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Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

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

LEXINGTON, KY, Aug. 27, 2004 --The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state can act to remove life support from a state ward with a mental disability, when that person is "permanently unconscious", there is "clear and convincing evidence" that the person will not recover, and it is in the person's "best interest". MORE.

Passenger Accuses Air France Of Unfair Treatment
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND, Aug. 23, 2004 --Adele Price is taking action against an airline that she says discriminated against her because she has no arms or legs.

She hopes her action will bring about world-wide standards on how passengers with disabilities are treated on airlines.

Price, 42, who is from Mansfield, England, was born without limbs because her mother took thalidomide, a drug designed to treat morning sickness, during pregnancy.

Price claims that in August 2000 she prepared to board a flight from Manchester Airport to New York on Air France, when an airline gate employee told her, "one head, one bottom and a torso cannot possibly fly on its own."

"Thalidomiders are banned, accept it - you're just a torso," the employee reportedly told her.

Price said that she has traveled many times without assistance. The airline did allow her onto another flight, she said, but only after she hired someone to fly with her, and paid for a second ticket -- at three times the normal rate.

In a press conference last Friday, Price told reporters that an Air France agent in England also informed her she would need clearance from an American doctor to return home. When she provided that clearance to an airline agent in New York, she was asked for additional medical clearance. This forced her to stay in the U.S. an extra five days, and to cancel all the business she had planned for the trip.

Price said she eventually purchased a ticket on British Airways, which let her travel alone.

The British citizen has borrowed $10,000 to hire an attorney to sue Air France over the extra costs, and for emotional and psychological damage. She said she chose to file the suit in New York because U.S. anti-discrimination laws are stronger than those in Europe.

Air France said in a statement that Price "was not sufficiently physically independent to comply with the basic safety regulations on board the aircraft, such as fastening and unfastening her seatbelt and pulling on and adjusting the oxygen mask without assistance, and therefore could not be accepted on board to travel alone."

Suit filed against Greeley Stampede for Requiring Attendant on Ride
DENVER, Aug. 23, 2004 --When Chelsea Warne went to the Greeley Stampede with her family in 2001 -- the first year she had to use a wheelchair -- she was simply hoping to enjoy the rides and events with everyone else. So she was stunned to encounter a carnival worker who saw her wheelchair and would not let her on the ride. He made her, instead, get out of line and go to the carnival office.

She and her family were even more shocked to discover, at the carnival office, that Chelsea would not be permitted to ride unless her mother was willing to sign a release -- a procedure not required of non-disabled Stampede visitors. Chelsea, who uses a wheelchair due to spina bifida, and her family encountered the same discrimination when they went to the Stampede in 2002 and 2004. Last week the young woman filed suit in federal court in Denver, arguing that this practice, as well as the requirement on at least one ride that people with disabilities be "accompanied by someone responsible for them" -- violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

"When Congress passed the ADA, it recognized that discrimination against people with disabilities could happen because of 'patronizing attitudes, ignorance, irrational fears, and pernicious mythologies.' Those all seem to be at work here," said Amy Robertson, one of the family's attorneys.

The Warnes are asking that the discriminatory policy be withdrawn, and that they be awarded damages under the CADA, which permits damages of $50 to $500.

Class Action Filed Against UPS for "Playing Doctor"
PITTSBURGH, Aug. 23, 2004 --"Stop playing doctor!" That's the message behind a nationwide class-action lawsuit filed against United Parcel Service earlier this month. The lawsuit charges UPS with "systemic violations" of the Americans with Disabilities Act. UPS is alleged to have illegally terminated hundreds of employees because it disapproved of their prescription medications. If proven, the claims could expose UPS to tens of millions of dollars in damages. The American Association of People with Disabilities is a plaintiff in the suit.

"Our first concern is that the company stop practicing medicine," said Charles Lamberton, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "These employees are using legal prescriptions under their doctors' supervision. They still do their jobs perfectly well. UPS is telling them they either have to quit their medicine or be fired."

According to court papers, UPS singles out employees with a history of addiction to alcohol or drugs, and forces them to disclose their prescriptions. The company then prohibits these employees from using any medications it believes are "inappropriate" for someone in recovery. UPS tests the employee's urine to make sure she has stopped using her prescription. If the employee has not quit her medicine, she is fired. "It's outrageous," Lamberton said.

The lawsuit is Darlene E. Veltri and the American Association of People with Disabilities vs. United Parcel Service, Inc., Civil Action No. 04-1177 (W.D. Pa.).

This is not the first time UPS has been sued for disability discrimination. See other coverage.
TN Courthouse Suit Won't Be a Class Action
NASHVILLE, Aug. 18, 2004 -- Saying that the courthouses across Tennessee "have unique designs and unique features ... were built at different times, are in different states of repair, and are maintained and operated by different entities," U.S. U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell denied class-action status in the case Tennessee v. Lane. The lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court this past spring when Tennessee argued that it was not required to obey the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Court ruled against Tennessee's claim and sent the case back to the U.S. District Court in Nashville, where it is now proceeding. The case involves the inaccessibility of the Polk County, TN courthouse.

Lane and the other plaintiffs are considering whether to appeal Campbell's ruling.

More from ADAWatch.org

UC website chronicles disability rights, independent living movement
BERKELEY, Aug. 10, 2004 --Nearly 100 in-depth oral histories and a collection of unique archival materials documenting the disability rights and independent living movement are now available online through a new website hosted by the University of California, Berkeley and compiled by the university's Bancroft Library. Interviews with movement leaders, participants and observers, along with documents, photographs and audio and video clip offer a rich historical resource. Activists in Berkeley, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. contributed to the collection. "Videotaped group interviews in Boston and New York City, for instance, show the interaction between people who have worked together for decades as they recall key moments in creating a social movement," says the university in a press release.

In addition to the oral histories, the collection contains a wealth of documents -- poet Mark O'Brien's published and unpublished poems and other writings; papers of Ed Roberts, noted national leader from Berkeley; and records from the World Institute on Disability. The site is at http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/drilm/

Disabled attorneys find job discrimination, says survey
NEW YORK, Aug. 6, 2004 --An online survey by the New York State Bar's Committee on Legal Professionals with Disabilities found that disabled lawyers face high unemployment, a shortage of services, resistance to reasonable accommodations and "a surplus of skepticism" -- 13 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The survey was conducted in a six-month period last year. Anil Mehta, an attorney who lost his arm in an accident, told a reporter that on the phone, firms would sound encouraging, but "you meet them at the door, and they say, `We have filled that position.'"

A 2001 demographic survey found that 4 percent of the attorneys responding said they had physical disabilities. And nearly half of those " -- even those in the upper 10 percent to 20 percent of ABA-accredited law schools --" told the publication "they had been denied jobs because of their disabilities. Among those with visible disabilities, the problem was worse, with 68 percent reporting job refusals."

More from the July 30 New York Lawyer.

IN group surveys polling sites, finds most still inaccessible
LAKE COUNTY, IN, Aug. 5, 2004 -- Lake County, in northwest Indiana, has 400 polling site. Only 19 comply with access requirements of the Help America Vote Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. That's what Count Us IN, a project sponsored by the Indiana Governor's Planning Council for People with Disabilities, found when they surveyed the sites on primary election day, May 4, and tallied the results. Not a lot of access. "There were some tense and ugly scenes in Lake County," Count Us IN director Julia Vaughn told reporters. "Some polling workers take their sites very personally." Count Us IN volunteers surveyed 49 Indiana counties May 4 and they plan to survey the remaining 43 on Election Day, Nov. 2.

"Most polling sites still not accessible" (Northwest Indiana Times)
Count Us IN website

Condo Owners Say They're Not NIMBYs, They Just Don't Want 'Special People' Around
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

MONTICELLO, NY, Aug. 5, 2004 --Gladys Gold and her neighbors don't have a problem with people who have disabilities. They just don't want them living in their 20-unit condominium complex. Gold was responding to plans by a married, working, tax-paying couple who are set to move into a three-bedroom condo in the Cedar Park Commons, with a live-in care provider.

"We have nothing against them; it's just certain issues," she told the Times Herald-Record. Those issues apparently have to do with fears over declining property values and increasing insurance rates. "It's not that we object to having special people here . . . but it's not a safe place for them," said Gold, who insisted that she does not have a NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) mentality. "I don't think the people would be happy with the nature of this community," she said. [Editor's note: If the rest of the community has attitudes like Gladys', she's probably right.-- Dave]

"Condo owners cringe at thought of couple" (Times Herald-Record)

Alaskan Students With Disabilities Win Exit Exam Accommodations
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

JUNEAU, Aug. 3, 2004 --Students with disabilities in Alaska will be given broad accommodations when taking the state's mandatory graduation exam, under a legal settlement announced Monday.

The settlement is the first of its kind and could affect reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities in the more than 20 other states that currently require students to pass a standardized test in order to graduate from high school with a diploma.

Under the agreement, which still needs to be approved by the court, students would be allowed to take extra breaks during the test, or take the test over several days. Students who fail the test could retake it and request certain accommodations, including clarification of test questions, the use of calculators and computerized spelling and grammar checkers, and to have test questions read out loud.

"This is the most constructive resolution that has ever been reached in a case of this nature," said attorney Sid Wolinsky, who represented the high school students in the class-action lawsuit against the Alaska Board of Education. "It is a win-win for everyone."

Wolinsky's Oakland, California-based firm, Disability Rights Advocates, sued the states of Oregon and California in 2000 and 2001 respectively, over their use of standardized tests as a graduation requirement. The issues brought up in the California case have not yet been resolved.

The suit was filed in March on behalf of five high school students claiming Alaska's new High School Graduation Qualifying Examination -- as it was then being implemented -- discriminated against them by making it more difficult for them to graduate and get a diploma. In April, the state decided to waive the requirement for students with disabilities in the 2004 graduating class while the Board negotiated the settlement.

The estimated 500 to 800 students with disabilities scheduled to graduate in 2005 could be granted a waiver from the test if the state and school districts have not set up the accommodations or modifications by this fall.

"State settles special-ed exam lawsuit" (Juneau Empire)
Disability Rights Advocates

Election Year Shenanigans:
Texas GOP Urges Cuts in ADA Protections
Austin, TX, Aug. 2, 2004 --Texas Republicans are calling for removal of "persons with infectious diseases, substance addiction, learning disabilities, behavior disorders, homosexual practices and mental stress" from the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The wording, on page 14 of the 2004 Texas State Republican Party Platform, is calls for a change in the federal law, it says, to reduce "abuse of the Act." (Read the Platform in PDF format.)

ADAWatch, a Washington-D.C. based watchdog group, says the platform "politicizes the ADA, a nonpartisan law, by trying to associate it with hot-button issues," noting that the language of the platrom tries to remove categories that are not now even covered by the law, such as homosexual practices and current illegal substance abuse.

"Furthermore, the platform goes after those that are currently the most disenfranchised citizens in our country -- children with learning and behavioral disabilities, individuals with HIV, and those with mental disabilities." When the ADA was passed in 1989, "there were proposed amendments to exclude people with mental disabilities and HIV," notes ADAWatch, adding that those efforts to exclude people "were soundly defeated." ADAWatch urges letters to Pres. Geo. W. Bush and the Texas Republican Party.

More from ADAWatch.

Network Reaches Into Nursing Homes To Help Residents Gain Their Freedom
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

WHEATON, MD, Aug. 2, 2004 --Saturday's Washington Post featured an excellent story about efforts in Maryland to get people with disabilities out of nursing homes and into their own homes or apartments.

"We've gotten 145 out," said Ellen Archie, who belongs to a network of outreach workers that go into nursing homes to let residents know they might not have to live there.

"We don't have dementia, we don't have Alzheimer's. We have our minds," Archie tells them. "It's mind over matter."

According to state officials, about 1,725 people between age 18 and 59 live in Maryland's nursing homes under Medicaid.

Some of those getting out are taking advantage of Maryland's recently approved Money Follows the Individual Accountability Act, which provides waivers for nursing home residents to take their funding back into the community. Nursing homes can cost more than $60,000 a year, the article points out, while in-home services cost closer to $40,000.

"Getting a voucher and getting out of the nursing home is like hitting the lotto for $280 million," said Archie.

"It is magic. And it's good magic."

"In Maryland, Disabled but Not Confined" (Washington Post)

What Next for MiCassa?
AUSTIN, TX, Aug. 2, 2004 --The Medicaid Community Services and Supports Act, or MiCassa, has been introduced in Congress the last several sessions, never moving out of committee. And it will be introduced in the next session of Congress as well, says ADAPT's Bob Kafka. MORE.
Whistle-blowing Cop Says Exposing Institution Problems Was "Right Thing To Do"
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

ELDRIDGE, CA, Aug. 2, 2004 --"It was the right thing to do," the former campus police chief at Sonoma Developmental Center wrote Friday.

"I had to follow my conscience."

Ed Contreras was going on record with his accounts of what happened while he was Chief of Police at SDC from 1995 to 2002 -- accounts related to the safety of the 800 people with developmental disabilities housed there.

During his years as police chief, Contreras found that hundreds of incidents of resident abuse, suspicious injuries, assaults, sexual assaults and deaths were poorly investigated, or not investigated at all. In many cases, administrators kept Contreras from crime scenes within the institution, or only allowed him in after the scenes had been cleaned of evidence, he claimed.

When Contreras tried to bring these concerns to officials with the Department of Developmental Services, the state program which oversees SDC, he was pressured to back away. He also accuses administrators of removing investigative records without his permission.

Contreras decided to take his worries to specific legislators and the state's attorney general. One lawmaker launched an investigation, which found wide-spread problems with investigation of crimes against residents of the institution by staff and other residents.

But Contreras found himself the target of retaliation by administrators, who, among other things, had him demoted and removed opportunities for him to advance.

Contreras took the state to court, along with those he said harassed him.

Last September, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that that SDC administration and DDS violated Contreras' civil rights.

And last week he decided to accept a $950,000 settlement of his lawsuits.

"Some have asked me if it was all worth it?" Contreras wrote in his letter for the Sonoma Index-Tribune. "The short answer is yes."

"The one puzzling thing is that no SDC or DDS administrator was held accountable for their actions. Those who were involved are still employed at the facility or in Sacramento or have been promoted."

"But if I made a difference, if because of my actions I improved conditions for the clients at SDC, if as a result of my complaints, these disabled, vulnerable people have a better chance for justice, and if someone out there reads my story and actually makes an effort to reform the system, then it has been worth it."

Prince Called Woman In Wheelchair "A Menace"
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

LONDON, Aug. 2, 2004 ----Two popular British tabloid papers were making much ado last week about comments Prince Philip reportedly made over a woman's wheelchair at a recent South Wales agriculture show.

The Mirror and the Sun both wrote that the 83-year-old Duke was suddenly blocked by Sandie Holland and her wheelchair.

"He saw me and said 'You are a bit of menace in that thing'," explained 29-year-old Holland, who uses the wheelchair because of what the papers referred to as "a muscle-wasting disease".

"I was a bit shocked and said something like, 'I can assure you I am a good driver and not a menace.'

"He pointed to the metal foot-rests and said, 'They catch people's ankles.'

Holland said the Duke smiled when she informed him that she does not, in fact, hit people's ankles.

"What he said troubled me for the rest of the day," she said.

"Fortunately I do not spend my life in a wheelchair but he did not know that. He should think a bit more before speaking."

A Buckingham Palace spokesman denied Prince Philip called Holland a menace and said he was referring instead to an umbrella that was sticking out of the wheelchair.

United Cerebral Palsy Launches DontBlockMyVote.org
WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 2, 2004 --United Cerebral Palsy has launched www.DontBlockMyVote.org, a "national campaign for equal access to the polls, to call on Members of Congress to fully fund the Help America Vote Act of 2002," says the group in a press release.

At the website, activists can send a free letter to their Members of Congress asking them to fully fund HAVA and provide all Americans equal access to the polls.

Visitors to the site will be able to register to vote online -- a service provided by Rock the Vote -- and can send a letter "to their Members of Congress asking them to fully fund HAVA and provide all Americans equal access to the polls."

"Too many Americans with disabilities cannot exercise their constitutional right to vote because polling places are inaccessible to those who use wheelchairs, voting machines are inaccessible to people who are blind or have limited use of their hands, and ballots are inaccessible to people with limited literacy skills," said UCP President and CEO Stephen Bennett.

"Despite initial efforts to correct problems widely publicized during the 2000 election, Congress has yet to back up HAVA with appropriate funding, effectively denying millions of Americans with disabilities equal access to the ballot. President Bush requested only $65 million for HAVA in his 2005 fiscal year budget, though HAVA authorizes $650 million. As of April 2004, only 18 percent of the total funds authorized for HAVA have been disbursed according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights."

HAVA requires states to provide at least one accessible voting machine at each polling place. The legislation also sets aside funding for polling place accommodations, outreach programs, training for election officials, and technology research grants, says UCP.

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