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Breaking News Ticker  |  Yahoo Full Coverage on disabilities

Accessible voting machines to sit unused in Indianapolis warehouses this election
INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 28, 2004 --A story in yesterday's Indianapolis Star reports that virtually all of the over 500 polling sites in Indianapolis have access problems which won't be corrected in time for the November election. Of the 511 polling sites in Marion County surveyed, "96 percent had at least one problem," said the article. "All 49 counties surveyed -- including Hamilton, Hendricks and Johnson counties -- have similar problems, according to Julia Vaughn, project director for Count Us IN, an advocacy group with the Indiana Governor's Planning Council for People with Disabilities."

Vaughn told Indianapolis Star reporter Jason Thomas that "voters with disabilities have a right to cast their ballot independently and privately." The county spent $11 million on optical scan machines and touch-screen machines in 2002, said the article, "but they remain in a warehouse even after ES&S announced Wednesday that the software had achieved certification from the Indiana Election Commission," because the process took too long, according to Marion County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler, who said it was too late now to use them this November.

According to the American Association of People with Disabilities,"more than 541,000 disabled residents stayed home" from the polls in the 2000 election.

More from the Sept. 27 Indianapolis Star.

Accessible voting machines to sit unused in Indianapolis warehouses this election
TALLAHASSEE, FL, Sept. 24, 2004 -- Disability activists reacted with anger over the decision by the Florida Supreme Court, which declared legislation popularly referred to as "Terri's Law" unconstitutional.

In a unanimous decision yesterday, the court struck down the law that replaced Terri Schiavo's feeding tube after her husband obtained a court order to remove it last fall. Removal of the tube will cause dehydration in 7-10 days, say activists.

The FL court has "put the constitutional principle of separation of powers over the individual's right to due process," said Diane Coleman, president of Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group. In addition to Not Dead Yet, 16 national disability groups, including the Arc of the United States and TASH supported the legislation to keep Terri Schiavo alive.  Both groups represent the interests of people with significant intellectual disabilities similar to Terri's. National disability groups have filed amicus briefs in three separate appellate proceedings concerning the fate of Terri Schiavo.

"Most Floridians have been misled about the issues surrounding the starvation of Terri Schiavo," said Not Dead Yet. "The dispute between her spouse and parents about whether Terri would have wanted her food and water discontinued has the potential to impact millions of lives." They say that that the legal rights of "millions of people in guardianship like Terri Schiavo and whose legal rights will be dramatically affected by this case."

Not Dead Yet calls "the threatened execution of Terri Schiavo" a denial of "her basic human rights by a society that feels that people like her aren't worth the time and money it takes to care for them."

Read the FL Supreme Court Decision (PDF FILE). To read it in HTML, click here.

Lack of US Paralymic TV Coverage Hurts NY Games Bid
ATHENS, Sept. 23, 2004 --New York's hopes of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 have been struck a blow by NBC's failure to televise any Paralymic events in the U.S., International Paralympic Committee officials told reporters yesterday.

NBC, the US television rights holders, had 3,500 people in the Greek capital for the Olympics. None of them stayed to cover the Paralympics. The move has been widely criticized in Athens, where other media, particularly the BBC, are providing coverage -- in some cases live coverage.

"The Olympics were a huge success for NBC," wrote BBC World News producer Stuart Hughes on his blog Sept. 6. "200 million viewers. A 'halo effect' that boosted other channels and programmes. An estimated $60-70 million profit.... . The Paralympics will boast 4,000 athletes, 140 countries.... [But] there will be no American TV coverage of the Paralympics. Not one hour of live coverage. Not one commentator...." Hughes, outraged and perplexed at why NBC is ignoring "20 percent of its audience," had campaigned through his blog to get the U.S. broadcast giant to see how hateful its decision was.

More from GamesBid.com

Related: Athens' Inaccessibility (AP story)
BBC Paralympics Blog from Christina Papamichael.

OH Supreme Court To Hear Baby Aiden Stein Appeal
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

AKRON, OH, Sept. 16, 2004 --The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear an appeal by Aiden Stein' parents over whether the 10-month-old boy can remain on a ventilator that is keeping him alive.

The court has scheduled the hearing for October 26 -- the day before Aiden's first birthday.

Aiden has been in a coma since March 15, from injuries that doctors say are consistent with shaken baby syndrome, allegedly caused by his father. Doctors predict that the infant will die if his ventilator is removed.

Authorities at Akron Children's Hospital requested he be taken off life support. They claim that his parents, Matt Stein and Arica Heimlich, have a conflict of interest in wanting Aiden kept alive because the father could face criminal charges if he dies.

A guardian appointed to represent Aiden agreed with the doctors that his ventilator should be removed.

Aiden's parents have challenged the appointment of the guardian for their son, claiming that their parental rights were violated. Neither parent has been charged with a crime in connection with Aiden's injury.

They believe Aiden responds to human stimulation and want him moved out of the hospital where doctors expect him to die.

"Aiden Stein: Hospital Wants Baby's Life Support Removed" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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

BOSTON, Sept. 15, 2004 --A lot of former and current users Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority gathered to voice their anger Tuesday about the accessibility problems that continue to plague riders.

The Boston Herald put the number gathered at "nearly two dozen", while the Boston Globe estimated the number at "about 70" attending the public meeting at MBTA headquarters.

The meeting with MBTA officials was organized by Bill Henning, director of the Boston Center for Independent Living Inc.

Many of those attending talked of being late for work and appointments, and being refused service. Some told of dangers in taking their wheelchairs on MBTA buses and trains, such as six-inch gaps between trains and platforms.

"What really motivated people to speak is that they had some real difficulties," said Henning. "They were aghast that certain problems continued, that they still will get caught between a subway car and subway platforms."

MBTA General Manager Michael Mulhern appeared to sympathize with the crowd.

He said he would appoint a safety official to act as a liaison between the group and other MBTA officials. That person would ride buses and trains with passengers that have disabilities, to learn about the problems from their points of view.

"We have issues to address," Mulhern said. "These people have legitimate gripes. They're not going to take time out of their day to come all the way here if their concerns aren't legitimate."

"Disabled tell horror stories about T" (Boston Herald)
"Some with disabilities say T still a tough ride" (Boston Globe)

Condo "Back Door" Policy Tossed; Board To Pay $83,000
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

GLENVIEW, IL, Sept. 14, 2004 --The family of 10-year-old Jaime Trujillo finally got good news last Wednesday.

Their son, who has physical and mental disabilities, can roll his wheelchair right through the front entrance at Triumvera Tower Condominiums where they live, without threats of having to pay a fine.

In addition, according to the settlement of a lawsuit announced September 8, the Condominium Association's board will have to pay the Trujillo family $70,000 for violating their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act.

The Association will be issuing a formal apology for forcing Jaime to use the rear entrance. The Association's president must also "retire" from his post on the board.

An additional $10,000 was awarded to the widow of another resident who had been told he couldn't use the front entrance in his wheelchair.

Before the Trujillo family moved into the condominium in this Chicago suburb last September, they were told that condo policy does not allow furniture, strollers or wheelchairs to enter through the front entrance because they might damage the doors. The Trujillos said that they did not openly protest the rule at first because they worried they might be denied a home.

The family said they tried to follow the policy, which directed them to use a rear entrance, until they found the route was barely wide enough for Jaime's wheelchair.

The Trujillos decided to use the front entrance, hoping that board members and other residents would see that Jaime's wheelchair did not cause damage to doors. This was met, however, with a letter from the Association directing them again to use the rear entrance. On another occasion, the board president allegedly ordered a building maintenance worker to physically block the front door to keep Jaime and his nurse from entering, then threatened to fine the Trujillos $50 each time the boy came through the front entrance.

"We're glad to put this behind us, to move forward, to live in a beautiful building with fantastic neighbors," the boy's father, Claudio Trujillo, told reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday. "I'm glad that the rule is out . . . and that my son can enter the building through a main door."

In addition to the payments for the Trujillo family and the widow of the other resident, the Association will also have pay a $3,500 civil penalty for violating the fair housing law.

Access Living, which represented the Trujillo family, noted in a press statement that the policy sending Jaime to the back entrance of his home was much like pre-Civil Rights era policies requiring African Americans to sit at the back of buses.

"This settlement will serve as a tool for all people with disabilities to enforce their civil rights in housing," said Karen Tamley, Director of Programs of Access Living. "We hope that it also triggers a new commitment on the part of condominium and homeowners' associations, as well as property managers, to comply with fair housing laws."

"Condo can't restrict wheelchair access" (Chicago Tribune)
Final Consent Decree in Trujillo v. Triumvera Tower Condominium Association (U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois) [Note: Document may require Microsoft Word to open]
The Fair Housing Act (U.S. Department of Justice)

Majority of MA Voting Sites Lack Full Access
BOSTON, Sept. 13, 2004 --Almost 900 polling places in Massachusetts still need changes made in order to be fully accessible to disabled voters. A third of Boston's polling sites still remain inaccessible, according to a story in the Sept. 9 Boston Globe. "Throughout the region, many school buildings, churches, and libraries used on Election Day lack proper ramps, parking, and entryways."

The figures come from a survey recently conducted by Massachusetts' Office on Disability. It was "the first authoritative review ever conducted in the state," the paper reported. "But criticisms about inaccessible polling places come every election."

Massachusetts holds primary elections on Tuesday. Many polling places won't be ready.

Framingham, in the greater Boston area, has access problems in half of its 10 voting locations. "At the Joseph P. Keefe Regional Vocational Technical School, inspectors found an entryway with three steps and a ramp with no handrails," reported the Globe.

"Framingham Town Clerk Valerie Mulvey said students would help undertake repairs, and a temporary ramp will be donated by American Ramp Systems in South Boston. The work, she said, will not be ready by Tuesday."

Mulvey told the Globe she had never heard from a disabled voter about the impediments.

''Nobody has ever complained," she said.

More from The Boston Globe.

Panel Says Army Sargeant, Now An Amputee, Can Re-Enlist
FAYETTEVILLE, NC, Sept. 9, 2004 --Sgt. Chuck Bartles, a member of the Army Reserves, has finally convinced Army officials to let him re-join the military after losing his right arm in a battle in Iraq. Amputees until now have always been medically discharged, said an Associated Press story. But Bartles appealed the discharge -- twice -- to a medical board at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he had undergone the amputation. After convincing him that he could perform in the military, he won the right to re-enlist.

More from the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer.

Man Died From Restraint, Not Drug, says Coroner
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 7, 2004 --Paul Krystyniak died on December 10, 2002 at Allegheny Valley School, an institution housing people with mental retardation in Coraopolis, a few miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

The 41-year-old man with Down syndrome and intermittent explosive disorder died while being restrained on the floor by staff who were trying to control him after an outburst during dinner.

Last Wednesday, Allegheny County Coroner Cyril H. Wecht ruled Krystyniak's death an accident, and cleared the facility of any wrongdoing or negligence in the case.

The initial autopsy revealed that Krystyniak died of positional asphyxia -- that the way he was restrained caused him to suffocate. It also showed that he had mitral valve prolapse, a condition in which the blood vessels leading to his heart were smaller than they needed to be.

Doubt was raised, however, by Chief Deputy Coroner Joseph Dominic when large amounts of the antidepressant Fluvoxamine, an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) in the same family of drugs as Zoloft and Prozac, was found in Krystyniak's blood.

Recent analysis of those toxicology tests revealed that he was not overdosed. Fluvoxamine, Wecht said, is a drug that gathers in the person's heart, and then disperses into the blood stream when the person dies, distorting the results of the toxicology tests.

Wecht said the restraint was "medically necessary" to keep Krystyniak from assaulting other residents at the facility.

Krystyniak had been a resident of Allegheny Valley School for about a month before his death.

FL Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Schiavo Case
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

TALLAHASSEE, Sept. 2, 2004 --Much of the world focused on a Tallahassee courtroom Tuesday morning, while attorneys for Terri Schiavo's husband and Governor Jeb Bush argued over the constitutionality of the law that has kept the 40-year-old woman alive since October 21, 2003.

"Terri's Law" was passed just six days after Terri's feeding tube had been removed under a court order. It gave the governor specific authority to order the feeding tube replaced so she would live.

Terri's husband, Michael Schiavo, sued the governor, claiming Bush and the Legislature made a mistake by passing the law, because it violates her right to privacy, and the Florida Constitution's separation of powers.

Attorneys on both sides argued their cases before the Florida Supreme Court, Tuesday. The 45-minute hearing was televised on C-Span2. [A link to the transcript from the hearing's live closed-captioning is included below.]

"The courts do not possess exclusive domain to protect the rights of disabled people and make sure their healthcare choices are respected," said Ken Connor, an attorney who represented Bush in the case.

Mr. Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, argued, "The violation here is taking from the patient and giving to the state the power to make medical treatment decisions."

At the center of the arguments is Terri, who is now in a Tampa area nursing home. Some medical experts claim that she has been in a "persistent vegetative state" -- that she is not awake or aware, cannot feel pain, and will not recover -- since she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes in February 1990. While she does not need a ventilator or other artificial means to stay alive, she does receive food and water through a gastronomy tube installed through the wall of her stomach.

Mr. Schiavo first petitioned a local court in 1998 to have Terri's feeding tube removed so she would die. He claimed that his wife told him before her collapse that she would not have wanted to live by artificial means.

Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought Mr. Schiavo in the courts to keep their daughter alive. They believe Terri is responsive and interacts with her surroundings and would benefit from therapies that her husband has refused to allow. The Schindlers do not accept Mr. Schiavo's claims that Terri would have wanted to die in her situation, partly because that would have meant that she would have gone against her Catholic faith which teaches that removing her feeding tube would be wrong.

Mr. Schiavo did not mention what he now claims were Terri's wishes during a 1992 malpractice suit, at the same time that he presented evidence regarding the cost of a life-long care plan. That malpractice trial brought more than $700,000 for Terri's care during her natural life, which medical experts agreed could last several decades.

The Schindlers and others suggest that Mr. Schiavo has abused and exploited his wife -- before and after her collapse.

Disability rights groups have been following Terri's situation for years, arguing that allowing her to die by starvation would reinforce the message that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living. With their urging, and that of right-to-life advocates, Governor Bush championed the measure which allowed the Legislature to give him permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted.

A coalition of 18 disability groups filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief Monday supporting Bush in the Supreme Court case.

"What we're worried about is that medical professionals and families will get the idea that it's OK to starve to death and dehydrate people with severe cognitive disabilities," Diane Coleman, president of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday.

"Florida Justices Start Review of Right-to-Die Case" (Los Angeles Times)
"Jeb Bush v. Michael Schiavo" (Florida Supreme Court - real-time transcript)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

LV Developers Settle Housing Suit
LAS VEGAS, Sept. 1, 2004 --The Rancho del Rey, Rancho Serene, and Rancho Viejo apartment complexes in Las Vegas, Nevada will become accessible to renters wtih disabilities now, thanks to a settlement agreement with the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

The Justice Dept. had sued Falcon Development Company No. 9501, LLC; Rancho del Rey, LP; Rancho Serene, LLC; L.R. Nelson; and Hunsaker and Associates, saying their developers, builders, and site engineers failed to comply with the Fair Housing Act because the public and common use areas of the apartment complexes were not accessible to persons with disabilities. The case was referred to the Justice Department by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will spend $150,000 to correct access violations.

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