Ragged Edge 





August, '02

July, '02

June, '02

May, '02

April, '02

Mar., '02

Feb., '02

Jan., '02

Dec., '01

Nov., '01

Oct., '01

Sept., '01


  • Memphis Special Ed Problems "Sickening"
  • Washington Opera Agrees To Access
  • DC Crips Settle CVS Suit
  • Access Living wins $1 million settlement in housing suit
  • Death Prompts Anti-Restraint Bill
  • CIL Sues Spangles Restaurant
  • Take the Refueling Access Survey
  • Vets Win NYC Curb Cuts
  • Groups fight CA medical experimentation bill
  • Despite fires and deaths,
    Invacare keeps wheelchair recall quiet

  • Deaf Mom Fights Cochlear Implants

    Memphis Special Ed Problems "Sickening"
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    MEMPHIS, Sept. 26, 2002 --An independent review of Memphis City Schools found a number of problems in the way students are referred to special education and how they are treated once they are placed in the program.

    The team of reviewers that visited district schools during three months this past spring learned that the troubles go back for many years.

    The investigators found, among other things, that many students were referred to special education because of discipline problems instead of learning disabilities.

    Investigators discovered that children with disabilities were illegally segregated in separate halls away from the general student population. They also found classrooms that were identified with signs on the wall reading "Mentally Retarded" and "Emotionally Disturbed."

    "The signs should be removed immediately, as they are incredibly stigmatizing for students and discourage interaction between the general education and special education," the report reads.

    The review team showed that the district lost between $10 million and $20 million because it failed to apply for various grants, many that could have helped the special education program.

    More information from the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

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

    WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 25, 2002 --The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement agreement Monday with The Washington Opera to improve accessibility for patrons with disabilities in both the DAR Constitution Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

    In the DAR Constitution Hall, the Opera will install 30 wheelchair accessible seats and will designate 30 seats next to them as companion seats. Those seats will be spread out throughout the orchestra section and will be sold at the same price categories offered to the general public.

    The Kennedy Center Opera House will include accessible seating in sections throughout the auditorium, including box seats. These will be available at the same prices as those offered to the general public. Before this agreement, the only wheelchair-accessible seats were in the most expensive seating area.

    "These seats will ensure that opera fans who use wheelchairs will have an equal opportunity to enjoy performances by providing a choice of admission prices and lines of sight comparable to that of the general public, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for accessibility," according to a DOJ press statement issued Monday.

    "The Washington Opera is to be commended for making these performance venues accessible to everyone," Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph F. Boyd, Jr. wrote in the statement "This settlement agreement will ensure that people who use wheelchairs will have an equal opportunity to ennjoy performances at a range of admission prices and seating locations."

    DC Crips Settle CVS Suit
    WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 20, 2002 --CVS Pharmacy and the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington today announced they have entered into an agreement to provide enhanced accessibility for customers with disabilities in CVS stores in the greater Washington area. Under the agreement, CVS will provide for enhanced accessible parking, lower and more accessible counters, unobstructed aisles and doors that open more easily at its stores in the District of Columbia and surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia. The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in July, 2001. Read original story.
    Access Living wins $1 million settlement in housing suit
    CHICAGO, Sept. 19, 2002 --In what is believed to be the largest settlement nationwide in a case involving a single building, developers of a 24-story luxury high-rise apartment building have agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a Fair Housing Act lawsuit brought by the U.S. Dept. of Justice last December.

    The John Buck Company, developer of the Park Evanston apartment complex has agreed to retrofit each of the 283 apartments and the common areas to ensure access, with Harry Weese Associates, the architectural firm, agreeing to bear more than $900,000 of the costs. The defendants will also pay damages -- $50,000 into a fund for persons who were unable to rent at the Park Evanston or lived in inaccessible units though they required accessibility -- and attorneys' fees to Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, the organization that began the case by filing a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and is also a plaintiff in the action. The settlement also includes a civil penalty.

    Over 80 percent of the bathroom and bedroom doors in the units are too narrow for persons using wheelchairs; they will be widened. Bathrooms and kitchens will be changed to allow the necessary maneuvering space for use by persons with mobility impairments. Thermostats will be lowered; grab bars installed.

    "It can be extremely expensive to go back and make housing accessible after a building is completed," said U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, adding that the cost to have made it accessible from the start would have been "negligible. "

    Death Prompts Anti-Restraint Bill
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    TRENTON, NJ, Sept. 19, 2002 --The death of a teenager has prompted a lawmaker to introduce a law prohibiting the use of restraints and seclusion -- except in the most extreme circumstances -- in state-funded institutions housing people with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injury.

    Assemblyman Eric Munoz, M.D., announced last week that he will push for the measure, to be known as "Matthew's Law" for a 14-year-old with autism who died earlier this year.

    On February 5, Matthew Goodman was rushed to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia from The Lindens, a Bancroft School in Haddonfield, New Jersey. The next day Matthew died of pneumonia, respiratory distress and blood poisoning. The facility is under scrutiny by New Jersey authorities because of Matthew's death and unrelated complaints.

    Munoz explained that under Matthew's Law people in state-funded facilities could only be restrained or secluded as a last resort. The person's parents or guardians would need to approve the techniques, which could only be applied for up to one hour at a time. Also, professionals would have to develop less restrictive alternatives for the person.

    "We have learned that Matthew was placed in restraints to control his behavior," said Assemblyman Munoz. "But these restraints were not just placed on his head and arms during the daytime; he also slept with them on."

    "In addition, his mother repeatedly found him asleep on the floor, sleep caused by Matthew being overmedicated. This standard practice of using medication as a restraint must cease in New Jersey."

    Matthew's mother, Janice Roach, believes the institution's use of restraint and sedation weakened her son's immune system and led directly to his death.

    The state sent a letter to Roach last month, detailing how Bancroft staff failed to remove restraints and a helmet while Matthew slept; how one staff member held the teen in a restraint while dragging him to a restroom; how another staff member rested her foot on Matthew's chest for a few seconds; and how Matthew was often left unattended.

    "I commend Assemblyman Munoz for bringing this issue to the light of day and thank him and his excellent staff for proposing Matthew's Law," Roach said.

    Matthew was placed six years ago in the Bancroft institution which housed 60 children with "severe behavior disorders". Two years ago he was made to wear stiff arm restraints designed to keep him from hurting himself. Visitors to the facility said they often saw the teen restrained or on strong medications designed to control his behavior.

    A vigil will be held at the statehouse in Trenton on the morning of October 7, the day Munoz is to introduce the measure to the Legislature.

    The national disability organization TASH is asking those who are committed to eliminating the "inappropriate and dangerous use of restraints" to join local advocates in supporting the measure.

    "A show of support is needed!" wrote TASH executive director Nancy R. Weiss in a statement.

    Past stories about Matthew Goodman and Bancroft Schools are available at this Inclusion Daily Express Web page: http://www.InclusionDaily.com/news/institutions/nj/bancroft.htm

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

    WICHITA, Sept. 18, 2002 --The local Independent Living Resource Center has sued a Wichita-based restaurant chain for discriminating against people with disabilities.

    According to a story in Wednesday's Wichita Business Journal, the center filed a class action suit in District Court because Spangles Inc. has refused to remove architectural barriers in parking lots at its restaurants.

    Not only do those barriers violate the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the center claims in the suit, but they also create safety hazards for customers who use accessible parking spaces, access aisles and wheelchair ramps.

    A Spangles official told the journal that the company has not reviewed the lawsuit and has no comment.

    Take the On-line Refueling Access Survey
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    CHICAGO, Sept. 17, 2002 --One thing I liked about living in Oregon several years ago, was the fact that you could gas up your car year-round without getting wet.

    Oregon is perhaps the only state in the Union that has a law prohibiting self-service pumps.

    Every few years, oil companies push for a state-wide voter referendum to allow self-service. And every time it comes up, voters defeat it.

    Why? Friends in Salem told me that it was an example of the power of the state's disability lobby and senior citizen lobby. I was also told that the state considered it a form of discrimination to make people with disabilities or senior citizens go to more costly "full service" pumps. I don't know if either is true, but both certainly make sense to me.

    Gas stations across the country are supposed to provide assistance for drivers with disabilities who need help to gas up.

    An organization in Chicago is working to improve the situation. And they could use your help.

    Inclusion Solutions is a group of individuals who are experts on Title III of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which deals with accessibility to public accommodations. They advise businesses on how to comply with the ADA when it comes to breaking down barriers to their services and facilities.

    Inclusion Solutions is currently performing an on-line survey about refueling assistance.

    "The survey will run through September 25th and results will be presented to the petroleum industry at their annual trade show in October," said Inclusion Solutions' Kerri McLaughlin in a media statement. "Help us to send a message that access at the pump matters!"

    "Please help spread the word by circulating the survey link to anyone interested in sharing their experience with refueling assistance."

    What has been your experience with refueling accessibility and assistance?

    Click on this link to start the survey: http://infopoll.net/live/surveys/s18809.htm

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

    NEW YORK, Sept. 13, 2002 --New York City has agreed to spend nearly $218 million over the next eight years to build curb cuts for all of the street corners in the city. The agreement comes eight years after the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, which represents thousands of wheelchair users in the city, filed a lawsuit claiming the city violated the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act by not making its 158,738 street corners accessible in a timely manner.

    Under the agreement approved Monday, the city will install ramps on the 61,074 corners that are still not accessible. Of the city's five boroughs, the one with the largest number -- 27,747 -- is Queens.

    City transportation officials said that in the past they focused on the most traveled streets. For that reason, 80 percent of the intersections in the borough of Manhattan are accessible.

    In the years immediately after Congress passed the ADA, the city worked quickly to comply with the anti-discrimination law. From 1994 to 1998, ramps were built at a rate of about 7,800 a year. But then the rate slowed to about 700 a year.

    The city has also agreed to do what is called "blitz construction", in which it will focus on large areas that currently have no curb cuts, instead of doing one corner at a time. This method is expected to be less expensive and should keep the city on track of reaching the targeted completion date of 2010.

    "It's very simple," said Robert B. Stulberg of Broach & Stulberg LLP, which represented the veteran's group. "If you're in a wheelchair and you pull up to a corner that's not ramped, you literally cannot get to the other side of the street."

    "This settlement will enable every wheelchair user in New York to enjoy a basic federal right: to be able to cross from one side of the street to the other," Stulberg added.

    Groups fight CA medical experimentation bill
    Sept.16, 2002 -- A number of national disability organizations have joined to oppose an effort in the California legislature that would permit surrogates and family members to approve medical research on people with "cognitive impairment" or who "lack capacity" -- without court approval "and without consideration of the benefits and risks of such research," says the Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University, one of the groups opposing the bill.

    "Historically, people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities have been subjected to inhumane and unethical medical research," says a statement issued by the groups, including "exposure to radiological substances and infectious diseases, involuntary shock treatments, and invasive surgery on their brains." People who have been diagnosed as having mental retardation, Alzheimer's or related dementias, or psychiatric disorders are in danger, says the coalition.

    Among the groups involved in the effort to stop the bill are Not Dead Yet, TASH and Support Coalition International. More about the effort to stop California Assembly Bill 2328 can be found at http://www.researchprotection.org/Initiatives/2328/stopAB2328.html

    Despite fires and deaths, Invacare keeps wheelchair recall quiet
    ELYRIA, OHIO, Sept. 2, 2002 -- Invacare's power wheelchairs have killed or burned over 30 people and yet the wheelchair giant has never bothered to publicize a national recall.

    The company settled a lawsuit in August for over $7 million "after defective wiring on one of its wheelchairs sparked and caught fire, badly burning a 65-year-old quadriplegic woman," wrote Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Becky Gaylord in a copyrighted story Sept. 1. Gaylord reports that the company has faced numerous suits -- "including three others that involved deaths -- linked to the chair's battery-charging system."

    "Although Invacare sent cards to possible customers and notified many dealers of the recall," Gaylord wrote, "the company never issued a press release nor noted the recall on its website."

    "We have four people here at Progress Center for Independent Living who have Invacare power chairs," staffer Steve Drake told disability advocates by email. "None of them had heard anything about a recall."

    The recall covers all models of Invacare power chairs built from 1985 to 2000 -- more than 215,000 chairs in all.

    Since 1993, says Gaylord's story, Invacare has known about problems with the battery-charger wiring harness. It can short circuit, causing smoking, sparking and fires. Batteries and wheelchairs have reportedly melted. One wheelchair reportedly "burnt like a blowtorch" with a user in it.

    A wheelchair fire killed John Rothermel in 1994. Another fire killed Arthur Wilbur in Florida in July 1995. A Power 9000 wheelchair ignited and the user suffered second- and third-degree burns over much of his body. The charger on an Action Storm model "started smoking, shooting sparks and then flamed while the chair was being charged." Another Action Storm chair "started a fire that burned half of the family's garage." The owner of yet another Action Storm, charging the chair overnight, "awoke to a burning smell and flames coming out of the bottom of the wheelchair." A power chair even caught fire while in the shop for the upgrade as part of the recall.

    "Invacare engineer Ted Wakefield said 'we didn't think of it' when asked whether the company had considered adding the fuse to stop the short-circuits at the time the wiring harnesses were designed."

    The company has enforced confidentiality agreements keeping plaintiffs from talking and evidence of problems out of the public eye. "Invacare came down with a truck, picked up all of the evidence, including the charred wheelchair, and hauled it off," one man told Gaylord. And required reports to the Food and Drug Administration concerning defective products simply weren't made, said the story.

    Invacare, whose sales last year topped $1 billion, responded to the Plain Dealer story by finally issuing a press release: "Invacare has a long history of providing safe, effective and innovative products for people with disabilities," said Invacare CEO A. Malachi Mixon. "We strongly believe that Invacare's power wheelchairs are the best power wheelchairs in the world."

    Read the Plain Dealer story.

    Visit the Invacare website

    Deaf Mom Fights Cochlear Implants
    by Cal Montgomery
    Grand Rapids, MI, Sept. 5, 2002 --A Deaf mother goes to court today to defend her right to refuse cochlear implants in her two Deaf children while they are in foster care.

    The children were removed from their mother's custody last year because of neglect.  Their mother's parental rights were not permanently terminated, and she is working toward getting them back.

    But while they are in state care, the local oral school is pushing for cochlear implants.

    "It is the opinion of those observing three days of testimony that the judge is leaning toward ordering the surgeries to be performed.  The case has been argued based on whether CI's are the right or wrong thing to do for the children," says Claudia Lee, a Deafness Resource Consultant with Deaf Community Advocacy Network in Pontiac, Michigan.

    Although many hearing people believe cochlear implants, which may allow the children to perceive more sound than they do now, are the right thing to do for deaf children, many members of the Deaf community disagree.

    But there's a larger issue at stake, says Lee.  "This is really a civil rights issue.  This is not a case to say a cochlear implant is a good or bad thing, but about the right of a parent to decide if his/her child should undergo elective surgery with the risks involved."  

    Parents ordinarily have the right to refuse elective surgery on behalf of their children, even when those children have been temporarily removed from their custody.  

    "I've talked to attorneys and even a local judge who do not believe a judge would rule against a parent's decision when they have not had their parental rights permanently terminated," says Lee.  "For whatever reason the parents do not want the surgeries, it is still their decision."

    But in this case, perhaps because much of the hearing majority cannot even imagine why a parent would refuse this particular surgery, there is fear that Judge Kathleen Feeney may do exactly that.

    Last month's news


  • © Copyright 2002 The Ragged Edge

    This Website produced by Cliffwood Organic Works