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Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

News Alerts from Bazelon.org

Life-Threatening Infection Caused Through Nursing Home
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

TINLEY PARK, ILLINOIS, AUG. 29, 2005 --Beverly Neumann is currently in a Naperville hospice center where her family and doctors are "waiting for her death".

The 75-year-old's skin is turning black and literally falling off of her as the result of necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria.

Doctors say there is nothing they can do to treat the condition at this point.

Neumann's family blames McAllister Nursing Home, where the woman with mental disabilities had been a resident since 1968, for allowing her life-threatening condition to go untreated and unreported for several weeks.

They also blame Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) officials for failing to properly investigate and monitor the nursing facility after problems came up earlier this year.

Neumann's brother, Ken, claims that his sister contracted the infection in April when she returned to McAllister from a local hospital where she had been treated for a broken hip. Despite doctor's orders that she be checked regularly for bedsores and other potential problems, there are no records of any checks in the months after her surgery, he said.

"I feel like I failed her," Ken Neumann said. "I really counted on them to take care of her."

According to the Chicago Tribune, Neumann's brother filed a suit on his sister's behalf Monday against McAllister alleging it violated the 1987 federal Nursing Home Reform Act. The suit seeks damages in excess of $50,000.

IDPH officials have reopened their investigation.

Related: "Lethal Care Alleged At Area Nursing Home" (WBBM)
"State reopens probe into nursing home" (Chicago Sun-Times)

Utility Poles Can't Obstruct Sidewalk, City Says

MEDFIELD, MA, AUG. 29, 2005 --Wheelchair users in Medfield, MA will have an easier time negotiating sidewalks in the future, thanks to a move by the city's selectmen to keep utility poles from blocking the sidewalks. A story in the Aug. 25 Boston Herald reports that the government group, in taking the action, cited "past installation of poles in the center of sidewalks, making the town non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act."

Feds Fail to Remove In-Home Restriction on Wheelchairs

WASHINGTON, DC, AUG. 29, 2005 --ast Thursday the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced an "interim final rule" on power chairs ("power mobility devices," as they call them. The rule removes some paperwork for doctors -- but it still doesn't address the big problem: the "in-home restriction."

"The wording used in the press releases and regulation reinforce" the position the CMS has taken -- that a "mobility device must be necessary for use in a patient's home" before they'll pay for one, according to the ITEM Coalition. That's the group who's been fighting to get that restriction removed.

"The regulations, to be published in the August 26th edition of the Federal Register, are effective on October 25, 2005 and public comments will be accepted until November 25, 2005. On September 13, 2005 there will be an open door forum to discuss these changes," says ITEM. "We will be sending out more information on the open door forum as well as the new regulations in the next several days. "

Read more about the latest from CMS -- and the ITEM Coalition's analysis -- at the JFA News Group.

Read the background on the group's work at their website. (ITEM stands for "Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid.")

1,400 Alabamans Still Wait For Community Services
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

DECATUR, AL, AUG. 22, 2005 --For more than 30 years, Alabama has been working to reduce the number of people with developmental disabilities housed in state-run institutions while increasing their living options in the community.

Closing the troubled facilities has meant a transfer of resources from institutions to community services, but not at a rate that community advocates had hoped for, in part because the federal government cut its funding to the state.

Today, 220 people are housed in just one large state-operated facility, the William D. Partlow Developmental Center in Tuscaloosa, at an average cost of $394 a day. At the same time more than 5,000 people receive community-based services, at an average cost of $55 a day.

Still, more than 1,400 people are on a waiting list for community services, according to a story in the Aug. 22 Decatur Daily.

Some have been waiting for several years.

Ninety percent of those on the list are living with aging parents.

"We expect there are many more who could be eligible, if we had the resources to serve them," said Mental Health/Mental Retardation Commissioner John Houston.

For many of those families, the only way their loved ones move up to the top of the list is if someone else in the system dies or moves out of the state.

"Waiting for Help" (Decatur Daily)
"Trouble in Alabama's Institutions" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

SFSU Offers Disability History Dateline on Web
SAN FRANCISCO, AUG. 25, 2005 --The Disability History Dateline, a project of San Francisco State University's Institute on Disability, is now available online at http://bss.sfsu.edu/disability/dateline.html.

The dateline now encompasses "all aspects of the history of disability: major events, issues, and themes, prominent individuals and organizations, cultural expressions and images, laws and public policies, activist and advocacy efforts," says a press release. "The entries cover all historical eras and every geographical region, as well as referring to both disability-specific and cross-disability historical occurrences." The Dateline will be continually updated. Though now weighted toward U.S. events, designers say the Dateline will be expanded to include "a worldwide focus."

Inspectors Recommend Feds Cut Off Funds To Iowa Institution
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

GLENWOOD, IA, AUG. 22, 2005 --State inspectors are recommending that the federal government stop funding the Glenwood Resource Center, an institution housing 500 people with mental disabilities.

If federal Medicaid and Medicare funding is pulled, the facility would be forced to close.

Friday's Des Moines Register reported that the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals made the recommendations following the death of a female resident and several reports of sexual abuse of other residents.

On April 25, the woman -- who was blind, had trouble walking, and was supposed to be supervised -- fell headfirst down a staircase. She died a few weeks later after being hospitalized with multiple neck and rib fractures.

The other allegations involve a staff member who is suspected of sexually abusing five residents and bullying coworkers.

Department of Human Services spokesman Roger Munns said last Wednesday that he's confident the facility will correct the problems and will not be forced to shut down.

"Cut off Medicaid, Medicare to Glenwood, inspectors recommend" (Des Moines Register)
"Deaths in Iowa's Institutions" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

Advocates Sue Taco Bell Over Access Problems
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

SAN FRANCISCO AUG. 19, 2005 --Five years ago, Taco Bell Corp., the nations' largest Mexican fast food chain, settled a disability discrimination lawsuit by agreeing to modify the 40 restaurants it owned in Colorado to make them more accessible to people with mobility-related disabilities.

Soon after the suit was settled, Tim Fox, the lead disability rights attorney involved in the Colorado case, started hearing complaints about access problems with Taco Bell restaurants in California. So Fox and his wife, fellow attorney Amy Robertson, and a group of Bay Area civil rights lawyers decided it was time to file a legal action against the company for violating the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and California laws.

Four Californians with disabilities are named as plaintiffs in the suit which was granted class action status last year. Each is seeking $4,000 in damages for each visit a user of a wheelchair or motorized scooter to a company-owned Taco Bell restaurant since December 2001. While the suit only applies to restaurants owned by Taco Bell Corp., it is hoped the 500 franchisee-owned Taco Bells in California will take note and make their own accessibility modifications without being sued.

The suit accuses Taco Bell of having store doors which are too heavy for wheelchair users to open, soft-drink stations that are too high for them to access, and metal line dividers -- designed to keep waiting customers in order -- that are too narrow for them to use, forcing wheelchair users to cut into the front of the line.

"It is really, really embarrassing," plaintiff Edward Muegge told the Los Angeles Times of his experience with the line dividers.

"You are standing out and that is something we don't like. We want to just flow through with everyone else."

A Taco Bell spokesperson told the LA Times that the restaurants do comply with the ADA and state accessibility guidelines.

The two sides have agreed to have San Diego accessibility consultant Bob Evans evaluate how each California Taco Bell-owned restaurant complies with more than 600 disability-related structural issues. The parties will then review Evans' reports and discuss what changes might need to be made. Once those issues are resolved, the sides will negotiate for damages.

The case will go to trial next year if they cannot reach an agreement.

"Suit Targets Access for the Disabled at Taco Bell" (Los Angeles Times)
Documents related to "Moeller et al. v. Taco Bell Corp" (Fox & Robertson)

How Many On That Waiting List? Really?
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

BATON ROUGE, LA, AUG. 8, 2005 --The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals recently said that 13,789 people with developmental disabilities have requested to be on the waiting list for home and community-based services.

Even so, DHH officials have been telling the public that the "more realistic" number is 7,457.

Why the difference?

DHH Secretary Fred Cerise told The Advocate that many have been on the list so long that when their names come up on the list they either are no longer eligible, no longer need the services, have moved, or have died.

Advocates said the lower number gives the impression that things are better than they truly are.

Cerise said the agency would publish both numbers in the future, even though it wouldn't make much difference in terms of reducing or eliminating the waiting list.

"The problem is big enough without the inflated number," he said. "We know we don't have enough slots to meet the demand."

Kay Marcel, president of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council, said: "Obviously the problem is even bigger than we thought or been led to believe. There's either a misrepresentation of the truth or even, at best, this is poor communication."

"I'm sure there are people in that 13,789 who are no longer around by the time you get to them," Marcel said. "The validation of the list is critical for the state to know what the state needs in terms of support needs."

Related: "Advocacy group questions disability reports" (The Advocate)

Detroit Manufacturer Faces Second ADA Suit
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

DETROIT, AUG. 8, 2005 --The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Detroit has filed its second civil suit against Magna Donnelly Corp. Inc. over claims that the company discriminated against a worker with multiple sclerosis.

According to the Grand Rapids Press, the most recent suit was filed in late July on behalf of 40-year-old former employee Christine DeGram.

The EEOC claims that the multi-national company, which manufactures mirrors and other automotive components, violated DeGram's rights under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide reasonable accommodations so she could continue working after she was diagnosed with MS. Instead, company officials told DeGram that it had no work she could do, and then laid her off.

Last October, the EEOC filed a similar suit against Magna Donnelly on behalf of former employee Bonnie Kronemeyer, who has multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Kronemeyer claimed she was fired instead of given the chance to perform another job, even though she was qualified to perform its essential functions.

EEOC lawyer Adele Rapport said the Kronemeyer and DeGram cases, and any others that might turn up, will likely be combined.

"It is easier to resolve a case where employees have done a good job, with good performance," Rapport said.

"Magna Donnelly sued again" (Grand Rapids Press)
"Auto Component Maker Faces EEOC Discrimination Suit" -- October 11, 2004 (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

NCIL Adopts Resolution On Right To Food And Water
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, AUG. 8, 2005 --In case you missed it, during the National Council on Independent Living's annual conference last month, the organization adopted a resolution on the rights of people with disabilities to have food and water.

In part, it reads: "NCIL supports legislation that restores and maintains restrictions on surrogate decisions for withholding of food and water via tube. Specifically, legislation should only allow for withholding of food and water in the presence of 'clear and convincing evidence' of the person's wishes or when the person's medical condition renders them incapable of digesting or absorbing the nutrition and hydration so that its provision would not contribute to sustaining the person's life."

". . . centers for independent living in each state are encouraged to advocate for legislation and other public policies to establish or restore constitutional restrictions on the starvation and dehydration of people with cognitive disabilities."

"NCIL Resolution on Rights of People with Disabilities to Food and Water" (Not Dead Yet)
2005 Annual Conference Photos (National Council on Independent Living)

Langevin Faults Capitol Evacuation Plans for Lack of Access
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, AUG. 8, 2005 --The following four paragraphs are excerpts from a story published recently by the Associated Press:

Rep. James Langevin wasn't sure he could maneuver his wheelchair out of the Capitol in time during two recent evacuations, so he is working with congressional leaders to develop quicker exits during emergencies. He also has some suggestions about how the Capitol can become more accessible for people with disabilities.

The Rhode Island Democrat, a quadriplegic since a shooting accident when he was 16, spoke at a House hearing Thursday about the obstacles he faced during evacuations on May 11 and June 29 when a plane violated airspace around the Capitol.

Langevin powered his wheelchair around the back of the House chamber, down the aisle, out the door, down the hall and to the only elevator on that side of the building that stays on in emergencies.

"It was chaotic and it was a very arduous route for me to get out of the building safely," Langevin said. "Had there been an actual event, I question whether I would be able to get out of the building fast enough."

Entire article: "Lawmaker seeks to improve Capitol access" (Associated Press via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Leslie Burke Loses Legal Appeal for Food and Water While Dying
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

LONDON, AUG. 1, 2005 --The British Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that doctors can remove food and water from patients with terminal illnesses or severe disabilities who cannot communicate -- if the doctors think it would be in the patients' best interests.

The decision overturned a lower court's ruling which found that patients had the right to demand life-prolonging treatment, including nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube.

The original case was brought to the High Court last year by Leslie Burke, 45, who has cerebellar ataxia, a condition that doctors say will get worse as he ages. At some point, he will not be able to talk or move, but he will still be able to see, hear, and understand everything that is going on around him.

Burke challenged guidelines published by the General Medical Council in 2002 that allow doctors to pull feeding tubes from patients who are not able to express their wishes regarding their treatment, if the doctors believe that treatment is "too burdensome".

The three-member appeal panel wrote that Burke's complaint was unnecessary because the GMC guidelines already address his concerns.

"A patient cannot demand that a doctor administer a treatment which the doctor considers is adverse to the patient's clinical needs," the Justices wrote. "That said, we consider the scenario that we have just described is extremely unlikely to arise."

The Justices added, however, that doctors could be charged with murder if they failed to give food and water to a 'competent' patient who wanted to live.

Outside the courtroom, Burke told the Yorkshire Post: "A doctor is not allowed to refuse me food and water while I remain competent."

"But what is the definition of competent? When do I become an incompetent person? Is it when I am no longer able to communicate?"

"For those people who feel like I do there was no good news at all today," he said.

Burke's lawyer, Paul Conrathe, told Reuters: "The Court of Appeal has confirmed today that patients like Mr. Burke who want food and water have to be given it."

The case cannot be appealed further. Burke and Conrathe said they may take the issue directly to lawmakers in Parliament.

Disability rights groups have criticized the government's decision to challenge Burke's request to have his advance requests for life-prolonging treatment honored.

"Dying man loses legal battle over right to be fed" (Daily Telegraph)
"In some ways, partial victory I won is hollow" (Yorkshire Post)
"Court of Appeal clarifies GMC guidelines on right to life" (The Lawyer Group)

Few with Disabilities Get Acting Jobs, Says Study
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express International Disability Rights News Service.

LOS ANGELES, AUG. 1, 2005 --A survey released in late July by the nation's largest labor union that represents actors has revealed that many actors with disabilities have faced employment-related discrimination, but that most avoid asking for simple accommodations under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

The study, which was commissioned by the Screen Actors Guild, involved focus groups and surveys from 496 SAG members with disabilities.

An executive summary of the study, published Tuesday, revealed that 36 percent of the performers with disabilities had encountered some form of workplace discrimination, including not being cast or being granted an audition because of a disability. And while more than 33 percent indicated that a reasonable accommodation would have helped them in their work, 60 percent never asked for one because they feared employers would not hire them.

For those and other reasons, performers with disabilities worked an average of just 4.1 days a year. Meanwhile, less than two percent of TV characters display a disability, even though 20 percent of the general population has a disability.

"We have far to go to achieve true equality of opportunity," Robert David Hall, who plays Dr. Al Robbins on 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation', said in a SAG press release.

Hall lost both legs in a 1978 car accident. His character uses crutches and a wheelchair.

"The images we see and the stories we tell say a lot about our society," he said. "We are part of the story."

"Study: Disabled actors not represented in films, TV shows" (USA Today)
Executive Summary: The Employment of Performers with Disabilities in the Entertainment Industry - PDF File (Screen Actors Guild)

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