disability-related initiatives. More than one-half of those interviewed, for example, indicated they would not support increasing taxes to pay for state-funded child care.

Last year a similar study conducted by Special Olympics on the eve of the World Summer Games showed that most of those polled favored segregation for disabled people. See Most Favor Segregation, Study Says from the June, 2003 D.R. Nation.

School Board Won't Let Students Cross Graduation Stage; Classmates Organize Their Own Tribute
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

LYONS TOWNSHIP, IL, June 1, 2004 -- he La Grange High School District says it wants students with disabilities to be treated like all other students.

That is why it is not allowing Brittany Booth, who has Down syndrome, to participate in commencement ceremonies along with her peers that do not have disabilities.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Booth, 18, has completed all of the required coursework at Lyons Township High School to be qualified to graduate within the usual four years. During that time, she never set foot in a special education classroom, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But she will not receive a diploma on June 6 because, as a student with a developmental disability, she is eligible for work training services -- valued at $4,000 a year -- until she is 21 years old. The district would consider her to have completed her high school education if she actually were to graduate, thereby forfeiting the training.

So, Booth's family suggested that Brittany, along with five other seniors with disabilities, be allowed to cross the stage during the ceremony and receive a certificate of completion instead of a diploma, like they do in many other Illinois schools.

The school board wouldn't have any part of that.

"The determining factor was that special-education parents have advocated forever that their children need to be treated equally. That is exactly what we're doing," said board President Mark Pera on Wednesday. "We don't want to open the door to countless exceptions."

"I worked my butt off in school every single day," said Booth, who wants to work in a nursing home. "I get A's and B's in everything. I should be part of it; all my peers and friends are a part of it."

Booth's classmates have decided on their own to honor those who will not be allowed to participate in commencement. A student-organized tribute has been scheduled for June 4 at the seniors' honors assembly or the class brunch.

"At least they'd have some way of being recognized even though . . . the school won't let them do something like just walk across the stage at graduation," said senior Ashley Richy, 18, who has known Booth since middle school.

"Senior faces diploma dilemma" (Chicago Tribune registration required - free)
"Students back disabled teen" (Chicago Tribune registration required - free)

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