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Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

NC Governor Approves Reparation Package For State's Eugenics Victims; Some Say It Is Not Enough
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

RALEIGH, NC, SEPT 30, 2003 -- Last month, Governor Mike Easley approved a number of measures designed to make amends to North Carolina residents who were sterilized under the state's eugenics laws during the 20th century.

The measures were recommended by a committee Easley set up earlier this year to study the state's role in ordering the operations performed on 7,600 residents, most considered to have disabilities. They include education benefits through the University of North Carolina, access to a health care fund, and a way to help victims to gain access to their medical records. Easley also approved the panel's recommendation for a memorial to those who were sterilized and including information about the eugenics program in the state's history curriculum. Workers in North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services will also be required to take an ethics course.

In December 2002, Easley became the third governor to formally apologize for a state's eugenics past, and the first to establish a committee to look into compensating its victims.

Between 1907 and 1979, an estimated 65,000 Americans were documented to have been surgically sterilized based on the false science of eugenics, which sought to improve society through "selective breeding". Thirty-three states and two Canadian provinces had laws making such surgeries legal or mandatory.

While most of those sterilized in North Carolina had disabilities, a significant number were not. Many were labeled "feeble-minded", a subjective, catch-all term, with no testing or no more than a few minutes observation by social workers. Some, like Annie Buelin and Ernestine Moore, were forced to go through the surgery so their mothers could continue to receive welfare benefits. Many were not told the truth about their operations.

While they are glad the governor has officially recognized the wrongs done by the state, many victims and their advocates are angry at Easley's decision to sign the measures without informing victims or the public of his plans. Some feel Easley moved quickly and quietly to avoid debate and discussion regarding financial compensation.

'That's all they're offering?' asked Ernestine Moore, who was sterilized in 1965 at age 14.

Moore gave permission for the surgery, when her first and only child was born, but only after social workers told her they would cut her mother from welfare and take her newborn away from her.

"I'm not satisfied with that," Moore said of Easley's package. "They really messed up my life."

The General Assembly would have to approve special funds for some of Easley's measures. Some lawmakers have already balked at the idea with prospects of a tight budget and recovery costs from Hurricane Isabel.

Related articles: "Easley approves compensation for people sterilized by state" (News & Observer)
"Making Amends" (Winston-Salem Journal)
"Offer 'Too Little Too Late" (Winston-Salem Journal)
"Suggestions abound -- wheels turning slowly" (Winston-Salem Journal)
Related resource: Against Their Will: North Carolina's Sterilization Program (Series by Winston-Salem Journal)

Home Depot Ignored Job Coach When Firing Worker, EEOC Claims
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

ATLANTA, SEPT 26, 2003 -- Home Depot illegally fired a worker with a developmental disability because it failed to involve her job coach in its disciplinary action, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claimed in a discrimination suit filed Thursday.

The federal agency accused the retailer of violating the ADA by not including Carolyn Pisani's job coach -- seen as a reasonable accommodation -- before firing her for allegedly not showing up to work at its South Setauket, New York store.

"When an employee needs a job coach to operate on a level playing field, the employer must work with that person," said EEOC's Katherine Bissell. Home Depot said the suit is "completely without merit".

"Given our company's zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination, we are extremely disappointed that the EEOC has chosen this path," the company told Bloomberg News.

The agency filed the suit after failing to reach a settlement with the retailer. Among other things, the suit seeks back wages, damages, and rehiring Pisani.

NYC Shubert theaters to become accessible
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

NEW YORK, SEPT 25, 2003 -- At the beginning of next year, theater patrons who use wheelchairs will have their choice of 16 Broadway venues that will be fully accessible to them.

In an agreement announced Thursday, theaters operated by the Shubert Organization will comply fully with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act by December 31, 2003.

The Shubert Organization operates nearly one-half of New York's 39 Broadway theaters, including the Music Box Theatre, the Cadillac Winter Garden, and the Shubert on West 44th Street. The organization has already spent $5 million over the last several years to improve wheelchair seating areas, restrooms, entrances, exits, ticket windows and concession areas. Finishing up on the plans is part of the latest agreement which settles two civil lawsuits brought against Schubert.

Under the ADA, one percent of all seats must be set aside for theater-goers with disabilities, as well as another one percent for companions. Tickets must be made available in the most expensive and least expensive areas.

Federal officials said that they will be soon be checking the other Broadway theaters for accessibility.

Michael Schiavo Violates Wife's Constitutional Rights, Says Federal Suit
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

TAMPA, SEPT 23, 2003 -- Bob and Mary Schindler filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday against their son-in-law, Michael Schiavo, claiming he is violating the constitutional rights of their daughter, Terri Schiavo.

The Schindlers are asking for Mr. Schiavo to be removed as Terri's guardian and for a federal injunction to block the scheduled October 15 removal of the feeding tube that is keeping her alive.

U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara scheduled a hearing in the case for October 10. He also set October 6 as the deadline for Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist to let the court know whether his office plans to intervene.

According to the Associated Press, the Schindlers' lawsuit also alleges that a conspiracy exists between Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer and Michael Schiavo in pushing to end Terri's life.

Since 1990, Terri has been in what some doctors describe as a "persistent vegetative state" from which they believe she cannot recover. Mr. Schiavo first petitioned in May 1998 to have removed the feeding tube which provides Terri with food and water. He claims Terri told him that she would not have wanted to live "in this condition".

Terri's parents and their supporters, along with several experts and former caregivers, say that Terri responds to her surroundings, laughs, follows some instructions and has tried to say "help me" and "mommy". They want Mr. Schiavo to use some of the $700,000 set aside from an insurance settlement to pay for rehabilitative therapies, including speech and swallowing therapies.

Mr. Schiavo has refused.

Judge Greer's decisions regarding Terri have consistently sided with her husband. The state Court of Appeals has also sided with Greer and Michael Schiavo.

Last month, Greer ignored a request from Governor Jeb Bush to wait on scheduling the removal of Terri's feeding tube until a special guardian could be appointed to look into her case and "provide the court with an unbiased view that considers" her best interests.

Bush told Greer that he would not normally write a judge about a current legal proceeding, but noted that his office received 27,000 e-mails "reflecting understandable concern for the well being" of Terri Schiavo.

Disability groups are watching the case carefully. Many worry that Terri's death by starvation will send a message that people with certain disabilities are not worth keeping alive.

The U.S. and Florida supreme courts have refused to hear the case.

See more, next story below.

Date Set Again For Removal Of Terri Schiavo's Feeding Tube; Parents Allege Conflict Of Interest On Husband's Legal Team
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

TAMPA, SEPT 18, 2003 -- A judge has scheduled 2:00 p.m. October 15 for the removal of a feeding tube that provides nourishment for Terri Schiavo.

If the removal goes as scheduled, Terri is expected to die of starvation and dehydration 10 to 14 days later.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge George Greer's order Wednesday was at least the fourth time in the past 2 1/2 years that he has scheduled Terri's feeding tube removed at the request of her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, and against the wishes of her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler. In each of those cases, the most recent of which was last November, legal efforts by Terri's parents and supporters of her right to continue living have successfully postponed the removal or got the tube reinstalled.

Earlier this week, Greer refused to order swallowing therapies that could help Terri to be spoon-fed once the feeding tube is removed from her stomach. On Wednesday, he also refused speech therapy for Terri that her parents had requested.

Disability groups are watching the case carefully, worried that Terri's death will send a message that people with severe disabilities are not worth keeping alive.

"It is clear that Florida is not the state in which to get sick," Pat Anderson, a lawyer representing Terri's parents, said in a statement. "This case demonstrates that we all need to be very, very careful in choosing a spouse."

Anderson continues to work on a federal lawsuit that would require therapy for Terri and possibly postpone her death.

In February 1990, Terri's heart stopped and she was without oxygen for about five minutes. Since then, she has been in what some doctors describe as a "persistent vegetative state" from which Judge Greer and Michael Schiavo believe she cannot recover. Mr. Schiavo first petitioned to have Terri's feeding tube removed in May 1998, several years after receiving $700,000 in an insurance settlement.

Terri's parents say their daughter responds to her surroundings, laughs and tries to talk with them. Since the mid-1990s they have consistently fought for Terri to receive rehabilitative therapies, which her husband has refused. They have also tried, unsuccessfully, to get Terri's husband removed as guardian.

Judge Greer and Florida's appellate courts have sided consistently with Michael Schiavo, who claims Terri told him she would not have wanted to be kept alive by artificial means.

In a related development, Terri's parents claimed Tuesday that there was an improper connection between Michael's attorney and a doctor that testified for the court in April 2002. They alleged that there may have been a conflict of interest because of a personal relationship between George Felos and court-appointed physician Dr. Peter Bambakidis, who was supposed to have provided an impartial review of the medical evidence.

"Judge sets new date to remove food tube" (St. Petersburg Times)
"Conflict of Interest Charged in Florida Euthanasia Case" (Cybercast News Service)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)
The Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation

Thousands Call on Congress To "Free Our People"
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

WASHINGTON, DC, SEPT 18, 2003 -- U.S. Senators Tom Harkin and Arlen Spector, along with Representatives Danny Davis, John Shimkus and Dennis Morris, were among dozens who took the microphone Wednesday afternoon to speak out for real choice in Medicaid supports for people with disabilities during the "Free Our People" rally.

The speakers joined several thousand disability rights advocates from across the country who had traveled to the nation's capital to bring the "Free Our People" message to Congress. They represented dozens of groups including ADAPT (American Disabled For Attendant Programs Today), NCIL (National Council on Independent Living), and SABE (Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered).

The demonstrators called for Congress to pass MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community-Based Attendant Services and Supports Act, introduced into Congress this year as S 971 and HR 2032. Medicaid regulations currently force hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities -- regardless of their age -- to be housed in nursing homes and other institutions for long-term care supports. MiCASSA would loosen up the regulations to allow Medicaid recipients to purchase supports to remain in their own homes or with family members.

Even though the measure was introduced into Congress in 1997, it has been repeatedly stalled, primarily because of the powerful nursing home lobby.

"Keep plugging and one day we will win this thing," said Senator Spector, a long-time co-sponsor of MiCASSA.

The event was the culmination of a year of behind-the-scenes work by organizers. Leading up to the rally was 144-mile march from Philadelphia to draw attention to the need for MiCASSA. A group of about 150 activists, most in wheelchairs, endured rain, cold, and intense sun during the 14-day trek.

"We better have gotten the message across after all we have been through," said marcher Peggy Dourghty.

"This is good, this is good," said activist Tom Cagel. "I hope this stirs things up."

"Thoughts of the people in the march" (Free Our People)
"The Journey is not over until Congress passes MiCASSA" (Free Our People) "Disabled get on the move for freedom" (Chicago Sun-Times)
"Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe Welcomes Disability Activists" (Justice For All)
Quick Slide Show of "Free Our People" March (ADAPT website)

Activists to Rally in DC to "Free Our People"
NE MARYLAND, SEPT. 15, 2003 -- Now 210-members strong, the on-the-march troupe of activists marching to "Free Our People" is on the next-to-last day of its 14-day march from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, calling on Congress to pass bills that would allow people to receive services in their homes, not nursing homes.

On Wednesday, Sept. 17, organizers expect thousands to rally at 1 p.m at Upper Senate Park, north of the U. S. Capitol to call on Congress to pass The Medicaid Community-Based Attendant Services and Supports Act, known as MiCASSA (S971 and HR2032) and the "Money Follows the Person Act of 2003" (S1394).

For more information and directions, as well as a day-by-day report on marchers' progress, visit www.freeourpeople.org

City can't retaliate against ADA advocate, says Court
MIAMi, SEPT. 10, 2003 -- You can sue City Hall and win. That's the ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case brought by ADA consultant Fred Shotz after city officials in Plantation, FL publicly villified him in retaliation for his report that their facilities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

City officials had Shotz tailed by a private investigator, and, when he was out of town -- ironically, testifying before Congress against Clint Eastwood's effort to derail the federal law -- released the investigator's findings to the media.

The ruling Monday reinstates a lawsuit Shotz had filed against the city for retaliation, in which he is seeking damages.

"This is the first case of its kind in the country," Shotz said Tuesday. "Retaliation is a never-ending fear of people who are disabled."

The ruling "will send a cautionary message reverberating from Florida to California about the conduct of public officials toward their citizens with disabilities," said Peter Blanck, an ADA law expert with the University of Iowa.

"Releasing personal information to the media, gained after a public entity . . . has retained a private investigator to conduct a comprehensive background check," is "a prima facie case of retaliation," said the court.

Despite Monday's victory, the case isn't over -- not by long shot. The appeals court has sent it back to be argued in the trial court -- and the city of Plantation fully expects to win the trial. Attorney E. Bruce Johnson, who is handling the case for the city of Plantation, told a reporter yesterday that the city would not only welcome the trial, but might just appeal Monday's 11th Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court.

Read the 11th Circuit opinion at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/11th/0212502p.pdf (This is in pdf format -- to get the opinion in html format, use this Adobe Translator Page.)

Read about the May, 2000 Congresssional hearing at which Fred Shotz testified against Clint Eastwood

Hunger strikers end fast; call for Congressional investigation
PASADENA, CA, SEPT. 6, 2003 -- With a mushroom omelette, the last core hunger strikers in the Fast for Freedom in Mental Health ended their fast today -- it was Day 22 of the strike that began Aug. 16, when six "psychiatric survivors" began the strike to demand "that the mental health industry produce even one study proving the common industry claim that mental illness is biologically-based."

"We gained more media attention than our movement has had for any single event in more than 20 years, and perhaps in the movement's history -- from the Pasadena Weekly to the Washington Post; from a local NPR report to CBS radio news, to an interview on BBC radio," said hunger striker Mickey Weingerg. "And two major papers, both the LA and NY Times, apparently tied to the hip of Big Pharma and Biopsychiatry, have been inundated with phone calls and e-mails. They know we exist now."

"Given the ultimate stonewalling by key leaders in the psychiatric industry, one crucial follow-up is a campaign to demand that Congress investigate psychiatric drug industry influence and corruption in the mental health system, especially through non-profit front groups," said MindFreedom, the group that sponsored the hunger strikers.

For more about the reasons behind the strike, and what the group feels it's achieved, go to Fast For Freedom In Mental Health.

Activists begin 144-mile march to "Free Our People"
PHILADELPHIA, SEPT. 4, 2003 -- Up to 200 disability activists begin a 14-day march from Philadelphia to Washington DC today to "demand an end to Medicaid's institutional bias that locks away Americans with disabilities."

The goal is to promote passage of The Medicaid Community-Based Attendant Services and Supports Act, known as MiCASSA (S971 and HR2032) and the "Money Follows the Person Act of 2003" (S1394).

Marchers will head first to Glenolden, PA, where they will spend the night at the First Presbyterian Church, then to Wilmington, DE, sleeping at Goodwill; then to Bear, DE and on to the Nazarene Camp in Maryland. The next days will see them traveling through Maryland, stopping each night in a park or church, ending up the night before the rally in Washington, DC's Israel Baptist Church. At a Sept. 17 rally at 1 p.m. in Upper Senate Park in Washington, DC, activists from across the nation will gather to welcome marchers arriving in DC. Follow the marchers online -- with photos and daily updates -- at http://www.freeourpeople.org

Deaflympians Want Equal Treatment From USOC
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

FRISCO, COLORADO, SEPT 3, 2003 -- Last Friday, Ryan Slabaugh wrote an opinion piece for the Summit Daily News championing the cause of deaf athletes who claim the Olympics and Paralympics discriminate against them.

The athletes are part of the U.S.A. Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF) but are not recognized by the US Olympic Committee or by Paralympic organizers.

They have filed a federal lawsuit under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. The athletes say they want representation and appropriations of funds equal to that of other athletes.

Entire article: "Hear us now!' Another group fights for USOC's attention" (Summit Daily News)

Judge will hear case on Schindler-Schiavo's Life in 10 days
TAMPA, FL, SEPT. 3, 2003 -- Judge Richard A. Lazzarra of the U. S. District Court in Tampa said yesterday he would give attorneys fighting for Terri Schindler-Schiavo ten days to prepare a stronger case to argue that the woman's constitutional rights are being violated by her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo. The federal case alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilties Act, among other federal laws.

Despite calling the federal lawsuit hastily prepared over the weekend a "quintessential shotgun pleading," he agreed to listen to to the case later this month.

Shindler-Schiavo's parents insist their daughter responds to them when they visit and can be rehabilitated with therapy, despite testimony from doctors in a longrunning state case that she will never recover from "a persistent vegetative state." In that case, Judge George Greer has set Sept. 11 as the date for determing when to remove the woman's feeding tube. Read earlier coverage.

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